by Reid Smith
Praying in a group can be intimidating for those who haven’t done it before. You’d be surprised how many people are not used to praying out loud with other people around them listening in. This is vital spiritual practice for all believers to develop because agreement in prayer among two or more believers sparks the outworking of God’s will on earth as it is in heaven and builds the community of His church (Matthew 18:18-20).
As the leader, you can ignite a passion for prayer in your group by using some of these approaches:
- Be brief. Brevity can reduce the anxiety level in group prayer because it allows time for others to pray and serves as a model for simplicity in prayer (Matthew 5:7-13). People who aren’t use to praying aloud in a group will see short and simple as something they can do too.
- Be informal. Don’t have a big build-up. When it’s time to pray, just begin. For example, “Okay everyone, let’s pray. Feel free to jump in if you’d like. Lord, we…” This makes prayer feel less intimidating and more natural.
- Be yourself. Imagine God sitting across from you in the group and talk with Him like you would a good friend; after all, He is in your midst and wants you to share honestly from your heart. Have a conversational flow to what you share with the Lord and avoid Christian clichés or complex theological jargon.
- Go first in sharing a personal prayer request. This primes the pump for others to share and sets an example of vulnerability.
- Use Scripture. Invite people to articulate their prayer with biblical passages. They can read something that is meaningful to them and then say, “I believe that about…” or “Let that be true for…” and reference their own prayer need or one that was shared by another group member.
- Invite the most confident to lead. There is usually at least one person in every group who tends to be more forthright in prayer or they’re good about summarizing multiple prayer needs. At the beginning of your next group meeting, ask them how they’d feel about facilitating the prayer time. If they’re open to doing this, reassure them by saying, “Just be yourself…you’ll be great!”
- Don’t call on anybody. Some people get really anxious over the prospect of praying in front of others, and if they’re newer to the group, they may not return if you put them on the spot.
- Don’t go in a circle. This puts people who don’t want to pray aloud in an embarrassing situation, especially if they’re the only one to pass.
- Appoint somebody to write down prayer requests. Follow-up on prayer needs at your next gathering. This cultivates a warm and caring environment that will help people feel safer about personally engaging in group prayer.
- Integration. Revisit prayer needs outside of your regular meeting times or when you’re socializing together so prayer isn’t compartmentalized in your group life. Celebrate answers to prayer and be spontaneous about lifting up needs that arise so that prayer is naturally woven throughout the biblical community God is growing in your group!
Reid Smith has been equipping leaders in churches of all sizes and stages of growth for effective disciple-making since 1996. He lives in Wellington, Florida where he serves as a Groups Pastor at Christ Fellowship. You can find more of his helpful resources at www.reidsmith.org.