An Intentional Focus on Prayer
Prayer ministry leaders and volunteers from a number of Christian Reformed congregations across Canada gathered online March 8 to learn more about resources available from the CRCNA to help build a culture of prayer in churches.
The online gathering was organized by Dorothy Vandersteen and Ken Bosveld, staff of The Bridge App for churches. The mobile app was originally created for and in collaboration with the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Speakers included Emily Vanden Heuvel, a pastor and endorsed chaplain who serves as ReFrame Ministries’ prayer coordinator, and Jon Hoekema, a pastor who has stepped into the role of serving as prayer shepherd for the CRCNA.
Participants at the gathering learned about new ways and resources for building a stronger prayer focus in the life of a congregation. Church leaders and prayer ministry volunteers who were not able to attend the meeting can view the recording here.
Bosveld began by explaining some of the functions of the Pray tab on The Bridge App. The app allows each church to assign a prayer administrator who can share prayers and prayer requests throughout the week as they arise, including those submitted by members through the app.
“We encourage you to explore creative ways to use this feature, such as a month or a season of prayer, where you engage with different volunteers within your congregation to submit prayers, or you engage more deeply in sharing the prayer concerns of your neighborhood or city, or engage your missionaries in posting prayers this way,” said Bosveld.
Vanden Heuvel said she understands well the blessings and challenges of coordinating prayer for a community. Prayer and interaction with media users has long been an important element of ReFrame Ministries’ work, she said. In her work at ReFrame, she hears from and responds to an average of 100-150 people each week requesting prayer.
These requests are brought to a larger community, said Vanden Heuvel. “There’s a group of people who have committed to pray for the people who are asking for prayer. At this point we have over 8,000 brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world who commit to pray for the people that come in on ReFrame.”
Vanden Heuvel added, “Through the past three years of my work at ReFrame, and in working more closely with our denomination, I’m recognizing the benefits of prayer not just for our own personal growth, our own faith formation, but in how prayer itself brings a community together.”
Vanden Heuvel shared a list of prayer resources available to prayer leaders at CRC churches, explaining how some of them can be used at a congregational level or as individual resources.
Included in her list of resources were a Network post with links to prayer resources in the CRCNA’s digital library, ReFrame’s prayer page, a booklet on how to pray, a Network post from Worship Ministries with a curated list of prayer resources, and Together Seeking God’s Face, which invites people to join a year of prayer leading up to Synod 2022. For more resources, see the list at the end of this article.
Hoekema discussed the importance of prayer in the Christian life for individual faith and for the body of Christ as a whole. He noted, “One of the passions God has given me is to have churches become praying churches rather than churches that pray.”
Hoekema serves as the CRCNA’s prayer shepherd, a role created in January 2022. He works with various ministries within the CRCNA such as ReFrame, Faith Formation Ministries, Pastor Church Resources, and others to build an intentional focus across the denomination on prayer.
Echoing Bosveld’s suggestions for creating opportunities to grow prayer ministry beyond simply sharing prayer requests, Hoekema suggested some ideas for creative ways to invite people to pray. He said, “One of the things I want to think about when it comes to The Bridge App is ‘How do we use The Bridge App beyond sharing prayer requests, and use that to develop the prayer life of your church?’”
It’s important, he added, to approach prayer with the right attitude: “One of the things we see in Scripture is that prayer is about seeking God’s face more than just seeking his hand. It’s about having that relationship.” Hoekema then pointed to a number of stories, psalms, and prayers in the Bible that encourage a relationship with God, using the imagery of seeking God’s face.
Some ideas for prayer coordinators to use, he said, are to share prayer and praise prompts several times each week through The Bridge App, posting prayers for people to pray along with, inviting people to tell stories of how God answered prayer, and encouraging people to sign up for monthly online prayer meetings that are part of Together Seeking God’s Face or to join the 40 days of prayer leading up to synod and to Inspire this year.
Vandersteen noted that while a lot of resources and ideas were presented to participants at the gathering, church administrators and prayer leaders are not expected to try to use all of them. “Early on, what we experienced was that what works for First CRC isn’t going to work for Second CRC, and Fourth CRC may have an idea that we never thought of. So we’ve built into the app the ability to tailor it for your church,” she said. Vandersteen also encouraged prayer leaders to share ideas with each other and with The Bridge App staff in order to help create a community of prayer and put good ideas and solutions into practice.
Bosveld agreed: “We sincerely hope that the prayer function – and all of the functions within The Bridge App – will contribute toward equipping your congregation in fulfilling its mission within the community where God has called you to serve.”
Network: Free Prayer Resources in the Digital Library
ReFrame Ministries: Prayer
ReFrame Ministries: How Do I Pray
Network: Worship: Prayer
Together Seeking God’s Face
Faith Practices Project: Prayer
Resonate: Prayer Points
Reformed Worship (search, keyword=prayers)
Our Journey: Cultivate
Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year