Here are 5 Reasons to Pray with your Small Group
5) Provides a controlled/guided outlet for sharing
4) Allows for immediate application of the Bible Study
3) Easily accesible for people of varying degrees of spiritual maturity
2) Deepens the relationships of people in the Small Group
1) God responds in special ways to communal prayer
Provides a controlled/guided outlet for sharing
Small Groups often fall to one side or the other of the sharing spectrum. Some people in the Small Group share too much, too randomly. Other people don't share anything at all, naturally. People who over-share squench those who under-share, creating a vicious cycle. Before you know it you hear all about one person's bowel movements and nothing at all about another person's struggle with alcoholism.
Funnelling sharing into a Small Group prayer-time can be a great way to control and guide the sharing. Most Small Group meetings have limited time available and few, if any, can find enough time for everyone to share everything. If something is important enough to pray about, to ask prayer for, to give thanks for, it's probably important enough to share. If it isn't important enough to pray about, it's not urgent to share.
Prayer-time shouldn't be the only time to share your lives (Small Group is a community, not just a meeting), but it's a great time to guide people into deep and meaningful sharing.
Allows for immediate application of the Bible Study
Your Small Group just read something amazing from Scripture, something vision-transforming, something life-changing. What do you do now? You just asked a couple of killer Application questions (we'll cover OIA in a future blog post). What can you do immediately? You can pray together. That's what you can do.
Pray that God would help you believe what you learned. Pray that God would help the folks in your Small Group act on what they've seen. Pray that God would give us the strength to remain faithful.
Every Bible Study application from Small Group can also be prayed through. Sometimes the Leader should do the praying. Sometimes the whole group should pray. Either way, you should pray.
Easily accesible for people of varying degrees of spiritual maturity
Hopefully, your Small Group will be full of people coming from all places in their walk of faith. It's be great, especially, to have some folks in your group who are just coming to know Christ. Prayer is especially helpful for them.
Prayer communicates to them that God cares about the world (or, at least, people in this Small Group think that he does). If they ask you to pray for them about something, prayer can also be a way for you to communicate to them that God cares not just about the world, but about them personally. And if you pray for them as a community, prayer can communicate to them that this Small Group community cares about them as well.
And anyone can present a prayer request or a praise report. In this, the more mature Christians in the group can learn from those newer to the narrow path. We can overly-spiritualize our prayers, fall to a complex theology that makes us hesitant and timid in prayer. People who don't "know better" can be so refreshing in Small Groups in these times. They often have a faith and confidence that I lack.
Deepens the relationships of people in the Small Group
Communal prayer, at least when it's done well, requires a certain level of vulnerability. We have to open ourselves up to share meaningful requests and thanksgivings. Leaders have to model in this arena, because it can be difficult.
The rhythm of presenting requests and praises to the Small Group, knowing that people are praying throughout the week and having them follow up again the next time they see you is a rhythm that God uses to build Small Groups with deep relationships. One of the reasons I trust the people in my Small Group is that they've been faithful to pray for me over the last couple of years. When Will was born, we heard over and over again that he was an answer to prayer. And we all knew it was true, because we were all together praying for him and for his arrival.
Communal prayer provides a Small Group with an opportunity to demonstrate faithfulness. Faithfulness, in turn, builds trust. Trust over time leads to deep and meaningful relationships.
God responds in special ways to communal prayer
This is, I know, a tricky proposition. In what way does God "respond" to anything? I will probably blog about this soon (since I've been thinking about it recently), but I really believe that God's immutability in no way rules out the possibility of him responding. Check out this post if this is something that interests you.
The special power of communal prayer can be seen in Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about God's special presence when Christians gather together and in Gethsemanae where Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him and in Acts 12 where the church prays for Peter's release and in 2 Chronicles 7 where God promises forgiveness if his people repent and pray together...it's all over the Bible, actually.
I believe, actually, that if we want to live the kind of lives God wants us to live and see the kind of world that reflects God's kingdom, we need to pray together. We can do this over lunch. We can do this at large gatherings. We can do this in Small Group.
Let us pray!