Praying together can be a powerful experience for a small group. Group members pray aloud for each other in conversational manner. Members of the group take a personal interest in each other’s lives. People get encouraged when others pray about their needs. A strong bond of shared life and mission develops.
Matthew 18:19 Jesus said, “If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.”
Understand people’s hesitation
Most people find it hard to pray out loud, at least at first. Some people are just quiet or shy. Others may still need to develop trust with the group. Or they may not know what to say. They might have heard others pray long, eloquent prayers and don’t feel like they can pray that way. Feeling inadequate to pray, they will stay silent rather than risk sounding foolish.
Teach on prayer
Share a few simple principles that will help people pray, such as:
- Prayer is simply a conversation with God. There is no special formula or technique that makes prayer count.
- God is not impressed with long, wordy prayers. He cares what is in our hearts.
- We’re not praying to teach or impress other people, but just to share our hearts together with God.
Set the right example
As a group leader or co-leader, pray in a way that models what others can see themselves doing. Resist being long-winded. Pray short prayers. Don’t use prayer to make a point. Pray in common language. Avoid churchy cliches or theological jargon. Pray in a way that helps group members see prayer as simple and accessible. (After a meeting, ask your co-leaders to evaluate how well you did at setting a good example.)
Create simple steps
Make it easy for group members to take an easy next step. For example, here’s an exercise that helps people get more at ease with prayer:
- After collecting prayer requests, take turns praying by going around the circle one by one. That way each person knows when it’s their turn.
- When someone’s turn comes, he or she can pass by simply saying “Pass”. Explain that there is no disgrace in passing. No pressure. When they’re ready, they can join in.
- Whoever does pray can only say one sentence. This makes it less intimidating to think of something to say. It also makes sure that everyone’s prayer will sound about the same regardless of their experience.
- Tell the group in advance that you will go around the circle one time – or later, two times. Make it clear so everyone knows when you’re done.
- You or a co-leader can close the prayer time, following the same format of one simple sentence.
- Use the exercise as many weeks as necessary. As the group gets comfortable, loosen up the ground rules to allow a random prayer order after the first pass, two-sentence prayers, or the like.
If you’re purposeful and patient, it won’t be long before your group is experiencing the benefits of praying together for each other.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Do you remember the first time you prayed out loud in a group? What happened and how did you feel?
- What are the benefits of praying aloud for each other in a small group?
- What are some reasons why people hesitate to pray aloud in groups?
- How can you help people in your group take some next steps toward participating in group prayer?
- What should you do if some members of your group just don’t want to pray out loud?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.