As a Church leader, I am often the one speaking during a group prayer. Recently I was a part of a Church conference, and I was no longer the leader, but a general worshipper. The first night I noticed that everyone who went to the stage wanted to say a prayer on behalf of the group. That meant we were praying about a dozen times within the short span of the evening. During one of the prayers, I thought to myself, “What is the best way to pray with a group?”
When the followers of Jesus come together for worship, study, or a meal, inevitably one person will stand up and say, “Let’s pray.” Then they will proceed to talk while everyone else listens. Well, are we supposed to listen or are we supposed to be praying too? How does all this work?
Interestingly enough, there is minimal Biblical discussion that I can find on the topic. We have groups of people praying together in the book of Acts, but we have no idea what was going on inside the people’s minds. So let me make a few suggestions on what I try to do.
- Repeat Concepts. I learned this practice from a Pentecostal friend. Whenever I would pray, he would repeat out loud the concept I had just said. I would pray, “Bless this meal that we are about to receive.” And he would repeat, “Bless it Jesus.” At first, I found it annoying, and later I found it an effective practice. Now, I do not do it out loud, but inside my mind, I do the same thing. The prayer is “be with her cancer and the treatment,” and inside my mind, I think, “cure her cancer, Lord.”
- Focused Thoughts. Sometimes I try to listen carefully to whoever is praying and let them use the words for me. In my mind, I am listening closely, and the only thing I think is “yes” or “amen.” This can be more difficult to do depending on who is praying. Some people like to use a lot of words to say a small prayer. With these, I use the practice above.
- Say My Own Prayer. There are certain situations where I will somewhat ignore what the speaker is saying and take the opportunity to talk to God directly. One example of this for me is after a sermon. Someone may stand up after to say a prayer to close out the program. While they are speaking about the evening or whatever happens next, I use the time to talk to God about what he has laid on my heart. Often I find at times like this that I am still praying after the speaker is done if God has put something profound on my soul.
Last week at my conference I used all three of these tactics. There are also the less spiritual things you can do during a group prayer time. These can range from checking your phone, looking at everyone else, going to the bathroom or checking out mentally and thinking of things like lunch. Once again, I have not only seen all of these, I have done them at one point or another.
I hope to grow with God on my journey of faith, and this past weekend, I realized my need to develop better practices during public prayer. Maybe I am not the only one. Please comment and tell me a way that you approach public prayer that has been helpful. If you have nothing, then maybe one of these approaches will help you the next time someone says, “Will you pray with me.”