Just like my life, this page is under construction. Your suggestions would be as invaluable as the Holy Spirit is able to inspire. If the Lord burdens you with anything to add to this page, please email the details ASAP.
A) Always Begin Prayer Meetings with a Worshipful Tone, ala the ACTS method. This will pre-focus the attention of all, on God Himself, and thus brings all which we would pray about, into the proper perspective. It helps remind us that nothing is impossible for God, thus encouraging us to start believing, and confidently asking Him for the impossible. It reminds us that God loves us, is for us, and wants His best for us. Sometimes, it helps to start with a 1-5 minute period of silence, during which each is encouraged to thoroughly focus on God Himself. [2Cor 10:5] Another idea, is to invite a worship leader, from your local church, to lead the prayer group in two or three worship songs, before prayer begins. Like I said on the Key Elements page, if we first get our eyes on our BIG God, our problems suddenly don't look as hard, for, we've engendered the faith that God, for whom nothing is impossible, will face these problems for us.
B) Many believers like to have a short preliminary discussion, to decide what the group should pray about, before prayer begins. It's good to be aware of special prayer needs and requests, to get our hearts ready to ask the Lord, and agree together about them. If somebody volunteers to log these prayer requests on paper, they may be covered more thoroughly during the prayer meeting. The log may also serve as a reminder for anyone who decides to follow up on these requests, with more prayer in the days to come, and/or praise reports concerning the Lord's answer to them. However, I caution to keep this discussion to an absolute minimum, because, it often leads to more talking about prayer, than actually bringing these things before the Lord in prayer. It also tends to get our minds focused on our requests, more than on God Himself. Limit such discussion to about two or three minutes maximum, for, the Lord "knows what things you have need of, before you ask him". [Matt 6:8], [Is 65:24]
C) It usually helps to have the two most mature believers "start", and "close" the prayer meeting. That means one of these persons is the first to pray out loud, and the other is the last. The one who starts prays with an "opening" tone, and the one who closes prays with a "summarizing" tone. It's usually best to decide ahead of time, how long the prayer meeting should last. The person who is closing should be the only one keeping track of time. The rest should do their best to completely forget about the clock, and focus all their attention on God.
D) Encourage everybody to participate. I believe the Lord wants each person to be blessed, by participating in corporate prayer, very much akin to the Holy Spirit's work, when He distributes the gifts of the Spirit. [1Cor 12:11] The best way to insure this is to take turns praying out loud, such that all may hear, and to encourage each person to take at least one turn. This can be done in a specific order, or, randomly, as each person feels the Holy Spirit is prompting them to speak out, toward God. This presents us with two difficulties, which must be addressed in love. Most prayer meetings have both brethren who are shy to pray out loud, in front of others, and, those who are, shall we say, a little too comfortable praying out loud, in front of others. The shy ones are afraid that they may speak out to God in prayer, but, not under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They fear that their verbal prayer may not minister grace to others, and so figure it might be best to keep quiet, and listen to other, more mature brethren pray. On the other hand, the "too comfortable" brethren tend to use up all the allotted prayer time, such that others are not given due chance to participate. Both may suffer from the fear of man, but, more so, the one who "preaches a sermon" with his prayer. Even when sincere, Holy Spirit filled brethren are confident the Spirit is inspiring them to participate out loud, a "polished" delivery tends to make those shy brethren even shyer to participate -- ala, "how can I possibly top that?". We must remember that we are all learning to let the Holy Spirit inspire our prayer -- to "pray in the Spirit". We are all at various levels of spiritual experience and maturity, in this regard. We must therefore be very patient with each other, and encourage each to participate. The shy ones must be encouraged to speak out to God, believing He always accepts their prayer offering. The "prayer hogs" must be encouraged to patiently allow others a chance to pray, and to listen for the Spirit's voice through others too. [1Cor 12:22], [1Cor 14:26], [Eph 4:16], [Rom 12:16] Whenever anyone takes a turn to pray out loud, the rest should pray silently, for the Spirit's help, upon that person praying. One very practical remedy is to encourage each person to offer short, spontaneous, one-sentence petitions (some like to call this "popcorn prayer"). This keeps prayer hogs in check, and presents the shy ones with a less formidable task than trying to imitate them. Another remedy is to sit in a circle, and have each person pray in order (clockwise or counterclockwise). However it may be accomplished, let each person endeavor to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading, through others, and in themselves.
E) Do Not Serve a Meal Before the Meeting. Some people tend not to be on their best alertness, immediately after a meal. It should make wonderful fellowship (and scriptural [Acts 2:42]), at a future time, but, prayer meetings should focus on the Lord, in prayer. In the words of Spurgeon, "the saints are not so inclined to pray, when they are filled with meat". Ever wonder why the scripture often mentions "fasting and prayer" ?
F) Always seek your pastor's advice before starting a prayer meeting that will meet regularly. I highly recommend that you pray much and often for him, in your personal prayer time, before asking for his advice. Prayer meetings must be orderly, and should be consistent with your local assembly's doctrine, and general philosophy of ministry, if you wish your local church family to benefit from them. Your pastor is very concerned for the welfare of your church family. You need his oversight, to make sure all is in order, accountable to eldership in the body, and to encourage the rest of the body to participate.
G) Once a Prayer Meeting is Established, Maintain the Focus of Prayer. Sometimes zealous brethren, with good intentions, will insist that the group needs to experience more "outreach". They may suggest meeting downtown for street witnessing, or visiting the sick, or having a BBQ and inviting the poor, etc. My experience, unfortunately, is that few things will drain your energies to pray more subtly. As the focus of the group shifts from prayer, to such activity, you will first see the desire to pray begin to wane. The desire to participate in the new activity will begin to wane, after the desire to pray has vanished. If you want your prayer meeting to continue, insist that such a worthy expedition should take place at a different time, or perhaps after the prayer meeting. If the expedition is to street witness, I strongly suggest that some remain behind, to pray for those that go out. In the words of A. J. Gordon, "You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed".
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