I guess many of us will have experienced being in a small group where prayer feels hard. The leader may say something to the effect of ‘I’ll open and close and you fill the middle.’ After the leaders opening prayer there is dead silence for what feels like forever. The longer it goes the more awkward it gets. And if the pattern repeats over a number of weeks the culture of the group can become very negative where prayer is concerned.
With that in mind I invited our small group leaders to a number of smaller gatherings – just 5-6 leaders together – to get them to share their ideas and resources. They have a lot of experience, and the creative ideas to help in this area kept coming. So here they are:
- One group regularly starts with a ‘one thing to give thanks for’ slot with people then thanking God for that which the person on their left/right shared.
- Some groups have had ‘break out’ times where they’ll turn in twos and threes to pray for a few minutes. Perhaps helps the quieter ones.
- Some leaders ‘pick’ on people – depends largely on group and knowing the individuals, but can be a good way to get reluctant but able people to pray.
- Some have found written prayers useful; others have used psalms or hymns/songs and read them as prayers. You can break them up into smaller chunks so that people read just one or two lines thoughtfully and prayerfully. Helps people who feel like they may ‘freeze up.’ Helpful resources include:
- The Valley of Vision
- Everyday Prayers (Smith)
- Message translation of Psalms
- Lord’s prayer
- Model brevity and encourage others in this also. Some people feel too intimidated to pray because other Christians babble on.
- Use something like A.C.T.S (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) to structure a time (or times) of prayer.
- Some groups find praying through the meeting guide/notice sheet helpful. One leader makes sure to pick up half a dozen meeting guides at the end of Sunday so that everyone can see one at your meeting (they’ll only end up in the bin otherwise!). Linked to the written prayers idea above some groups have used a Sunday song from the meeting guide to start their time with some adoration prayers based on the song.
- A couple have also fruitfully used ‘prayer bookmarks’. People write something to pray for at the top of the bookmark – pass it left, then a couple of weeks you can revisit, write something on the next line, and pass it left, and so on.
- Some people have enjoyed doing the occasional prayer walk – pick significant places in the community (perhaps just three or four) and walk and pray, stopping at those places to pray particularly for those places. You can end at a home for cake or at the pub for a pint.
- Again, occasionally, having a day of fasting and prayer is good – meet to pray and then break the fast together with pizza.
- Some people intersperse prayer through their discussion sometimes. For example if a particular pastoral need comes up you can say ‘let’s just a couple of us pray for that now.’
- Some groups have a regular ‘people we’re praying for’ slot. They share 3 people they’d love to come to Christ and then the group prays for them and revisit perhaps once every six weeks or so. A good way to keep people on mission and outward focussed.
- One group sometimes uses the ‘world’ page in Evangelicals Now, cuts it up, distributes it, and then prays for the various places in the world. Another way to keep people’s horizons broad.
So there you have it – just a few ideas to help get small groups praying. Please feel free to add you own ideas in the comments section, and do pass on to others if this is helpful.