Prayer is a vitally important aspect of healthy group life. But...audible praying in public doesn't come easily to many people. Think of the first time when you were asked to pray in front of others. Perhaps it was to ask the Lord's blessing on your supper at home. The audience: your family...a fairly easy place to start. Many folks have never even done that before.
One of your challenges as a group leader is to help your members become comfortable with group prayer. Over the next few weeks we will be running a series on group prayer. We hope that you will find them helpful.
Below, please feel free to add your own comments on prayer...and prayer in your group experiences in particular. Thanks!
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Christians pray alone. They pray in large groups in worship, and sometimes even fill stadiums to pray together. But today's Christians often find their strongest moments of prayer in small groups with a few other believers. They do other things in a small group, too : Bible study, singing, and just being a small community together with each other. Prayer is a part of a larger small-group picture.
Small-group prayer is very flexible. Most of what is done in private prayer or in public worship prayer or concerts of prayer can also be done in small groups. Plus there's the flexibility to go from one way of praying to another, which keeps giving different angles to our small-collective relationship with God. Each group develops its own rhythm, style, schedule, and history. If it is a group that meets on a regular basis, it needs a clear purpose that the members invest themselves in.
One of the most important times for a prayer group actually takes place before prayers. At that time, discuss what you're going to pray about. Have anyone present share burdens or give praise, always being encouraged to be specific rather than general. This enables the group to pray "in agreement", together in hopes and goals. Also, different aspects of complicated prayer subjects can be given out to different people. That's not to say that the prayers should be limited only to what's been discussed. Believers are often moved by the Spirit to take a different direction. The pre-prayer discussion is not there to put a straightjacket on prayer time, but to better inform and to clear the air.
People in a prayer group are free not to take part in any particular prayer or any specific exercise or approach. Most often, they'll just opt-out by shutting off their mouths and minds without anyone knowing about it. But sometimes, the objection comes out in the open. When it does, before going into prayer, find out why, and what lies behind it. The group may agree to adjust, or further discussion is needed, especially if it is divisive. The discussion can teach valuable lessons about the group's character and about prayer. Sometimes the best solution is for the member to exercise their right not to take part in that particular prayer or method, and for the rest to continue on.
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Next week: Formats and Methods