The biggest enemy to effective praying is boredom…getting into a rut! Individuals who just go through the motions of prayer will usually not stick with it for very long. Until prayer moves from a ritual to an experience of God’s presence, chances are consistency will be rather lacking. The enemy, boredom and routine, can be a killer for community (or group) prayer as well. It requires an intentional approach to prayer in order to keep from getting into a rut and seeing the community prayer component of your small group fade. I hope to provide a few ideas for giving your praying experience some new life and power.
Ideas for Creative Prayer Strategies
Creativity is the key to eradicating the routine rut of prayer in the small group. It is EASY to do the same thing over and over. It is EASY to approach prayer with the mentality that this is just something we need to check off the list for our meeting. However, EASY doesn’t do the privilege, or our group, justice. Prayer is too important to simply take the EASY route. Here are some ideas for pumping some CREATIVITY into community prayer in your small group.
1. Short and Sweet
Sometimes our ineffective praying is because we take too long to receive requests before we actually pray. Here is an idea that will keep the prayer time moving, interesting, and effective. When someone shares a prayer request (or maybe after a couple of requests), stop and pray for that (those) requests right then. Do this throughout the prayer time and don’t wait until everyone has shared before praying. This will assure that all requests are brought before the throne of God and that the one(s) leading in prayer can remember what to pray for. Consider, also, praying at non-specified times in the gathering. If someone is sharing about a difficult situation in his life during the discussion time, stop and pray for that need right then. It can be an effective way to incorporate prayer into the gathering.
2. Prayer Theme Gatherings
Have you considered having a meeting once in a while that is focused primarily on prayer? There may be various reasons to consider this. It can simply be a way of emphasizing the power and privilege of prayer, but it can also be a response to unusual circumstances in the lives of your group members. I remember, attending a Christian College, when the administration would announce a “surprise” day of prayer and classes would be suspended that day so that faculty, staff and students could meet for corporate prayer, meet in small groups for prayer and set aside extended personal times of prayer. These were very powerful and precious days in my life. They can be for your small group as well.
3. Use Directed Prayer
Our usual approach to praying is to open the room for people to share their requests, and then pray for those needs. As a departure from this, try directed prayer. This is a season of prayer that directs the members to pray for specific needs and areas of their lives in particular. It may include both “publicly” led prayers as well as silent prayers. It is also a great time to practice “concert prayer.” Suggested focuses for prayer could include: confession; praise and adoration to God; Thanksgiving; praying for…the lost, ministry leaders, spouses, wisdom and discernment, government leaders, the church, etc. Such an approach can even be helpful in teaching new believers how to pray. Remember the ACTS acrostic?
A = Adoration (praise to God)
C = Confession (of sins)
T = Thanksgiving (for God’s blessings)
S = Supplication (asking for needs)
4. Prep for Prayer
We too often rush into prayer without proper preparation. This is especially true if we put prayer at the end and feel rushed to get it in because we have spent the majority of our gathering on other things (though important things). Consider leading the group in a time of confessional prayer before asking for members to share their prayer needs. Danny R. Von Kanel, in an article at www.smallgroups.com entitled “Three Keys to Powerful Group Prayer,” suggests the following approach, using Psalm 24:3-4.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24:3-4
Use body language to illustrate our confessional prayer. Read Psalm 24:3-4 aloud while asking the group to follow your lead in physical action. After the initial reading, read the passage again and stop on the phrase “clean hands.” Hold out your hands before you and let 10 seconds pass in silence. Do the same with “pure heart” and cross your hands over your heart. Continue with “lift up his soul” and raise your hands toward heaven. Finally, read “swear deceitfully” and place your hand on your lips. At the end of this exercise, the group will be ready to proceed with prayer.
5. Unison Prayer
This is not something to do often, but it can be effective occasionally. Make copies of a psalm or other prayer in Scripture and provide to the group. Or, you may choose to write your own group prayer. Pray the prayer aloud in unison. This could be followed by a discussion of the impressions the members received from the prayer. Continue into additional prayer.
6. Prayer Walks
This is a way to involve a physical component to group prayer. There are two types of prayer walks. The first can be set up outside or inside. It consists of stations for prayer located throughout the walk. Stations may simply be a printed sign with Scripture, instructions for prayer and a suggested physical posture for the prayer. These stations typically focus on praying for spiritual growth and development in one’s life. The path can be walked in small groups of 2-5 easily and effectively.
A second type of prayer walk is typically done to pray for a specific geographical area and the people who live there. Praying for things such as an openness to the gospel, opportunities for outreach, favor for the efforts of the Kingdom, and for victory in spiritual warfare in these places are possible ideas for the focus of a prayer walk.
7. Prayer Retreat
This idea may be a great way for your small group to spend a weekend or overnight outing. While it may include a combination of recreational, Bible study and prayer activities, it is designed to devote extended time to prayer and building group relationships surrounding prayer.
These are just a few suggestions for adding creativity to your community prayer experience. There are many others that could be suggested, but there is not enough room here. A simple internet search for creative prayer and small group prayer ideas should produce a wealth of information from which you may draw.
I have already given the central reason for incorporating creativity into the group prayer experience. However, beyond merely breaking out of the boredom rut, many of these experiences will provide the atmosphere and catalyst for rich and powerful prayer. It is possible that group members will develop a deeper commitment to prayer in their personal lives as a result. When we value corporate prayer as the early church did, we will see the power of God unleashed in our lives in a way that will be transforming. It may even be a “wow” experience for your group!
From a personal perspective, prayer walking has been a powerful experience for me. One particular time in which I engaged in this approach to prayer opened new relationships with other believers and a new opportunity for ministry on a local college campus. I know, beyond a doubt, the prayer walking was the initial step in the process that became rewarding and made an impact upon myself and students at the university.
So, if you’re a small group leader, I challenge you to step out of the rut and begin to incorporate some creativity into your prayer efforts. Check out this resource from www.smallgroups.com to get great ideas about how to make small group prayer more effective.
What are some creative ideas you have discovered for taking community prayer for ritual to revolutionary?