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Praying in a small 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 an essential 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 strengthens the community of His Church (Matthew 18:18-20).
As the small group leader, you can ignite a passion for prayer in your group by engaging in these practices:
- 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 used 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 your group and talk with Him like you would a good friend; after-all, He is in your midst and wants each one to share honestly from the heart. Have a conversational flow to what you share with the Lord and avoid Christian clichés or complex theological jargon.
- 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 small group member.
- Go first. If you’re going to ask people to share personal prayer requests, be the first to go and be unguarded and candid. This will prime the pump for others to share and sets an example of vulnerability that will be contagious.
- Enlist others to lead. There is usually at least one person in every small group who is more comfortable and proactive in prayer or they’re good about summarizing multiple prayer needs. At the beginning of your next meeting, ask them how they’d feel about facilitating the prayer time. This can be an effective way of grooming somebody to serve as your co-leader.
- Don’t force it. Not everyone will have a prayer need every week so avoid calling on people or going in a certain order where somebody might feel like that have to share something. If you’re sensing somebody needs prayer or you want to follow-up on something they shared with you at another time, do it in private.
- Write down prayer requests. You can ask somebody to capture prayer needs so that you can follow-up on them at your next gathering. This cultivates a warm and caring environment that will help people feel safer about personally engaging in group prayer.
- Change it up. Find ways to engage in your group prayer at different times during your meetings and be creative in how you do it. Read biblical passages aloud then pray immediately and incorporate key words into your prayers. If you sense a personal need, pray for it right then. Prayer needs can be shared in different ways like having people write theirs down on an index card at the beginning of your time together and then each person takes one to pray over later. Diversify when and how you pray together so this critical aspect of biblical community doesn’t become rote.
- Integration. Revisit prayer needs outside of your regular meeting times or when you’re socializing together so prayer isn’t compartmentalized in your small group life. Celebrate answers to prayer and be spontaneous about lifting up needs that arise so that prayer is naturally woven throughout the community God is growing in your group!
Prayer is a vital aspect of biblical community and the early believers devoted themselves to it (Acts 2:42). What flowed from it changed countless lives for eternity and literally changed the world. The Lord can use YOU to ignite passionate prayer as you engage in these practices and it will inspire greater participation among your group members. Prayer deepens our relationship with God and one another and we can confidently expect spiritual transformation because He is faithful.
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