Do you ask for prayer for your ministry? Do you raise prayer support in the most effective way?
I recently examined 100 missionary newsletters to determine how prayer requests were handled. What I found prompted me to lay out ten simple ways to raise more prayer support.
I hope the following ten proposals will help you improve on how you ask for prayer and handle prayer requests.
May the Lord bless our efforts to encourage prayer for the advancement of His Kingdom.
1. Ask for prayer in your newsletters.
As I examined the missionary newsletters, I was surprised to find that 21% of the newsletters did not ask for prayer.
It is important to ask for prayer in your newsletter. Here are three reasons worth pondering:
- You need prayer.
- You should tell your readers how to prayer for you.
- Your readers expect you to give them prayer requests.
In his doctoral research on missionary newsletters, Robert Canaday found that prayer requests were the most important content in a newsletter. Canaday ask the respondents to his survey to rank nine items as to their importance; he found that the topic “prayer requests” was ranked the highest with 99.3%, and “answered prayer” was the topic that followed second with 98.6%.
Mike Pettengill, a missionary with Mission to the World, recently conducted an online survey. He asked what people would like to hear about most in a missionary newsletter. The overwhelming response was “prayer needs” at 94%.
It is clear from these studies that your readers expect to find prayer requests. It is critical that you prioritize your prayer needs and present requests that help your partners pray effectively for you!
2. Don’t leave your prayers on the sidelines.
An increasingly common practice is to put the prayer requests in a narrow column or sidebar. Of the newsletters with prayer requests, I found that 14% presented them in this manner.
When I read a newsletter, I typically look first at images, jump to the text of the letter, and then scroll down to the next image or story. When I reach the end of the newsletter, I rarely scroll up.
When the prayer requests are in a smaller column, you present your readers with a choice: read the newsletter or read your prayer requests and pray. I think most would prefer to read the newsletter first. If they are still interested in praying for you, then they have to scroll back up looking for the prayer requests.
Why not remove the need to scroll down through your newsletter and then scroll back up looking for prayer requests?
3. Make your prayer requests stand out.
Prayer requests were presented in the text of the letter in the majority of newsletters, roughly 54%. For example, it is very common for a paragraph about a given topic to end with a request for prayer.
Unfortunately, these requests don’t stand out from the surrounding sentences. Readers who are scanning the newsletter to learn the latest may pass over these prayer requests without noticing them.
Consider making your prayer requests bold. Prayer requests in bold will grab the reader’s attention. Only three newsletters used this method.
Four other newsletters had requests in italics. I don’t recommend this approach because it doesn’t stand out enough.
One prayer letter used bullet points to draw attention to the requests.
To really make your requests stand out, consider the following:
- Use bullet points.
- Bold the key words in prayer requests as well.
It works, doesn’t it!
If you are like me, you looked at the two bullet points before reading the surrounding text in this section.
4. Place your prayer requests at the end of the newsletter.
I recommend putting your prayer requests at the end of your newsletter, either in a table or list of some kind. I found that 30% of the newsletters followed this approach.
When I read a newsletter, I typically scan the letter quickly, read what interests me in more detail, and then pray. I don’t read, pray, read, pray, and then read some more. So, placing all the requests at the end encourages your readers to end in prayer.
Moreover, if some readers wants to pray for you later, they can easily find all your requests in one place in your newsletter.
5. Encourage praise and ask for petitions.
I would encourage you to direct your readers to praise our Heavenly Father for answered prayers. I found that of the 79 newsletters with prayer requests, 52% did NOT encourage their readers to praise the Lord for answered prayers.
Looking simply at the prayer requests found in the 100 newsletters, I found that 74% of the requests were petitions. Only 26% of the requests were for adoration.
We need to encourage more praise for what the Lord has done!
Including praises for answered prayer is more difficult than writing requests. It requires reviewing previous prayer requests and decided how to report on them. It requires looking for possible answers and glimmers of hope. It is a good discipline, though. It will encourage you and your readers as you reflect more on how God has been responding to your prayers.
In the next post I will give the remaining five ways to raise more prayer support.
What to do now
- How you do handle prayer requests in your newsletters? Do you have them? Where do you place them?
- Ask yourself why you do what you have been doing. Is it based on someone’s advice, a policy of your sending agency, or the example of a fellow missionary?
- What is one change you could make to encourage more prayer for your ministry?
Do the five proposals above fit with your experience? What suggestions would you make for encouraging prayer support for your ministry?