Keisha’s group did advance in prayer. This began when Keisha went to a small group leaders’ meeting in which they talked about prayer goals and methods. Once she had some clear goals, she was better able to communicate with her group. Below are some common goals for prayer in InterVarsity small groups.
- Over time, use different types of prayer in your meetings according to the leading of the Spirit and the openness of the group. The acronym ACTS is helpful in identifying the variety of prayers. Adoration of God’s nature is the worship part of prayer. Notice in Acts 4 how the early Christians began their prayer by praising God as the powerful King and Creator. Confession of sins often happens in a worship service, but is part of our small group life as well. Groups can benefit from corporate prayers of repentance as well as audible and silent times of personal confession. Thanksgiving renews us as we are reminded of all the things God has done and all the prayers he has answered. There certainly is a spirit of thankfulness and there probably were prayers of thanksgiving at the Acts 4 prayer meeting. Supplication is talking to God about our own needs, the needs of group members and of the world. The early Christians were asking God for the boldness to continue their witness.
- Use the Scripture under discussion as a springboard for the group prayer time. Notice how the early Christians in Acts 4 quoted Scripture in their prayer time. If Bible reading and discussion are God speaking to us, our prayer time should involve us responding to what God has said. For example, after studying Acts 4, it would be appropriate to pray about barriers to evangelistic boldness, or if you are studying how John the Baptist called people to repentance, perhaps a silent time of confession should be the focus of the prayer time.
- Be attentive to different prayer preferences, styles, forms and experiences of people in the group who may come from different denominational and cultural backgrounds and try to accommodate them. For example, Rob’s liturgical background might inspire him to bring a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. Elizabeth might need people to say Amen or give some other verbal affirmation as she prays. Judy might occasionally like to have everyone pray out loud at once. Rick might want group members to touch him when they pray for him as was done in traditional Jewish blessings. The leader’s role here is crucial. It’s important for the leader to acknowledge to the group that new prayer styles may be threatening and that these feelings are acceptable and normal. Encourage group members to bring these feelings before God and take some risks, which may then deepen their relationship with God. Talking about where different prayer forms originate in Scripture might be helpful as well.
- Work toward incorporating conversational prayer in your small group. Conversational prayer involves the small group as a whole talking with God as if God were in the center of the circle. The conversation moves from topic to topic possibly with three or four people contributing on that topic as they listen to each other. Thus, conversational prayer consists of
- delineating some topics for prayer.
- praying for one topic at a time with a variety of people praying for aspects of that topic.
- often praying short prayers, possibly just adding a phrase to another’s prayer. Individual prayers in this format often don’t end “in Jesus’ name.” This phrase is used at the end of the whole “conversation,” as the group is creating one long prayer together.
- speaking naturally to Jesus as if he were in the center of the circle.
This type of prayer has the advantage of a good conversation in that we are listening to each other and not quickly changing the subject or repeating what the other person has said. We also are listening to the Spirit prompting us to think of other angles for prayer on a topic. Because prayers are short, new people may pray, and we may be more attentive. Long, J. (1995). Small Group Leaders’ Handbook: The Next Generation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.