The Prayer Chain is the spiritual alarm system that communicates and takes prayerful action on the needs of the congregation, community and global needs. This network of Prayer Partners is committed to take action on behalf of the congregation heeding Jesus’ words to "ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened," (Matthew 7:7). The importance of the prayer chain is that it faithfully intercedes on behalf of others in need by lifting up specific requests, concerns and emergency situations.

A prayer chain kicks it up several levels, because it is a group of individuals who’ve decided to pray together. This theoretically amplifies the power of prayer.

Praying as a group also fulfills another of our basic human needs: to connect, both with a power greater than ourselves and with one another.

Guidelines for effective chain prayer:

Here are some guidelines that will help you and others in your sphere have an effective prayer chain—one that’s ready to pray for any person or any cause at any time.

  • Decide whom to include in your prayer chain: They should be dependable and willing to join in prayer at a moment’s notice. These individuals can also expand the chain even more with like-minded people they know. Think about including your faith community, family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
  • Communicating prayer requests: You used to be limited to phone calls and word of mouth. Now you can post requests on someone’s CaringBridge site or other social networks, or build an email list that allows you to send prayer requests to everyone with one click.
  • Prayer requests may not always come with an explanation: The patient may prefer privacy. A request can just be a topline explanation, such as “Please pray for a woman who’s moving into long-term care on Monday.
  • Share information right away: If you get word that the situation of one of your prayer recipients has changed, communicate it to everyone in your prayer chain so they can adjust their prayers.

Hindrance in an effective chain prayer

For a prayer chain to be effective, gossip must be stopped.  Better yet, prevent gossip by developing prayer efforts in ways that minimize the temptation.

To prevent gossip-free sharing

  • Develop a system whereby prayer requests are moderated before they get passed along.  Only information that is needed should be passed on.  Details are not always required for people to pray effectively.  In sensitive situations that could lend itself to gossip, eliminate much of the personal information.  Change wording of prayer requests if necessary.  In some cases you might choose to not even send a request along.  —  People need to be aware of all this when giving a prayer request.
  • Develop a criteria for what requests will be approved to be sent on the chain.  Perhaps you will not take third party requests unless that person is aware and approves of what is being shared.  Otherwise, perhaps it should go out anonymous with as minimal identifying data as possible.
  • Develop a process for sharing requests that minimizes the addition of content. Requests could be written down or e-mailed rather than passed along verbally.  Or, you could use a automated recorded voice going out to everyone on the prayer chain.
  • Develop a plan for who is a part of the prayer chain.  Who says prayer chains need to be all inclusive, of anybody and everybody who desires to be on it?  It could be better to have a few people people who are committed and willing to abide by certain policies that protect confidentiality and prevent gossip than many people some of whom will only want to be on the chain to be kept in the “know.”  Proverbs provides some help on who would be good to be on the prayer chain and who to avoid.
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. (Prov. 11:13) 

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.  (Prov. 20:19)

Develop a means of training people who are on the prayer chain.  They need to be aware of the purpose and priority of it.  They also need to be aware of expectations that include keeping confidences and not gossiping.  Help them understand signs that the passing on of the prayer request is moving into gossip.  That will be the topic of the next post.  (Subscribe to receive e-mail notice of new posts.)

To perpetuate gossip-free sharing

  • Keep the high nature of what they are doing always before them.  It is a privilege, not a prerogative to be on the prayer chain.
  • Keep mandatory guidelines always before them (privacy, confidentiality, etc.).

In keeping the above always before them, make sure you vary how you communicate it.  When always presented the same way, it becomes too easy to ignore it.