Together in Prayer

Vertical Prayer with Horizontal Impact

Making Room for Spirit-led Prayer

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Prayer Connect Magazine.

Paul tells us that we don’t know what we should pray for, but that the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26). And yet, how many times do we find ourselves praying for others strictly on the basis of what they think they need prayer for, rather than seeking the guidance of the Spirit?

When we take prayer requests in small groups, we tend to focus our prayers on exactly the items listed. Indeed, Paul once prayed this way, asking God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). But God’s response indicated that God had greater purposes in mind than Paul’s request for relief.

Standing with friends in prayer during a time of need is one of the best ways to support them and to deepen relationships. But such prayer shouldn’t be limited to repeating before God the specific issues and desires raised. The group member in crisis is often consumed with the details; she needs the group to step outside those details and seek God’s Kingdom and will on her behalf.

One way to do this is to change the way we share prayer requests in our groups. Rather than having a group member share details surrounding a prayer request, have him simply mention the area for which he needs prayer. Allow a couple of minutes of silence, as group members ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them His prayers for the person. Then, have the group pray as the Spirit has led. Over time, this will help the group pray more Kingdom-centered prayers as they invite God’s work in the lives of each group member.

Keep Prayers Brief and Focused
Long prayers tend to cause group members to disengage, discouraging widespread participation. Brief, focused prayers encourage and value the contributions of all group members. Group members stay engaged and attentive, listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they participate. By contrast, longer prayers covering multiple topics tend to relegate other members to the role of spectator rather than active participant.

For example, consider a group praying for one of its members in the hospital. If the first person to pray covers the doctors, the recovery, the family, financial issues, and spiritual needs, he doesn’t leave much for others to pray. Such a prayer will tend to be long (causing others’ minds to wander) and will discourage other members from praying because there’s nothing left to pray for. However, if the first one to pray sticks to one idea (for example, the surgery), he leaves ideas for other group members to contribute. A brief, focused prayer like this encourages others to join in prayer.

Similarly, suppose a group member is struggling in her marriage. If someone opens the prayer time by praying for her husband, her children, her spiritual growth and perseverance, and God’s guidance, there isn’t much room left for others to join in. But if the opening prayer focuses, for example, on the husband, then the entire group is encouraged to pray for the husband before moving on. Such prayer is both more complete and more engaging for the entire group. By training your group to pray briefly and stay focused, you will increase your group’s effectiveness in prayer, promoting unity, encouraging widespread participation, and inviting the Holy Spirit’s leading.