and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day (of the Lord) drawing near.
Stepping out on a Limb
Deciding to pray with others might feel like a big step in your faith journey, let alone forming a prayer group. While forming a prayer group is not required for salvation by any means, it is a terrific way to serve, encourage, edify, and express your love for Christ and fellow Believers.
Here are a few ways to get started.
Many churches allow congregants to "request" prayer in various ways, but if you want to enjoy deeper fellowship through prayer, here are a few ideas to get started:
Ask to your Pastor to have prayer service in regular intervals, at least monthly
Talk to your church leadership about forming a prayer group either in person or online
Suggest that the last 10-15 minutes of Bible study be reserved for the group's prayer needs; attendees can take turns leading prayer and those who wish to bow out, can exit a bit earlier than the rest
Beyond Church Walls
Believe it or not, your church may not be the most supportive place to form a prayer group. It may be that they feel they already have enough "programs" in place and established ways for congregants to submit prayer requests,
If that is the case, you can always start your own prayer group. You can invite family, friends, neighbors, or use social media sites to find like-minded Believers. For example, Nextdoor.com connects you with verified neighbors.
You can meet at places like the library or a community center or establish an "online" meeting place using free resources such as FreeConferenceCall.com.
You Established a Prayer Group, Now What?
First, decide whether you will meet in person, online, or via phone using a conference line (see Beyond Church Walls above) and how often (weekly or monthly, for example).
Next, you will also need to think about the amount of time your group will need to sufficiently cover prayer requests. Depending on the size of your prayer group, the time needed can vary widely. A group of 4-5 might, need just 30 minutes, while a group of 8-10 will need at least an hour. Keep in mind that just sharing the prayer requests can take 10-15 minutes, and then the prayer follows.
Lastly, understand that sometimes the prayer will go over the time allotted. Those who need to leave by a certain time should not be shamed for their time limitations. Instead, they can quietly leave while those still in prayer remain. If you have an attendee who wants to pray for much longer periods than you intend to gather, you will need to reinforce your intended timeframe. As with any gathering, the leader must be prepared to communicate and set gentle boundaries for the health of the group as a whole.
A Sample Prayer Gathering Agenda
Because members of our prayer group live across North America, we do not meet in person and instead pray together on a private conference line. The average number of attendees is 10 (although we've had as many as 18) and our average call time is 55 minutes. We pray in Jesus's name and do not practice the rosary or other denomination-specific prayer although attendees have a varied denominational background.
Whoever is willing to lead the prayer is welcome to lead, and that is typically established prior to the call rather than during the call. We do not mute others, nor do we speak over each other. We do ask those with a noisy background to mute themselves. Here is how our prayer call is modeled if you find it helpful:
We allow for up to 5 minutes for people to join the call in case they have trouble dialing in or just running a minute or two late. Each attendee announces them self as they come online, and the prayer leader jots down their name. We try to avoid conversation at this point while people are joining and usually just focus on greeting and welcoming those who join.
The prayer leader performs a roll call and each attendee shares their prayer request(s) when called on. The prayer leader may need to take a few notes to retain all of the information for the day's prayer. If you are the prayer leader, please properly discard or shred your notes after the prayer as this information should not be kept or stored; let the Lord be the recorder of the prayers.
We then begin to pray. Our prayer group always opens with the Lord's prayer, spoken in unison. Doing so is not "robotic" in the least—as each line is heartfelt and spoken with reverence—but you do not need to start your prayer in the same way.
The leader covers the individual prayer requests, and other attendees lift up additional prayers or words of agreement, and then we close with Amen. Some attendees hang up at this point, while others remain on the line to say goodbye or mention upcoming events, etc.
Set a Few Ground Rules
We have found that denomination makes little difference as long as everyone believes that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. This may sound obvious, but it is worth stating at the start of your prayer gatherings that this is not a place for gossip or judgment. All information shared is private, and prayer requests and the actual prayers should not be recorded (audibly or in writing).
Furthermore, while sharing Bible scripture is encouraged, you should discourage the sharing of prophesy not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Do not despise prophesy, but instead test it and measure it against the Word. For more advice, please refer to First Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 19-21.
A consistent day and time will help attendees prioritize prayer sessions. Since our ministry began, we have started 4 prayer groups. Groups that have maintained a consistent day and time have remained in the service while the other more flexible groups only met for a few months before phasing out.