In the last few posts I discussed the five purposes of small groups at High Point church. Our vision for small groups is for them to be Christ centered, transformational communities. The five purposes and practices of small groups are designed to build these communities.
In part one I broke down in some detail the practice of community. The second purpose and practice of small group community is spiritual growth. In part two we talked about the importance of the gospel and the Bible in spiritual growth. Much more could be said about that.
In this post I want to talk about Purpose 3: Prayer
You may already be cringing to know that we want small groups to regularly pray together. Some people don’t like praying. Other people hate praying in groups – especially small groups. Often these prayer times consist of people bringing up prayer requests related to coworkers or pets. The vast majority of time is used gathering prayer requests and generally talking about them. The whole thing seems to take forever.
This is exactly what we are trying to prevent.
There are two practices that help small groups do better with prayer.
1. Pray about what is brought up at every time but prayer.
Don’t take prayer requests. Just pray for things that have already come up. For example:
- Your group has an assigned missionary – what are their prayer requests? Pray.
- You have been to church – what is the church trying to accomplish this year? What are the obstacles in the ministry plan? Pray for these.
- What did somebody share during the Bible discussion time about their personal life? Pray for that.
Good prayer times often happen in meetings where you are emphasizing community. A good entrance into prayer would be to go around and ask, “What has God been doing in your life?” Based on this, people will have brought up their own prayer requests without asking for prayer.
It is often better to get prayer requests from people when they aren’t giving prayer requests. Just talk, and then after you’ve talked say, “Can we pray about that right now?” I did this after the church service last week. I just walked around the lobby, talked with people, they all brought up something troubling them, and then I asked if we could pray. It’s really not that hard.
2. Pray up not out
Small group prayer should be focused on what is going on in the community and what God is doing. Instead of the question, “Does anyone have any prayer requests?” Asked something like,
“As people who are part of High Point, and citizens in Madison, what do you think God wants us to pray about? What you think he wants us to ask him for or praise him for?”
Imagine what that sort of question would do for your prayer time. It would turn the focus away from individual personal needs and toward some gospel centered purpose. That is what we are after with this small group practice – for people to pray themselves into the movement of the local church and to look to God for what we are hoping for.
Lead people into that kind of prayer: prayer for what people share when they are not asking for prayer and prayer for the things we think God wants us to pray about. Your prayer time will change, for the better.
See the overview video here.