Leading a Home Group: How to Encourage People to Pray
Prayer is an essential ingredient for growth in the Christian life. There are three ingredients for growth, which include prayer (or faith), God’s Word and God’s empowering Spirit (Rom. 15:13-14). As these three ingredients work in the relational environment of a small group, people will grow and want to pray.
We listen to God communicate to us by listening to the reading, teaching and preaching of God’s Word. We listen to God as we study and meditate on His Word. But a relationship with God is built on two way communication. People will never “know” the Lord, unless they have a dynamic prayer life. That prayer life is developed over time. We must help all Christians learn how to talk to God, just like a parent will help a baby learn how to talk to the parent.
Yet, prayer is often a scary thing for some people. For others, they hide behind the “shy” personality moniker or some others are just lazy and don’t feel like praying. Here are several things you should consider in helping your group learn how to pray and grow spiritually to overcome their fear.
First, people are afraid to pray in public. Even though they are talking to One who loves them more than anyone else, public prayer is like public speaking – it scares people to death! They feel they might say a wrong word. They feel they might say something wrong. They feel awkward. They can’t see God! So for new people it’s frightening.
Secondly, people think praying is only for super spiritual people.They hear pastors and others give “eloquent” or really “spiritual” prayers and they think they have to pray like that also, or they better not pray. Some don’t think they could ever sound spiritual enough, so they would rather remain quiet than say something that might come out “less spiritual.” As a pastor, I think that way about my prayers at times. Sometimes a prayer flows well, but other times, it seems like I stumble over myself or forget something important. Yet, God knows my heart and I keep leading in prayer, because I know God wants me to talk to Him and lead others.
Thirdly, people have not been taught to pray. Granted, prayer is just talking with God, but it is a big deal for new Christians. There is no agenda, or order, or beginning or end that has to be said. Using Scripture is the best thing to use in prayer, but it’s not an absolute, especially for new Christians. If someone is a little nervous, they choose to think they don’t know what or how to pray.
Fourthly, people think what they pray must sound spiritual, intelligent and profound. Fortunately, God hears the prayers of children often times more than the prayers of adults. God is concerned with the faith behind the prayer more than the content or manner of prayer.
So what do you do? I’ve tried things like asking people to pray one sentence prayers. I’ve tried praying very simply so no one is intimidated. I’ve tried asking who would pray for each of the prayer requests (but then that’s all they pray for and they are still uncomfortable). But I’ve found something that seems to work.
In my home group, we close by praying around the circle. I open the prayer time up for prayer requests, which I write down and then I tell the group that we’re going to go around the circle in prayer. You can pray as you desire, or if you’d rather not, just tap the person next to you on the outside of the knee. That tap lets them know it’s their turn to pray. No one makes an issue of who prays or not. To begin, I ask the person to one side to start and around the circle it goes. That has been very effective in helping people feel relaxed about praying. It’s not the inspired method, however.
You may want to meet with people outside the group who do not pray. Your purpose is not to twist their arm, but to get to know them and build trust in the relationship. As you get to know the person, you will be able to find out through discussion why they may not want to pray.
Often it’s because they have never prayed in public and don’t know how. In that case give them encouragement of something simple they could pray next time in the group, or even pray together right there with them – out loud. It may be that as you see the person at the next meeting, you affirm them about the prayer time together from the last meeting. You may want to take some time to talk about prayer during one of the home group sessions.
Above all, affirm the prayer time with the group. You don’t have to say something every time. Yet, you can express once in a while how much you enjoy the prayer time together. You can let people know how you are blessed by listening to the other prayers and praying along with them. You the leader can dramatically change how people look at prayer and develop dynamic prayer lives. There are many resources on prayer. The key is that prayer is simply talking to God, expressing praise and thanksgiving for His goodness and character and for His ever faithful will in our lives.