Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father…Real prayer is life creating and life changing. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.)
Sunday School/Bible study cannot be as life-changing or as transformative without the sincere discipline of prayer. Though I could spend hours on the subject of prayer, I want to share some practical ways prayer can make a dramatic difference through the ministry of Sunday School/Bible study. I would suggest a study on prayer would be beneficial as well for your class, but the discipline of prayer is most important. Here are some ideas:
Teachers and care group leaders should pray daily for their class members. Pray specifically for each one by name. Call them each week to ask about specific prayer requests. I believe it was Neil Jackson (at LifeWay years ago) who suggested a Saturday evening call to every member about prayer requests. You may see an increase in attendance as well as they see your care for them.
Begin each class with prayer requests and specific prayer. Let your class see you model the importance of prayer each class. Consider God-sized prayers that you cannot do on your own.
Set up prayer partners in your class. This will lead to greater depth in relationships, follow-up from SS lessons and someone to function as an accountability partner for each person. Most of us have moments God speaks to us about an area of our lives each week, but we don’t have someone to pray with us and ask us how we are doing. Prayer partners give us that opportunity.
Allow prayer to be a part of your outreach. Ask class members to pray for a prospect/friend/co-worker for a couple of months before they invite them to an event. Prayer causes us to care deeper about the persons we are praying for, and to be more sensitive to their needs.
As you go into the community, use prayer as a way to get closer to the unchurched. At a restaurant, tell the waiter/waitress: “I usually pray before you eat. Is there anything you would want me to pray with you about?” The same could be done for the cashier at the grocery store, bank attendant and others. (It is important to remember what you are praying about when you see them again. Ask them about it.)
Take a walk or drive in your neighborhood and pray. What is God showing you about possible needs or places for new Bible studies to start?
Set up prayer warriors for your class and the pastor/staff. I discovered years ago that most homebound members want to do something for their church. I would write or type out specific prayer concerns (separate from the church prayer list.) The homebound felt closer to the church and God while providing a very important ministry for the church. Why not call out two or three homebound members to specifically pray for your class, pastor/staff and church prospects?
Practice the discipline of prayer as see what God will do!
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2 NIV)