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Praying as a small group

As a church, we at the Summit have recently recaptured an emphasis on the importance of prayer. Jesus called the church a “house of prayer” and we’ve decided that likewise, we want the Summit to be a people of prayer. Since we are a small-group based church, the real success of this mission lies in the living rooms where close to 1000 Summit people gather in our SummitLIFE groups each week. So here is the big question: How does your small group recapture this emphasis, and move away from the dry, detached, mundane prayer life it has had for so long?? Let’s start at the problem:

Problems with most small group prayer

  • Stepchild syndrome: The Bible gets 40 minutes, prayer requests (not prayer) gets another 25, and prayer itself gets 2 minutes tops from the group leader. Prayer simply isn’t viewed as significant as Bible study. The problem with that, is that it likely means the scriptures are not being properly understood as they place a HUGE emphasis on prayer!
  • Detachment from Scripture: Similar to the previous but probably the biggest problem of all. We tend to assume small group time has 2 parts: The Bible, and then prayer. So we study the bible mostly for knowledge, and then we close our bibles so that we can figure out what we need to pray about. Think about it, this is likely how you spend your personal time with God as well. Read the bible, maybe jot down some notes, then shut the bible and start praying. Why? Do we think the Bible is the “head” part and prayer is the “heart” part of a great “devotion”? If we are honest, yes. and our small groups tend to unconsciously think the same way.
  • Prayer ignorance: Many in our small groups have NEVER prayed where others can hear them, and some have never really even prayed. Then, when nobody but the leader prays during the “open floor for anyone” time, we wonder why! Because people would rather DIE than embarrass themselves by sounding ridiculous trying to do some foreign spiritual talk (which is what prayer is to people who don’t know what it is).
  • Bellybuttons: Groups that spend their time looking and caring about no one but themselves and their needs are destined for hollow, incomplete prayer lives. We must remember that small groups are not small churches, they are arms of a local church. Your group members want to be a part of their church. When you cut them off from that and create a “lets just take care of ourselves” mentality, you give your group a false idea of what it means to be a part of a body of believers.

Moving past the problems to dynamic prayer (dont try these all at once)

  • Pray through the scriptures: We can kill the first two problems mentioned above with this stone. What if your group, as it walked through the scripture passage this week, prayed through the main points you glean in the study? For example, This past Sunday our pastor preached a sermon (BEST SERMON EVER Pastor J.D.!) on John 15:12-17. The main point: love eachother. So, what would a small group pray when studying that text? That they would remember how they are loved in Christ that they may love one another! For a complete prayer guide on that text click here. We not only solve the stepchild problem this way, we also bust down the mental barrier that exists between prayer and bible study. Give it a shot!

  • Study & Practice Prayer. If we want our group members to be prayer warriors, we should probably give them the training a good warrior needs to be confident in battle. Have you ever spent time as a group studying prayer in the bible? Try looking as a group at Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. The scriptures are replete with both example and instruction on prayer. In your group, try dividing up into groups of 2 or 3 people when you pray. People’s confidence in trying out your foreign spiritual talk increases when there are fewer ears listening. If you are in a co-ed group, definitely divide up men and women.
  • Pray Bigger! It is an insult to God to assume he only cares about the needs of your group members. Plain and simple. It is your job as the facilitator to get the group’s eyes off of their bellybuttons (which I have a phobia of by the way) and pray bigger prayers. Pray for the big things God is doing in your church. If you dont know what those are, ask a pastor. If you are a SummitLIFE leader, look at the weekly prayer guide. Make a big deal out of church-wide gatherings and prayer opportunities such as prayer meetings, baptisms, etc. Places where your group members will get to pray with their church are awesome times to help shed the group bellybutton problem.
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