The other day, Steve Kneale wrote about prayer meetings and how to structure them. AS he said, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do this, so I’m not about to disagree with him here. Rather I thought it might be helpful to give another example here. I’m also opening up the comments section so you can add your own examples.
At Bearwood, we held a monthly prayer meeting with all together though each week we expected prayer to play a significant part in our home groups. Usually, we would open the building about half hour in advance and we laid out our main hall café style, people could come in chat, get a coffee and biscuits. Then we would start with a couple of songs, the aim was that this should set the tone in praise. We’d give people opportunity to pray prayers of praise and thanks giving in response.
We would then focus on one specific issue. It might be a particular aspect of our church life, an up coming evangelism opportunity, the national or global situation or mission and our mission partners. We would hear updates on these matters with prayer pointers. I agree with Steve that prayer not explanations should dominate the meeting and so those updates were brief but I do think they play a part in our prayer gatherings. Indeed, I think that it is helpful to do this in order to separate out the giving of information from prayers (more on which later). We often would break into small groups around tables for prayer so that as many as possible could pray, unincumbered and we encouraged short prayers in this context.
We might then have a short devotional and perhaps another song. Then we’d open the floor for people to share. This was an opportunity for people to share Scripture readings, testimony, something that they felt God had laid on their heart etc. Why? Well one reason for this links to what I said before about presenting information. Quite often I think that our prayers can become less about what we are saying to God and more a way of saying things to others. We share information in our prayers and often we preach in them. If my prayer begins with “Lord, as you know …” then it begs the question “Why am I telling him then?” Part of the reason here is that this may be the only point when people think they are given a chance to share something on their heart. Yet if its worth saying in a prayer, then it’s worth us hearing it and giving it the right space and attention on its own merit, not smuggled in through the back door.
Again, there might be opportunity to respond in prayer as part of the whole group together at this point. Then we would share any specific pastoral items where it had been agreed that these could be shared for wider prayer and we’d give people opportunity to share their own prayer requests, to the whole group or it they preferred, to smaller groups on their tables. There would be time to pray for each other and we might also ask two or three people by name to pray for specific issues.
We would often close with a final song reminding us again that our focus should be praise and trust in the sovereign God.