You look at the clock. Your discussion on the study has gone long again. What are you going to do? Go long again? Skip group prayer and tie things up with a prayer yourself?
You look at the clock. You started with prayer requests this time and now you’re an hour in and you haven’t even begun praying for each other.
What does healthy corporate prayer look like? How can you infuse it with dynamism? With purpose? With freshness?
I recently came back from a Pastors’ Prayer Summit. It’s the second Prayer Summit I’ve been to in my time back in Tucson. Both have been incredibly encouraging experiences. I’ve learned most about corporate prayer through my time with Christian Union, where we prayed an hour a day as a staff, and as well through the Prayer Summit and the leader of the summit, Dennis Fuqua.[i]
I am still a student with so much to learn about corporate prayer, but below are four things I’ve learned that I believe will add a fresh dynamism to group prayer. My hope is not only would they add new energy, but that they would direct your prayers with a purposefulness of praise go to our holy God.
1. Get rid of prayer requests
Prayer requests feel like a necessary evil. It drags on. One person overshares, the other only tells you about prayer requests for relatives and friends. It always lasts too long. But how else do you pray for one another? There are two ways around that: first, if you begin your group with fellowship and are engaging in one another’s lives outside of your time together you should know some good things to pray for one another. Second (and my favorite new way to pray), if you have each person pray for themselves and then other members of the group join in prayers for them, you don’t need to share requests.
2. Use scripture
This is ideal in a small group setting. Take whatever scripture you have just studied and pray it for one another, for your church, for your community. Or choose another scripture that might be on your heart (say, Ephesians 3:14-21) and spend time praying that scripture for one another and others. Another wonderful exercise is to give your group a topic and encourage them to find scripture related to that topic and pray it back. So, you might have your group offer up scripture about God’s faithfulness (Dt. 7:9), or the blood of Jesus (Heb 13:20), or the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:10).
3. Use prompts
I love this method. In it, the leader offers a brief phrase and encourages participants to fill it in. For instance, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! I have seen his steadfast love in __________.”
Encourage your group to sing a capella in response to prayer. Maybe someone is praying about God’s grace in their life, responding by singing “Amazing Grace” together beautifully echoes and adds to the prayer.
There have been more than a few groups in my life that I have dreaded praying with. And I know that there are many groups I’ve led poorly in prayer, mostly because I didn’t have a vision of how it could be better. But there is a better way. At our recent Prayer Summit, we spent two and a half days together and roughly twenty hours in prayer. That sounds like it could be dull or monotonous, but it was filled with life, praise, joy, and encouragement. I pray that you might experience that kind of freshness in your own times of group prayer.
Photo credit: Timothy Eberly/Unsplash
[i] Dennis Fuqua’s book United and Ignited: Encountering God through Dynamic Corporate Prayer helpfully lays out principles he utilizes on the Pastors’ Prayer Summit.