Amy became a Christian the summer before she started going to the small group Keisha led. Amy had never prayed much, while Keisha’s African-American church always included lively times of corporate prayer. Keisha was looking forward to prayer being a part of small group. Some group members, like Amy, were new to prayer, while others had a variety of prayer experiences.
At one of the first meetings of the year, after taking a few prayer requests, Keisha enthusiastically invited anyone in the group to pray out loud, and she offered to close the prayer time. Amy sat in stunned silence as Rob said the Lord’s Prayer. Judy prayed passionately and at length about every request, continually saying, “Father, we just … Father, we just … ” Amy wondered how she could go on for so long without seeming to take a breath. Rick casually said, “Hey, God, thanks for helping me find my chemistry book.” Keisha’s closing prayer was so loud that Amy thought that God might have a bit of a hearing problem. At the end of the prayer time, Amy and a few others left the room so quickly that Keisha knew they felt uncomfortable.
After encouraging Amy to return to the group, Keisha reluctantly reverted to having one person open and close in prayer, knowing that this was a stop-gap measure until she could figure out how to meet the prayer needs of her group.
For many reasons prayer can be a struggle for small groups. It may be that some have never prayed out loud before. Other times it is because we are at different places in our prayer journey, are used to different prayer styles or are just uncomfortable because we are new to each other. Small group prayer time may also suffer because the leader doesn’t have vision for this component.
As a result, some small groups never discuss their goals for prayer or their personal prayer struggles and experiences. The prayer time at the first meeting and the last meeting of the year may be identical; some members may never pray out loud or meet God in new ways. Prayer also can end up as an addendum as we are rushing out the door, making it more like a weak pulse than a group’s heartbeat.
Long, J. (1995). Small Group Leaders’ Handbook: The Next Generation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.