Compiled by Emily Grabatin from:
smallgroups.com, Leading Life-Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue,
A Guide to Prayer by MaryAnne Morse and Central’s own experience.
How comfortable are your group members with praying aloud? How is their prayer life on their own? Does your group prayer time sound the same every time or does it vary?
It can be easy and comfortable to fall into the same prayer routine during your group time. It’s one thing to share prayer requests about your neighbour’s cousin’s mother’s dog. It’s another thing to help your members experience prayer at a heart level that touches them deeply.
Some of my most meaningful group prayer times have been when I invited my group into a new prayer experience – one that stretched them yet still felt safe and meaningful.
Here are some ways you can become more intentional and creative in leading your group prayer time.
The best way to start teaching others how how to pray is to be a person of prayer yourself – during your group time and on your own. Group members will be encouraged when they find out you’ve been praying for them. Spending time with God on your own prepares you with strength and perspective you probably wouldn’t have felt otherwise. You could pray for your participants as they come to mind during the week or methodically through a list. You could pray for needs they mentioned in group or pray Scripture over them. Ask God to give you his direction in leading the group.
When you pray aloud in the group, keep your prayers honest, authentic, and from your heart.
A basic guide for group prayer:
- Short prayers create safety .
- Simple prayers are direct and honest.
- Spirit-led prayers rely on God’s power.
- Silent prayers are welcome for anyone, especially newcomers.
Keep It Safe
If you have been praying in groups for decades, it might be hard to remember what it was like to first pray aloud with others listening.
Only ask someone to pray if you’ve asked permission beforehand or you know them well. Consider if asking them in advance would offer the chance to prepare or give them too much time to stress out.
It’s okay if everyone doesn’t pray every time.
Use discernment when initiating praying in a circle. Some people feel more comfortable praying when their ready or they feel led. Others feel more at ease with order, knowing when to expect their turn.
Respect the intimacy level and give it time. As relationships within the group deepen, the sense of safety can foster a deeper experience in prayer.
Be clear on who will close the prayer time.
Help your group be comfortable with moments of silence in God’s presence with assurance, direction, soft music, or a quiet meditation.
Build each other’s faith over time by tracking answers to prayer.
As the leader of a group, you have the privilege and responsibility to help your group members understand and experience the power of praying for one another. Depending on their personality and past experiences, their view and expectations might be completely different than yours or other groups members’.
Creative Ways to Revitalize Prayer in Your Group
- Psalm Prayer – Pray through a psalm aloud together.
- Time change – Vary prayer time among the beginning, middle, and closing of the meeting.
- Scripture Prayer – Pick a portion of Scripture to pray for one another during the week (for example, Colossians 1:9 or Ephesians 3:14-19).
- Prayer partners – Have members draw names of prayer partners or break off into groups or 2 – 3 people during the first meeting of each semester or series. Each week set aside for confession, repentance, prayer requests, and praying for one another. While many people are afraid of praying aloud, this one- on-one practice can be helpful in overcoming fears over consistent time.
- Church needs – Pray for requests on Central’s Prayer Wall at centralcc.ca/prayer.
- Crisis – If someone is in crisis, pause the conversation and pray for him or her right then.
- Mission – Pray for the church, a country, a family in need, community events, or any area for which your group has a passion.
- Learn together – Do a study together on prayer. These have been some favourites of other groups that can be found in Central Resource Centre or RightNow Media
- When God’s People Pray DVD series by Jim Cymbala
- Prayer: Remix by Louie Giglio
- Prayer (for Sr High) by Francis Chan
- Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson
- The Sacred Echo: Why Is Prayer So Mysterious? By Margaret Feinberg
- Prayer co-ordinator – Is there someone in your group with the gift of faith or encouragement? Ask that person to be the prayer coordinator, who writes down requests each meeting and keeps track of answers. If a group member has an emergency, he or she can contact the prayer coordinator, who will notify all the other members to pray for that person.
- Praise can be a part of intercession. Is a group participant in the midst of struggle? Demonstrate what it means to praise God in the struggle (see Psalm 13).
- Exchange requests – Invite each member write down requests for the week on a piece of paper. Have them exchange them with other group members or put them in a bowl and have each person to draw one. Agree to pray for the person he or she picks and to call to encourage that person during the week.
- God’s perspective – Learn to voice requests from God’s perspective (John 5:14-15) and listen to his direction. The next time you are asked to pray for an event, for someone’s salvation, or for someone’s health, pray, “Heavenly Father, what are your desires in this situation, and what can I pray that will cause your desires to take place?”
- Listening prayer – Focus prayer time on listening to God instead of us talking. Explain to the group how praying is a conversation with a relational God who cares more about who we are than what we accomplish. Read a Scripture verse and encourage the group members to reflect on it. Then prompt them to ask Jesus a specific relational (not a doing-related) question that applies to the present, such as “Jesus, how have you shown me how much you value me today?” or “Jesus, I’m feeling xxxx about xxxx. What do you have to say about this tonight?”
Let the group have a minute or two of silence, then ask for a few people to share what they heard or sense. Asking the question in the present tense helps steer them away from pat religious answers they know with their head and heightens their awareness of how Jesus is actively present in their life day-to-day. It’s also helps group members grow confidence of recognizing God’s voice in their heart.
- Popcorn prayers – Establish who will begin and wrap up the prayer time. Set a theme for prayer, such as thanksgiving, requests, or praying for others. Without going around the circle, invite the group to speak simple, one-sentence prayers as things come to mind.
- Person on your left – Invite each person to pray for the person to their left. If someone is not yet comfortable praying aloud, assure them there will be a pause for them to pray in silence for a few seconds before the next person in the circle prays.
- Conversation prayer – a conversation between the group and the Holy Spirit, without taking up time to share prayer requests ahead of time. Refrain from rambling. Instead, keep the prayers simple and brief. One person might say, “Lord, help me with my finances.” Another person might tune into that pray, “Fill him with your wisdom, Lord as he handles his budget. Fill him with Your desires, so that what he spends his money on is aligned with your priorities.” If you are emotionally eager to pray next or you pray too long, you probably are listening to yourself more than to the Holy Spirit. Settle into small spaces of silence to listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance between requests and responses
- Structured Prayer – Lead the group through a traditional model of prayer, incorporating moments of personal reflection and group prayer. You can find some common models of prayer in the 21 Days to Prayer guide or look up one of these common models of prayer
- The Lord’s Prayer
- A.C.T.S. [Affirmation, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication]
- Prayer of Examen
- Read prayers – For centuries people have read prayers already written out, either from Scripture or from liturgy books like the Common Book of Prayers. This is often a non-threatening way to introduce praying in groups with new believers or those with a different church background.
Years later, I still have past group members reminisce about meaningful prayer times we’ve had together when I dared to lead them out of their comfort zone in creative, non-threatening ways. You and your group can also experience fresh ways to pray so they witness God’s power, deepen their relationship with Him and increase their faith.