In almost every Bible study group, prayer requests are shared. In fact, we may even feel cheated if prayer requests are eliminated from our group! Unfortunately, gathering prayer requests is as far as it usually goes. But what if we saw a prayer request as an opportunity?
Here’s what I mean: some prayer requests require ministry action. For example, if a couple uses the prayer time to announce that they are expecting a baby, passing that information along to the Preschool Sunday School leaders would be important. Deacons and other ministry leaders could be informed about hospital stays, family crises, and deaths of family members. In this way, the prayer request becomes an opportunity for ministry action, reaching all areas of the church.
Prayer requests also represent opportunities for church leaders. By knowing needs, leaders can make wise choices when they plan events, host fellowships, and train leaders. The pastor could better understand the needs of the church and prepare sermons that meet the needs expressed in the prayer requests. Being aware of specific needs makes him a better pastor.
To do this kind of intentional action, you need to ask four questions:
- How can we efficiently gather accurate prayer requests?
- How do we communicate the requests?
- To whom should we communicate these requests?
- How can we encourage those making a specific request?
Let’s take a deeper look at these questions.
How can we efficiently gather accurate prayer requests?
Notice the two words, efficiently and accurate. A Bible study group could spend the majority of their time gathering requests, but that would compromise their time of actually studying the Bible. For me, making a sheet of paper available during the study time for people to record their requests has been the most efficient. The second element is accurate. We want to make sure that the requests shared are up to date. There is nothing worse than telling someone that you are praying for their loved one, only to find out that the loved one passed away a month ago.
How do we communicate the requests?
This question involves both form and medium. How we word something is very important. If someone requests prayer for a nephew who hates his job and is looking for a new one, that request could be worded when shared with others as a request for a nephew who needs wisdom about his future. We don’t know who may read the requests in today’s world, so we need to be careful. Hospital stays and other events requiring time away from home become important information if it falls into the wrong hands, which brings us to the medium: should we post all our requests on social media? What are the risks of making a request public? Do we really want everyone on Facebook to know about Dave having surgery and being in rehab for 6 weeks? How we communicate is important.
To whom should we communicate these requests?
We have already mentioned sharing requests with the pastor and other church leaders. Who else needs to know about the prayer request? We mentioned a couple announcing an addition to their family earlier. Who all needs to know about that particular request, and why?
How can we encourage those making a specific request?
Gathering prayer requests is certainly about being aware and knowing how to pray intelligently, but it is also about encouraging those for whom we are praying. There is nothing like getting a note from someone who is praying specifically for you. Those notes lighten the load and help us face whatever challenge we are facing. Part of this is celebrating God’s answers as well. Both the one being prayed for and the one praying are encouraged by answered prayer, so finding a way to include answers to requests is also important.
Prayer is an important part of the life of a Bible study group. Requests serve as a means of communicating priorities, needs, and victories. They give us clues about each other, helping us build deeper relationships. They also provide opportunities for us to minister to people and involve others in the process. If they are that important, then some strategic thought is in order. The four questions identified above should serve as starting points to help you think strategically about the requests shared in your Bible study group.
G. Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at Lifeway, including the adult Explore the Bible resources. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends.