Before you start a prayer group, the first step is to decide what type of prayer group you want to create. There are a number of different types of prayer groups from which to choose. Here are some guidelines for choosing the type of prayer group that meets the vision and needs of those forming the group.
1. Ask “Why do I want to start a prayer group?”
You will be able to more easily decide what type of group you want to start by first asking yourself this question, “Why do I want to start a prayer group?” Do you want to pray for prayer requests from others? Or are you seeking a way to meditate together? Or are you hoping to primarily pray for the needs of each other based on a common life situation, such as a group of parents of teens? Or are you interested in offering healing prayer times? Or do you want to gather a group to learn how to pray more effectively? Or do you want to get together for praise and adoration? Or are you organizing a group to pray for a short term need, such as during national elections?
The most successful prayer groups start with a primary focus or mission that meets the vision or needs of those organizing the group and speaks to what God has put into the hearts of those joining the group.
Of course prayer groups don’t have to stick to rigid formulas. When we begin to pray, the Holy Spirit may prompt us in many directions. That’s why most prayer groups will engage in a variety of different prayer focuses during the course of a meeting. However there is normally one main focus that gives the group coherence and keeps the group on mission. As time goes on, sometimes the focus or mission of the prayer group may change and evolve as the Spirit leads and new members join. However God always seems to start with a fairly specific mission or calling for each prayer group.
2. Ask, “What spiritual work do we want to accomplish and what needs are we hoping to meet?”
Prayer os an active spiritual mission. The act of praying meets needs in a very real and powerful way. The specific needs will vary by church and community. Ask God to show you what the needs are.
For instance, you may be in a church that has a very well established intercessory prayer group that is doing an excellent job of praying for the prayer requests of the greater congregation. However the group may not be growing and few new members join. That’s perfectly normal for an intercessory prayer group. However it might point out a need for the formation of another, different kind of prayer group. It’s possible that some people may be intimidated by the beautifully worded prayers of the veteran intercessory prayer group members. They could be afraid to join because they feel their prayers don’t sound as eloquent. This might point out a need for a group that helps people learn how to pray by praying together in a natural, non-threatening way. A surprising number of wonderful Christians feel self conscious praying out loud!
3. Pray and meditate over the different types of prayer groups.
The following is a general list of various types of prayer groups that will help you determine the kind of prayer group God might be leading you to start.
Intercessory Prayer Group: Intercessory Prayer Groups meet to pray for prayer requests that come from a variety of sources. Prayer requests might come via email, from a prayer request box in a church, from the church staff or from members of the group. The focus is primarily on praying for needs beyond the specific needs of the group members. Intercessory prayer groups might pray for the ill, the bereaved, world situations, church needs, and social issues. Of course they also pray for each other as well when special needs arise.
In such groups, prayer requests are announced or discussed in the group, then the group prays over the requests. This is by far the most common type of prayer group and the type that does the bulk of the prayer “work” in most church settings today.
Intercessory prayer groups may take requests from all sources, covering any and all prayer needs that come in. Or intercessory prayer groups may be specialized, praying specifically for a certain group or issue. Examples of specialized intercessory prayer groups would include groups that are a payer support team for a specific ministry or groups that pray for a specific group such as law enforcement officers.
Meditation Prayer Group: Meditation Prayer Groups are distinctive in that they do not seek or share prayer requests but rather focus on going inward to experience God’s presence, renewal and guidance. The idea behind a meditation prayer group is to set aside the cares of the world and to draw closer to God. Examples of this kind of prayer group include Taize type prayer services where praise songs are sung meditatively in a candle lit sacred space with a cross or religious painting as an aid to meditation. Other examples of this kind of prayer group are Centering Prayer groups where the mind is quieted in order to focus on God and Soaking Prayer groups where an atmosphere of sanctuary and holiness is created into which participants immerse themselves.
Mutual Support Prayer Group: Mutual Support Prayer groups meet primarily to lift each other up in prayer. They are often formed around common life situations such as military spouses, employment seekers, parents of young children, etc. They are characterized by the sharing of personal feelings, needs, struggles and opportunities. In order to facilitate this, these groups are typically small so that everyone has a chance to share their heart and to pray for the needs of the others. Although part of their prayer time may be used to pray for others outside of the group as requested by a group member whose heart has been touched by a need they see, this type of group does not actively seek prayer requests from outside of the group.
Healing Prayer Group: Healing Prayer Groups form for the express purpose of praying for the physical, emotional or spiritual healing of others. Often such groups open their meetings to those who desire prayer for healing and they may be structured like a short church service where prayers of healing are the main focus.
Praise Prayer Group: Praise Prayer Groups meet for the purpose of praising God through expressions of thankfulness and praise for who God is and for what He does. An example is Eucharistic Adoration. In my limited experience, these types of prayer groups seem fairly rare. Most often prayers of praise are practiced as a part of other prayer groups but are not the sole focus of a prayer group.
Learning How to Pray Group: In a Learning How to Pray Group members meet for the purpose of developing better prayer habits, gaining Biblical knowledge about prayer or exchanging ideas on how to pray more effectively. In this type of group the focus is not so much on specific requests but rather on gaining skills and knowledge on how to pray. The group typically learns through the use of study materials, through the sharing of ideas from among the group members and by participating in different types of prayer methods.
Short Term Need Prayer Group: The Short Term Need Prayer Group may form to support a specific project or undertaking. For instance a prayer group might form to pray about an upcoming evangelism event, to pray for a pastoral search committee endeavoring to find a new minister for a church or they may form to pray for a church, community or national problem. Once the event is over or the problem has been dealt with, the group’s work is done and they disband.
Discipleship Prayer Group: The focus of this type of prayer group is to grow together in your overall Christian life. Such groups often are lead by a strong leader who offers guidelines and/or teachings in Christian “formation” or the disciplines of Christian growth such as prayer, Bible study and service. These groups also often have an element of accountability to them where members share their personal progress or problems in living out their Christian faith within the last week.
4. Write a purpose statement for your new prayer group.
Once you have received God’s guidance for the type of prayer group you are being led to begin, it’s time to write a purpose statement for your group. Keep this statement short and to the point so that it can be used as a “tag line” when seeking members for the group either through personal invitation or via notices in newsletters and bulletins.
As an example, I am a member of an intercessory group whose purpose is to support the ministries and ministry leaders of our church in prayer. With our mission in mind we go about our prayer work by dividing up the names of all of the ministry leaders such as the pastors, ushers, and mission leaders into personal lists which we each pray for daily and weekly, thus covering everyone in prayer including the church historian.
5. Name your group.
Knowing the purpose of your group will help you pick a name for your group. A name is important for letting people know which specific prayer group you’re inviting them to or which one will be praying for them. Examples of prayer group names might be “Dads of Teens Prayer Group.” You can also identify a prayer group by the day of week that it meets such as “Wednesday Morning Meditation Prayer Group.”
Another idea is to form the group first, write your purpose statement, then let the members of the prayer group offer suggestions and vote on a good name.
6. Form your prayer group.
Once you’ve chosen the type of prayer group God is leading you to form, it’s time to go about finding group members and setting up the group format. For tips and ideas on how to form a prayer group, see the following articles:
Copyright Karen Barber 2013. All rights reserved.