Have you ever had one of those Community Group experiences where, during prayer time, people scramble to come up with "safe" prayer requests? You know, the kind of requests that avoid revealing what's really going on in their lives. Have you ever been asked to pray for someone's aunt's friend's cat?
Here are five simple things you can do to avoid that kind of experience in your group.
- Cultivate your own prayer life. If you're not praying regularly—for your group members and for yourself—you're going to have a hard time being vulnerable in your own requests. And if you're not vulnerable, there's a good chance no one else in your group will be vulnerable.
- Follow up on prayer requests. Asking for updates on requests from previous weeks communicates that you are praying for your group members. If your group members know you care, they'll take prayer time more seriously.
- Begin prayer time with a question that provides some direction. Ask your group members something like, "What's been weighing on your heart lately?" or "What have you been praying about today?" You're not likely to get a cat request in response to a question like that.
- Set a standard. It's okay to tell your group in a diplomatic way that you will never ask them to pray for something or someone you aren't praying for and that you ask the same of them. If this is the standard in your group, it tends to weed out this-is-all-I-can-think-of-at-the-moment prayer requests.
- Divide and conquer. If you lead a married group, separate out by gender for prayer time. There are just some things people don't want to talk about in front of others' spouses. You don't have to separate every time you pray, but doing so once or twice a month is a good way to increase the openness and accountability in your group.
So, don't let your group get stuck in a cycle of shallow prayers and no real accountability. If you feel things sliding in that direction, take action sooner rather than later in order to get things back on the right track.
What other things do you do to increase the quality of the prayer times in your group?