Together in Prayer

Vertical Prayer with Horizontal Impact

Go Bold With Small Group Prayer

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Prayer Connect Magazine.

One of God’s stated intents for His Church is that it would be a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). As we read through the book of Acts, we see that the early church lived up to this expectation; through prayer, the early believers sought God’s wisdom, pled for His intervention, and commissioned His missionaries. God responded to their prayers, guiding their decisions, freeing prisoners, and saving the lost.

Today, we often see a different story. Of the four “pillars” of the early church (Acts 2:42), prayer is often the most neglected. As a prayer leader, how do you influence the culture of your church to grow in prayer? Service times are closely scheduled; extra prayer meetings struggle for attendance in our busy world; prayer classes attract sparse participation and don’t produce lasting change. How does prayer move from being the purview of a chosen few dedicated individuals to taking root in the congregation?

Prayer, Small Groups, and the Church
If your church has a vibrant small group ministry, you have the potential to establish a grass-roots prayer movement that can change your church’s prayer culture and multiply the effectiveness of your church’s ministries. Working together with your small group ministry’s leaders to promote meaningful, missional prayer throughout your small groups, you can help your church achieve its full potential in prayer.

Small group leaders know that prayer is an important part of their groups’ lives; indeed, most small groups incorporate an element of prayer into their time together. Often, however, that prayer doesn’t look beyond the group itself and is relegated to crisis responses rather than focusing on advancing the Kingdom. While this type of prayer is important, even vital, a steady diet of personal-crisis prayer is not sufficient to create a balanced, exciting vision for prayer in a small group.

You can start creating this vision by working with your small group ministry’s leaders. Paint for them a picture of small groups energized with a vision for the church and plugged in by praying for the church. They already know that life-change happens in small groups; help them understand how prayer for the church can extend this life-change to the body as a whole. Offer to work with them to both cast the vision and provide the resources to expand the prayer lives of your church’s small groups.

A few ideas
Here are a few ideas for helping your church’s small groups to incorporate prayer for the church. Work with your Small Group Ministry’s leaders to determine the best way to get information to your church’s small group leaders (e-mail blast, printed resources, etc.).

  • Church Events. Create a monthly “prayer calendar” for your church’s events. Highlight the main events (including the weekly ones and the special ones) and provide a few ideas for prayer around them. Your church’s bulletin can be a great source of information for a prayer calendar.
  • Missionaries. If your church sends out missionaries, get on their mailing lists and compile a regular prayer guide from their prayer letters.
  • Church Ministries and Leaders. Contact church staff and key volunteers and ask for prayer requests for their ministries. Compile these into a regular prayer guide. Be sure to follow-up with them for answers to prayer; sharing these answers as part of your prayer guides can really encourage small groups to keep praying!
  • Invite a Leader. This one is my favorite. Encourage small groups to invite a staff member or key volunteer to visit their group for a time of prayer. Provide a guide for the small groups that they can share with their potential guests, so that the guests know what to expect. In my experience, nothing develops ongoing prayer passion in a group like a time of extended prayer surrounding a church leader.

Spread the Vision.
Incorporating prayer for your church into your small groups’ lives will benefit your church in many ways. First, you’ll grow the prayer lives of your congregation by encouraging prayer that looks beyond the typical personal-crisis prayers to incorporate strategic intercession for your church. Small group members will be encouraged as they see God respond to their prayers for the church.

Second, praying for the church will help keep your small groups connected to the church. This connection will tend to promote unity in the church and encourage support of your church’s leaders and ministries. This can be a great antidote to a spirit of grumbling and discontent within the church.

Finally, as God answers prayer, your church’s effectiveness will be multiplied. Our church’s prayer team sees our role as that of Aaron and Hur, who held up Moses’ hands as he interceded with God while Joshua fought the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-13). Like Moses, church leaders today get weary from serving. Your church’s small groups can “lift up their hands” and strengthen them through prayer, inviting God to fight the battles.

Working through the small group ministry, you can spread a vision for prayer in your church and watch your church’s vitality and effectiveness grow as God answers.