Effective Group Prayer (Stop the Shallow Rambling)

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PrayerI got the following letter and decided it needed to be shared. This woman is relatively new in her faith journey but she’s echoing thoughts that most of us have had about group prayer. Her honesty and candor are truly refreshing and you may laugh as you recall times you’ve felt the same way.

 

I’d guess all of us have wondered (at one point) if there’s some unspoken prayer etiquette that isn’t freely shared. Should there be?

 

I’d guess all of us have wondered (at one point) if there’s some unspoken prayer etiquette that isn’t freely shared. Should there be? Many facilitators don’t have the slightest notion of how to guide group prayer sessions: keeping things relevant to those present, regulating each person’s amount of time to share, and making sure that everyone feels that their needs matter. I could offer up some sage advice, but since I know the collective wisdom of many of my readers, I’m asking for you to respond to her inquiry. We all want to experience God’s amazing presence when two or more are gathered in His name, so let’s remember times when praying in a group was a supernatural jolt, not a frustrating snooze-fest. Here’s what she says:

 

Dear Diane,
I’m having a difficult time with something and would like your input. Here’s the scenario:
I’m at church at a women’s group table and the leader asks, “Before we begin, does anyone have any prayer requests?” I do an internal eye roll because I know what’s coming. Inevitably, someone wants us all to pray for Aunt Joan’s neighbor’s mole that might be cancerous, or their sister’s friend (who lives 1,000 miles away) whose son is in the military and being sent overseas, or a child they heard about on the internet who is missing.

 

That drives me crazy! For several reasons:

1) I want to say, “Since I don’t know Aunt Joan, nor will I probably ever meet her neighbor, please tell me what is on YOUR heart. I want to pray for YOU, the person I can see right now, who is in my life and who I want to get to know better. Are these people so holy that they truly think only of others and don’t need any prayers for themselves? Or are they using the mole to cover up their true prayer requests so no one can really get to know them?

 

2) Sometimes I feel like people live for any minuscule amount of drama they can muster up in their lives. I, for one, go out of my way to avoid drama and/or encourage it in others. So do I have an attitude of not wanting to pray for what I am judging in others to be merely drama?

 

3) By the time it gets around to my turn for the prayer request, I usually pass. Or minimize what I really want to say. There are several reasons for this as well: First, my “woes” are nothing in comparison to everyone else’s. Second, I don’t really know these people all that well; will I be judged for asking them to pray for ME? Whatever is going on with me will eventually pass. I will pray in private to God about it and together we’ll figure it out. Last, I feel like the prayer request time has been set up to be a quick snippet— a one sentence quickie prayer. I don’t really want to take up everyone’s time with my “stuff” when it will take away time from the group. Besides, if no one else is being “real”, why would they want to hear about my struggles? I want to give anyone who is willing to share their heart with me my undivided time and attention, and I want the same in return.

 

4) I still feel fairly new to all this Christian stuff, so I wonder if I really know what I’m talking about.

 

Do you have answers for her? I think lots of new believers as well as ministry leaders would love to hear them.
Diane Markins

 


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