Home > Uncategorized > Small Group Dilemma…The Prayer Request Time

Small Group Dilemma…The Prayer Request Time

My favorite time of training new leaders is when we break up into groups and go through various scenarios that they will certainly face in their small groups. If you have ever been in any type of small group setting…say a college dorm room bible study, a Sunday school class, maybe just a really long cup of coffee, you have experienced the dilemma I am about to describe.

The Scenario
It’s the end of your group’s bible study time. Almost with a cringe (because you know whats about to transpire for the next 30 seconds or 30 minutes), you say something like “ok, time to shift into our prayer time, anybody got anything we need to be lifting up this week?” What follows is either

1. 1.a colossally awkward silence (you: really? Nothing? Are you people dead inside? your group: Really? Share serious life stuff with EVERYONE here? Are you stupid inside?)

2 2. A verbal cascade of prayer requests lasting 12 minutes each with tears, laughter, gossip, and maybe a little anger all wound up into such a mess you have NO IDEA what the bombardier who started this raid actually wants you and others to pray for.

Then, finally, after either the silence or the monologues you likely had to cut off, you say something like “ok, who will close us in prayer?” or maybe you go so far to say “lets have a different person pray for each one of those.” The first question leads to a single prayer, probably by the unfortunate soul who made eye contact with you when you asked that question, and it lasts about 30 seconds. “God thanks for letting us meet, be with all the stuff we just talked about for 30 minutes, keep us safe this week, Amen…no wait, in Jesus Name, Amen.” The second question leads to 4 to 8 of the same version that tailor slightly to the assigned request if they possibly remember what it was (20% chance that happens).

Praying as a small group
Ok, the above was hopefully a humorous sarcastic picture of a group that maybe struck a familiar chord or two with you like it does with me. What happened in that situation, and in a lot of small groups, is that prayer REQUESTS took far more time and energy than actual PRAYER. God calls us to be a people of prayer, not prayer requests. Seriously, if you aren’t careful you will prayer request your group into spiritual demise. What you and I should shoot for is reversing the scenario above. Lets spend 30 seconds sharing prayer requests, and 30 Minutes praying in our groups! WHOA! I say that as a goal. Build up to that 30 minute mark. How? Well, here are a couple proven ideas and you may try grouping a couple of them together (Ive used 1 & 2 a lot together):

  1. INDEX CARDS – pass out an index card at the start of each meeting. Ask each person to write their prayer requests on the card at some point before prayer time. SECRET: people will write the “need to know” without all of the “side-track” stories they would share if given the chance. Then collect and redistribute the cards for prayer time and have each person in the group pray for the needs on the card. BONUS: take the cards home for the week and your group will be praying for one another all week!
  2. SMALLER GROUPS: divide up guys and girls where applicable, then get into groups of 3. Sharing takes way less time here and usually will draw out the prayer needs of someone who wouldn’t share with 10 to 15 people. BONUS: use these same groups each week. Great way to develop accountability relationships. The index card works here.
  3. DIRECTED PRAYER TIME: Come to the prayer time with an agenda for what you will be praying for. We offer that to our SummitLIFE group leaders each week. Hand out a prayer guide that walks them through what the group will be praying for that night. This is a great way to keep things fresh in the group. You may even try devoting one entire meeting to prayer. BONUS: still collect individual prayer requests (written or by email) and send them to the group via email so they can pray throughout the week.

These are only three suggestions. What has worked in your experience?

  1. Philo
    July 22, 2008 at 4:49 am

    You’ve got some really good content on your blog. Please take a look at our small group blog – http://www.serendipityblog.com – for additional small group helps.

  2. July 22, 2008 at 11:00 am

    One trick I stole from my first SummitLife leader was to pray for a request right after it’s been voiced. That way, you’re not sitting around for 20 minutes remembering who and what you’re praying for and totally missing all that’s going on in the life of others in your group. Doesn’t stop rambling, but that hasn’t been a huge problem in our group. I’ve tried to cast the vision that prayer is important and we’re going to reserve a lot of time for it, so maybe people are catching onto that. Oh, I guess that’s a tip as well – tell people in your group that prayer is important.

  3. Rick
    July 22, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Great, practical suggestions. Just following these three will improve the prayer experience of most groups…I know it will mine.

  4. July 30, 2008 at 1:10 am

    Ah the days of Small Groups! I still miss our Wake Forest group, and prayer time was really prayer time. You are correct that the note cards and smaller groups builds intimacy and shifts the focus from “let’s all talk about our request for many minutes and pray for a few.” If you ever get discouraged, come on down to Little Mountain and sit in on a “prayer time.” You will leave infinitely encouraged. Later.
    Josh Phillips

  1. July 30, 2008 at 1:35 am
  2. September 24, 2008 at 8:03 pm

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