Routine can be good. Most of us wouldn't be able to maintain physical fitness without stability and predictability provided by habit. But routine can rob a group's prayer time of its energy and vitality. By injecting a little variety into the structure of your group's prayer time, you can keep things fresh.
Timing is critical. If prayer has become an afterthought in your group meetings, maybe it's because prayer comes after everything else. Doing prayer time last isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, lots of groups share more deeply after they've had a good discussion. But if other parts of the meeting tend to run long, it's tempting to cut prayer time short or rush through it. If that's a consistent problem in your group, reserve time for prayer between your relational time and discussion time.
Varying formats can keep things fresh. People connect to God in different ways. The same is true of prayer. Some people gravitate toward the linear simplicity of the "pray for the person to your right" format. Others prefer free-flowing, unstructured prayer time.
Here are some ideas for adding variety to your group prayer times:
Night of Prayer Take a week off from your study to focus on prayer. Break into groups of three to five people and pray through some specific topics. Spend about five minutes praying through each topic. Here are some topic ideas:
- Your families
- Your neighbors
- Your boss or co-workers
- Your pastor
- Your community
Men's Time / Women's Time (for Married Small Groups) Men and women will often share more when the opposite sex isn't present. Gather husbands and wives in separate rooms to discuss prayer requests and pray. To stimulate conversation, have a facilitator in each room offer a few prepared questions, such as
- What is going well, where would you like to improve, and what is one thing we can pray for you about?
- How are you doing as a spouse?
- How are you doing as a parent?
- How things are going at work or in managing your home?
- How things are going in your relationship with God?
Directed Prayer Requests (related to the discussion time) Relate your prayer time to your group discussion. For example, if your discussion was about Influence with Outsiders, ask each group member to identify one person in his or her spheres of influence, and what he or she would like to see God do in that person's life.
Prayer Poster Put a large poster board or foam board on an easel and ask everyone to write their prayer requests (large and legible) on Post-Its or 3x5 cards. Attach the requests to the poster. This helps prayer to resonate with those who are visually oriented.
Prayer Partners Individuals or couples can pair up for prayer. For six weeks, the prayer partners share prayer requests and pray for each other during prayer time. They also commit to touch base between meetings to see how things are going or share additional prayer requests.
Adopt a Ministry Adopt one of North Point Ministries' Strategic Partners or Intersect Partners and spend time praying for them.