By Carla McDougal
“Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
PRAYER IS THE KEY
Prayer is the key to our relationship with Jesus. It should also be an essential element in our small groups. Prayer connects and unifies people. Isaiah 56: 7 says, “… these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Think of it this way… Each week God brings your small group to the holy mountain and pours out His joy through the prayer time. Your group’s praises and requests are heard and accepted as you all pray for one another. As a result, your small group, prayer team, or Bible study group will be called “A House of Prayer.”
Wow, prayer unifies! When small groups meet, they should always make time to pray together.
Asking the Holy Spirit lead is vital. Allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the prayer time opens the door for healing, restoration, surrender, and so much more.
One way to accomplish this goal is to determine the amount of total time the group has together and divide it in half. For example, if the group meets for an hour and a half use the first forty-five minutes to discuss the Bible study material, relative topic, or discussion time. Reserve the last forty-five minutes for your prayer time.
Listed below are ten creative ways to incorporate prayer into your group. These suggestions are by no means an exhaustive list. The Lord knows what your group needs. Ask the Holy Spirit for direction on how to lead the group in prayer.
PRAY YOUR REQUESTS
One of the biggest complaints about leading a small group is not having enough prayer time. In many cases, time slips away leaving little time to pray together. One way to overcome this dilemma and has proven to be very successful… Pray your prayer requests to God instead of discussing them in the group.
This is a passion of mine. Over the years, I have experienced many Bible study groups and even prayer groups where we discuss the prayer requests for 50 minutes and then only have 10 minutes to pray about them. I believe this is a tactic the enemy uses to distract us from communicating with God about the issues. It would be like standing in the line at the grocery store and telling the person in front of you about a product you wish the store carried. She can listen, but can’t help you. By the time you get to the checkout counter you forget to mention it to the grocery clerk. Nothing is resolved! So, take the group’s requests straight to God the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob––He is the problem solver.
Praying your requests instead of talking about the issues eliminates others trying to solve the problems. In other words, discussing the circumstances often leads to personal advice, and even gossip. But, praying the requests takes the situation to the only One who has the answers and ability to answer the prayers. Enjoy this journey as your group prays together.
THE A.C.T.S. TECHNIQUE
A.C.T.S. stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Divide the prayer time into quarter slots. In other words, if the group prays together for an hour each section listed below would be about fifteen minutes. The facilitator prayerfully leads the group through the following…
A––ADORATION: Listing attributes of God. Begin by asking everyone to randomly speak out words of praise and adoration to God. For example, omnipotent, gracious, merciful, loving, magnificent, etc. This really puts the focus on God.
C––CONFESSION: Asking for forgiveness. In many cases, when the facilitator gets real with this section, the others follow suit. Confession is such a necessary part of growing in the Lord. It tears downs walls and humbles the heart. For example, you might begin with asking forgiveness for a poor attitude when getting ready for Bible study or for yelling at your kids because you were running late… whatever the Lord leads you to confess. Don’t expect everyone to take part in this prayer segment, but those who do will find it rewarding, and others will grow from it as well.
T––THANKSGIVING: Thanking and Praising God. Praise God for answered prayers, protection, guidance, His Word, His Son-Jesus, the blessing of the Holy Spirit, etc.
S––SUPPLICATION: Making requests to God. This is a time of praying our requests to the Father, standing in the gap for others, praying for healing, praying scripture, etc.
In different areas around the room, place large signs with subject names like––Teens, Finances, Marriage, Relationships, Forgiveness, Empty Nest, Aging Parents, Children, Work, Health, etc. If you have ten people in your group you might use only four or five stations. Then ask the members to choose one of the stations. The first half of the prayer time they focus on prayer over this subject. Then halfway through, ask them to switch to a different station to finish their time of prayer. NOTE Emphasize that this is not a time for talking, but for praying their requests to God. As they pray, others hear the needs. Focus in on the One who can actually make a difference in the request!
Place this box in the center of the room or circle. You could also name it a Worry Box or Surrender Box. Put a cross next to the box, almost as if the box is at the foot of the cross. Pass out 3×5 index cards. If possible, turn on some soft praise and worship music. Ask the ladies to write out their worries or what they need to surrender to Jesus. Then when they are ready, they can rip them into shreds and place the remains in the box. Explain at this point all the pieces of the worry are now placed at the foot of the cross. We can’t put the pieces back together. Jesus is the restorer, redeemer, and holds the answers. This can be such an incredible and powerful moment of surrender for everyone!
This one is challenging. Ask the ladies to take turns in the prayer time giving a praise or prayer request in just one sentence. Example, “Please Lord, help me handle the stress of all the demands on me.” Or, “Lord, my mother is suffering, so please bring her healing. “ After each short prayer, several others in the group offer one-sentence prayers in support of the original prayer. Example, “Lord Jesus, would you please supply all the strength, energy, and stamina our sister needs to meet the demands of each day and give her joy.” Or, “God, we know you see the pain and suffering of our friend’s mother, and we ask you to please bring her relief and free her from pain.” Through these short prayers you accomplish two things. One, this encourages the shy person who is intimidated by praying out-loud in a group; and two, this resolves the problem of the one who prays way too long. God loves when we pray together as a group!
Praising God is just as important as lifting up prayer requests. God is always deserving of praise! Each week bring a pretty vase or box that will honor God because of what is put in it. Have the ladies write a praise card with something that happened during the week. You might want to ask them to do this at home and bring a card to the Study rather than take the time to write it when you are all together. We know everyone will have something to praise God for! On the last day the group gets together, share these praises out-loud and let God receive the glory due His name.
THE PRAY MODEL
This is similar to the ACTS Model. Follow the PRAY model as a group and encourage individuals to do it alone:
P––Praise: Tell God you love Him and thank Him. Psalm 69:30… I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
R––Repent: Confess any sin. Acts 3:19-20… Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
A––Ask: Ask God to help you and others. 1 John 5:14… This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Y––Yield: Pause and listen to God’s word. Psalm 130:5… I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
Pray conversationally in your group. Someone lifts up a prayer need. If it is general enough, the rest of the group can add their prayers on the same subject. This allows more people to participate in praying over the same concern, and it may lead to even more specifics being prayed about.For example, Cindy’s dad had a serious accident. She prays, “Lord, my dad was in an accident and I thank you that he survived. But there are some things that we need help with. It seems like some of the nurses are not caring for his leg properly, the doctor doesn’t come around enough, the insurance company is threatening to withhold finances, and we are at a loss as to how to address everything.” After that, one person prays for each aspect of the situation. God may also put additional prayers on the hearts of the people in the group–like healing, peace and clarity, and reliance on God. Each one is limited to praying for just one aspect of the need. See how your group is working together as a team? When all aspects are covered, move to the next need.
Whether you meet at a church or home this is an effective way to pray as a group. Divide into groups of 3 or 4. If you meet in a church stroll the halls together praying for those areas you pass by––youth, children, adults, pastors, worship team, staff, etc. If you meet in a home, walk down the street praying for the needs of the people living in the neighborhood. As you come to a house, simply pray short prayers for the people who live there. Listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit as He directs you on how to pray. Then, come back to the host home and debrief about the experience.
PRAY THROUGH GOD’S WORD
Praying through the scriptures is a powerful way for your group to connect and encourage one another. Reading the Psalms out loud while praying together opens the door to praying over a variety of human emotions such as anger, fear, loneliness, grief, praise, etc. Here are a few favorites: Psalm 1, 81, 91, 139, 141, 142, and 143.
Praying through Paul’s prayers is another effective way to pray together. Some of these prayers can be found in Ephesians 1:16-20 and 3:16-19, Philippians 1:9-11, and Colossians 1:9-13.
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