3 Ways For Better Group Prayer
For many, praying with or in front of others can be a daunting task. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have a regular rhythm of prayer in our own spiritual walk, let alone with others surrounding us. Other times, it’s this way because prayer is something that is deeply personal and intimate. It’s a few moments where we can sit down and have a conversation between just ourselves and God. So, when we invite others into this space, it is normal for some anxious feelings to arise. Our minds tend to spin on questions like the following: (1) What if I don’t know what to say when it’s my turn? (2) Is there an order for who is praying and for what? (3) If something doesn’t come out right, what should I do?
It’s natural for you, or the members of your group, to feel and think these things, especially if it’s not a regular practice in your group. But as Scripture tells us, praying together as a small group is not only vital for you but beneficial for everyone’s spiritual growth in the group (Acts 2:42). To help us grow more comfortable in praying together, here are 3 ways to further cultivate your group’s prayer life.
- Around the Horn Approach
Begin with one person and have them say one thing that they are grateful God is doing in their life and follow it with a specific prayer request. Continue to the next person until the entire group has shared. As a group, be writing down each other’s request so each member can pray for another person in the group.
This is the traditional approach that many groups utilize, and love! It’s forward, orderly, and efficient. Sometimes the host can do a “blanket prayer” for all the prayer requests everyone heard, or each member can pray for someone else in the group. Either way, when everyone writes down each other’s requests it helps you think of them throughout the week in your prayer time.
- Flash Card Follow Up Approach
Unlike the around the horn approach, each member will write down how God is working in their life and a specific prayer request on their flashcard. Then, pass your flashcard to the person next to you. Silently pray through that card and then pass it to your neighbor. Go until the original card you were given is back with you. Take home that original flashcard and pray for them during that week.
Too often as Small Group Pastors, we forget that we really don’t have to create the “next best thing/practice” for groups. Sometimes, we just need to be listening to our hosts for it. This was an exercise recommended by one of my great Small Group HOSTs, Dell. This approach not only helps every member of the group be more intentional in prayer for others, but it can also provide an opportunity to deepen friendships in your group. When a fellow member follows up and shares a seat alongside of another for a week, it’s far easier to cultivate stronger relationships that will help the group bond together in a greater way.
- General and Specific Approach
Before the group meets, ask one person to provide a general subject everyone can be praying for that week (ex: missionaries in the Middle East, your elected govt. officials, all the local churches in your city, etc). After the general prayer request is given to the entire group, each person can share their usual specific prayer request. However, throughout the week have the group be praying for the general prayer request in addition to the specific requests of the group members.
The intention, or motivation, behind this approach is to stretch our focus of prayer beyond our social circles, or personal lives. Praying for topics that fall under the “general category” can serve as reminder of the larger context we find ourselves in amidst this world, whether that’s in our city, nation, or even globally. Sometimes it can even require a little research, which only aids us in being more knowledgeable, or up to date, about these topics.
At first, leading others in a time of prayer can feel intimidating. But we should remember that God is not far in these moments. As Romans 8:26-27 reminds us, God is already there with us as we are praying. He is leading us toward greater dependence in Him. And this is especially true in times that we simply can’t find all the right, or best words, when we are praying out loud with our group. Before you know it, leading this time of prayer will become the most comforting and rewarding parts of hosting your small group.