Most people will not object to your praying for them—even if they don't believe in God. One of my neighbors was an atheist, yet when our Q Place met she was often the one to remind us to pray! But praying out loud in a group is very scary for many, no matter their background. To encourage group prayer, use these 5 guidelines in your group…and read on for more “Whys” and “Hows”!
Here are the 5 Guidelines:
To help everyone relax and pray, keep prayers:
- Short – Aim for one or two sentences from each person so there will be time for all to pray.
- Simple – Avoid complicated phrases or a special prayer vocabulary or voice. Be sure to model simple, short prayers yourself!
- Specific – Encourage specific prayers so you can tell when a prayer is answered!
- Suitable – Keep the focus clear by asking, “How can we pray for each other?” You can pray for someone outside the group, but those inside the group are the ones you know and want to support. If someone asks for prayer for those the group doesn’t know, follow their request with “How can we pray for you in this situation?”
- Safe – Insist on confidentiality to encourage sharing: “What is prayed for in our group, stays in our group!"
Why pray together in the first place?
Group prayer can be a faith encouraging, growth producing, and bonding experience! Asking God for specific things together and seeing Him answer is powerful and exciting—and sparks trust in Him. When I hear someone else praying for my specific need, my faith also increases.
How do I know my group is ready for prayer?
Try asking! After your group gets off the ground, people will begin sharing more about their lives. Difficult circumstances they face will surface. This is a natural time to ask, "Would you mind if we pray about that?"
I was amazed that our neighborhood Q Place wanted to share prayer requests right from the beginning. Not everyone was comfortable praying out loud in the group, but even if they weren’t, several offered to pray for each other daily.
Is there a way to ease into talking about prayer?
Try one or more of these icebreakers when introducing prayer to your group:
- What was prayer like for you as a child?
- Few of us are comfortable praying aloud. What, if anything, has helped you overcome the discomfort of praying aloud?
- What would make you feel more comfortable about praying together in our group? (When I asked that question in my neighborhood Q Place, they came up with many of the 5 Guidelines by themselves!)
How can we “jump start” prayer?
One of these ideas may give your group just the right boost to get started.
- To overcome the fear of hearing your voice in prayer, ask each person to think of some aspect of today’s discussion and simply finish a sentence like one of these:
“Thank you God for ____________.”
“Help me to _________________.”
- Have each person write 1-2 requests on a 3x5 card with their name and phone number or email on it. Everyone may then pick a card and pray for those requests during the next week, agreeing to follow up by phone or in person.
- Pair off and share one thing to pray for each other during the next week. Optional: pairs could pray together before they leave.
- If your group has decided to open each discussion with a short prayer, the question-asker has the option of asking someone else ahead of time to pray. Encourage group members who are uncomfortable with spontaneous prayer to write out a prayer beforehand to read at the beginning of the discussion.
- Do not insist that every aspect of each prayer request be covered, but DO pray for at least one aspect of each request.
- Praying around the circle can put people on the spot and tends to stifle spontaneity and authentic prayer. Encourage everyone to pray at any point during your prayer time.
- Keep monitoring the time and wrap up the prayer time by covering any request not prayed for that day, then close.
The power of prayer has been evident to all in my Q Place—including our two atheists:
- When “Joan's” sister asked to borrow some money, she said, "No. But I'll ask my Bible study to pray for you, because things happen when these ladies pray!”
- On another occasion when Joan mentioned a concern she had, we asked if we could pray for her and she said, "Well, why not? We're batting 1,000 so far!"
- “Mandy” once exclaimed, “We could write a book about all the prayers God has answered in our group!”
Q Place Lead Catalyst – Denver