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If you’ve been around church for a little while you could probably quote Jeremiah 29:11 by heart (see, look, you’re saying it in your head right now! What a rockstar!). But can you quote Jeremiah 29:12-13 just as quickly? If you did, I want to be just like you when I grow up! If you’re like me, though, the reference isn’t ringing any bells. You’ve likely heard the verse before, so putting it in context is awesome:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” – Jeremiah 29:11-13
I love that this verse reminds us that when we pray God listens. He hears us when we call on Him in prayer – isn’t that incredible? God created us with a deep longing to talk to Him.
Prayer is essential in our small groups because it lets us see God show up for other people. When we are not seeing our prayers being answered, seeing God come through in amazing ways for our friends is super encouraging. It is a much-needed reminder that God is still in the business of answering prayers!
Let’s take a closer look at what makes praying in our small groups so necessary and powerful!
There’s nothing worse than having your vulnerable moments shut down with a seemingly disingenuous “I’ll pray for you.” The tilted head, raised eyebrows, pitying eyes and the hollow response of “I’ll pray for you” feels like the Church version of being cussed out. This response feels cold because there’s no promise of follow-through. Granted, there are many strong prayer warriors who I know when they say they’re praying they wholeheartedly mean it! But from most people, in my experience, it feels like a cop-out.
Hearing the words people are declaring for us, or the things they are asking God for on our behalf multiplies our faith to see God move. Rather than just being told “I’ll be praying” having someone pray for us in person encourages us when we’re facing something difficult. Consistently showing up for each other in prayer will help your group thrive.
Have you ever gone through a really hard time when prayer felt absolutely impossible or hollow? For so many of us when we need to pray the most and are desperate to connect with God, it can seem impossible to get the words out.
This is where community truly shines! As a small group, we can shoulder the weight for each other through prayer. I recently heard someone phrase it as asking your friends to pray the things that you know are true but can’t believe enough to pray right now. Your small group can speak truth to your heart and talk to God on your behalf when you can’t stomach the words.
Need a starting point for praying in a hard season, or praying for a friend who’s in the thick of it? Start with Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesians 3:16-21.
One thing that revolutionized my life, after years growing up in various “I’ll pray for you” church cultures, was being surrounded by “Let’s Pray Now” friends and leaders. Yeah, I know, it’s super self-explanatory, “Let’s Pray Now” leaders are the people who hear someone share something they’re going through and respond with, “Let’s Pray Now.” Realistically it sounds more like, “Wow, that is so hard, thank you for sharing. Can we take a few minutes to pray for that right now?”
A “Let’s Pray Now” mentality acknowledges what you’ve shared is valuable, honors the hard work of your vulnerability, and affirms that they believe prayer is a powerful response. This makes it clear to the entire group that each person who is sharing is a priority, they are worth the time and their pain is not a distraction or interruption to the regularly scheduled program.
This also helps you avoid the “I’ll Pray For You” pitfall because it ensures you don’t forget this request at the end of the group and forget to add it to your prayer list.
You can also be a “Let’s Pray Now” leader between small group sessions! If someone in your group asks for prayer via text throughout the week, rather than sending “Praying!” consider adding a 1 – 2 sentence prayer in your response. For example, “I’m praying that God would give you the strength to face this situation. Jesus, I ask you to cover them in your peace and go before them in everything they have to get done.”
Ok, so you’ve become a “Let’s Pray Now” expert. You’ve already stopped multiple times to pray for different people. It feels like you’ve already covered so many things in prayer. So you can probably just skip prayer requests at the end, right? Wrong!
No matter how many times you’ve prayed throughout your group time, it is still important to take time to pray at the end of your small group. Ask if anyone has prayer requests and intentionally pray for everyone in your group. Why? Because some people may not have been comfortable sharing in the middle of group. There may be many requests that didn’t come up naturally in the conversation.
Consistently asking for prayer requests and praying for them at the end of every small group time will give your quieter group members an opportunity to be heard. I’ve noticed everyone almost always has something they’d appreciate prayer for, even if it’s not for them.
Once everyone has shared their prayer requests, divide them up so everyone is praying for someone and everyone is getting prayer. You can either pray as a full group or have your group divide into pairs. Praying in smaller groups is a great option if you’re running short on time.
The best thing about prayer is you really can’t screw it up! As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:8, right before teaching the Lord’s prayer, God already knows what we need before we ask. Don’t get caught up in not knowing the right words to pray. You don’t have to sound eloquent or impress the people you’re praying around – the prayer isn’t going to them!
Just like we were created for community, prayer is powerful in community. There is so much beauty and power in sharing our hearts in small groups. Praying allows our groups to link arms, strengthen one another when we’re weak and remind us of God’s promises!
Kindsi is a Seattle-based writer who is passionate about seeing the world, and the Bible from every angle. Desiring to see how God is moving in other countries has led her to spend 3 months in Mozambique, and 3 years in Japan. When she isn’t traveling, she is either leading worship or hosting intentional conversations about the Holy Spirit’s promptings on the next episode of the Bachelor!
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