A prayer chain is a group of people, usually associated with a church, who share prayer requests and commit to pray for needs as they arise. It’s called a “prayer chain” because the individual members are “linked” by prayer, and requests make their way from one person to another, following the “chain.” In a prayer chain, each link represents one person committed to pray for the needs of others. The more “links” in the chain, the more people are praying for the needs or struggles of others. The imagery of a chain also underscores the strength of God’s people who are united in prayer.
A prayer chain is not to be confused with a chain letter, which is a communication passed along to an ever-growing number of people, promising some benefit or the avoidance of some curse. Such letters (or emails) are hoaxes and have nothing to do with a prayer chain, which simply alerts the people in a set group that it is time to pray.
Those who participate in a prayer chain commit to pray for whatever need arises, when it arises. There is no reward promised; those who pray do so out of concern for others’ needs. They know they are entreating a God who hears them if they ask according to His will (1 John 5:14).
Many churches started their prayer chains with telephone calls: when one person received a phone call relaying a prayer request, he or she had the responsibility to call a predetermined set of other people to relay the message. In that way, the prayer information was disseminated quickly and efficiently. One person did not have to call all the people in the church; every person called a few. More recently, most churches have gone to an email or text-based prayer chain. In this system, a prayer request is channeled to one person who has the database, and that person will send a group text or email asking for immediate prayer. God’s people pray, and the Spirit makes intercession according to His will (see Romans 8:26–27). Other churches also utilize a website or a closed or private social media page as an online prayer chain.
In Scripture, we are commanded to pray, making our requests known to God with thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Colossians 4:2, Philippians 4:6–7). Jesus gave His disciples instructions about prayer, including a model prayer (Matthew 5:5–13). God wants to hear from His people. A well-organized prayer chain helps to inform God’s people concerning matters of prayer and also prompts them to pray.
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The concept of a prayer chain relates directly to that verse. We should confess our sins (and struggles) to one another and pray for one another. If God wills, our multitude of fervent prayers can avail much. We are not responsible for the outcome of the prayers, but we are commanded to pray, leaving us with peace that whatever matter we take to the Lord is in the best possible hands (see Philippians 4:6–7).
In short, a prayer chain is a group of people who have volunteered to pray for one another and encourage others to pray. They are the “minutemen” of prayer, ready at a moment’s notice to pray for whatever need develops. Their commitment creates a chain, long and strong, of praying saints. Our prayers are made in the confidence that things will always work out according to God’s will. When we see answers to prayer, the prayer chain then becomes a “praise chain,” and that’s a beautiful thing to see.