Prayer means many things to many people. For a lot of people, in its simplest and most immediate form, prayer means asking God for help. Think about it. What are the ways you hear others pray? Do they usually ask God for help?
Prayer may be the boy asking God for a win for his favorite team or a student begging God to help her remember every answer for the exam. Prayer may be a dad asking God for wisdom on the best way to discipline his child, or prayer may be a small group asking God to help the sick, needy, or lost. We really do lump prayers together as equally important when, in reality, they represent a spectrum of concerns and needs.
When you have a small group member struggling through a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a job, the prayers are definitely more specific. Recently, the prayers of our small group and many others have become more focused. When you have a global pandemic of COVID-19 taking place in the middle of a cancer diagnosis and job loss, the prayers of the small group can become overwhelming.
How do you balance the list of prayer concerns that are specific with the prayer requests due to COVID-19 when people are not sure how to pray? How do you teach your small group to pray for one another and others when the needs around you continue to grow?
People, including those in your small group, have a lot of philosophical and spiritual questions right now. Many are more sensitive and open to discussions about the Bible and God. Guide your small group to be ready to pray with others and to stay in prayer themselves.
- Remind your small group of the importance of prayer. Prayer is communicating with God. He is the God of the universe. We can reflect praise, thanksgiving, adoration, confession, and petition back to God. And we are to approach God through the mediation of His son, Jesus. But even more amazing is that our Mediator, Jesus, is also a man of prayer. Mark 1:35 and other Scriptures show us how Jesus modeled prayer. We can look to and learn from examples throughout the New Testament where Jesus prayed and communicated with God. Since prayer was important for Jesus to communicate with His heavenly Father, should it not be as important to us?
- Get to the heart of the issues. Your small group may share a variety of prayer requests, or they may remain silent. Ask questions and invite those in the group to think through their requests. Many people do not naturally discern or understand what they really need. In these days of COVID-19, people are constantly sharing prayer requests for those who are sick or for protection for sickness. What are the specifics of how the group needs to pray for these people? Use a prayer guide when possible to help create more specific prayers.
(Download a copy of Lifeway’s 7-Day Coronavirus Prayer Guide here.)
When possible, give people something tangible to see, touch, and keep to help them as they pray daily. Take time to create prayer guides for your group if needed. Instead of sharing generic prayer requests, give specifics and invite all in the small group to enter in and help bear the burdens together. At the heart, people want to know others and be known. Good small groups are intentional about building community and doing life together. Build the heart of your small group upon honesty and authenticity. When you gather to pray, it needs to be real and open and a safe place for the group to share their deepest concerns, hurts, and questions.
- Pray Scripture. How often have you prayed and felt like your prayers were rising up and hitting the ceiling? The prayers seemed to be repetitive and were left unanswered. And when you think about it, how many of those prayers were based on selfish desires or were voicing surface needs? Praying Scripture is important for believers. When believers pray Scripture, they take prayer to a deeper level. Small groups need to practice praying Scripture together. It helps us align our prayers with God’s plans and purposes. When we look to the Bible, we can find prayers throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The early church prayed Scripture in Acts 4:24-26 as they pulled from Psalm 2. Paul wrote prayers throughout his letters to new believers in Christ. The Old Testament is full of prayers and cries to God voiced by His people. So many of the psalms are prayers that we pray as we read. The Scriptures tell us about God and, as we read, we can pray and praise Him.
- Pray in a variety of ways. With physical distancing (or even when we are no longer physical distancing), think about a variety of ways that your group might pray corporately or as individuals. Be creative!
- Pray together as a group on a video call.
- Consider setting alarms on your phones to pray for specific prayer requests at certain times of the day.
- Take a drive and pray in front of the homes of your small group members.
- Use different prayer apps to help guide you as you pray for people around the world or in your community.
- Pray for Missions (Pray for a specific people group/country each day.)
- Pray for the Persecuted
- Bless Every Home (Pray for your neighbors)
- Encourage your small group to pray as they listen to instrumental music, hymns, or praise songs (you can listen to our latest Spotify playlist here).
- Use apps like GroupMe, Marco Polo, or other ways to share prayer requests and pray for one another as a small group.
- Nothing is wrong with sending an email with weekly prayer requests!
- Use a group text with small group members to share prayer requests and praises at any time.
- Prayer partners are an easy way to connect small group members. Pair men with men and women with other women. Encourage them to check in with one another weekly.
This is just a start! We’d love to hear how you are guiding your small group in prayer and reaching out to others during this period of physical distancing. What are some creative ways you’ve discovered to connect with others and pray together?
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with Lifeway Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.