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I’ve been asked to write down what I’ve been doing for prayer meeting in my Marshall and Linden churches. It’s quite simple, really. Here’s what I’m doing.
This is my order of service currently:
- Song service. Usually about three songs or so (or fifteen minutes).
- Praise and testimony time. People share how God has blessed them recently, how He has answered prayers, etc.
- Prayer requests.
- Popcorn prayer. For popcorn prayer, divide into groups if necessary (I often leave everyone in one group—since I don’t have qualified popcorn-prayer leaders and it doesn’t work well without someone who knows what they’re doing). Individual prayers are short (a couple of sentences or a paragraph) and deal with one topic. People are encouraged to pray more than once, if need be. Do not go around the circle! There shouldn’t be any pressure on anyone to pray. The leader should start out and set the tone (it’s a good idea to begin with praise, and the leader shouldn’t finish with “amen”). When everyone is finished praying, the leader can wrap up prayer time by asking for the Holy Spirit to guide the group as they study the Bible. I’ve found that an easy way to signal to everyone that prayer time is over is for the leader to end his/her final prayer with something like, “In Jesus’ name we all pray, amen.”
- Bible study. We’re currently studying the book of Philippians. The key here is discussion (group learning). Here’s how I lead the study: we only study one paragraph (according to the way the NIV [New International Version] divides paragraphs) per meeting. I usually ask for a volunteer to read the passage. I guide the discussion based on the two main aspects of Bible study: (1) What was the author trying to say to his original audience? (2) How does this passage, in light of what we’ve already discovered, mean to us today? In other words, first we find out what the passage meant, then we find out what it means. I ask open-ended questions to get people to think about these two areas, and we usually have an interesting and very relevant discussion. At the end of the discussion, I ask people how they will apply what we’ve discussed to their own lives.
- Closing prayer. Hopefully you haven’t gone too long by now. If there’s time (doubtful), an appropriate closing song might be nice.
- When I started out, I had a short devotional talk, then spent the rest of the time in prayer. I found that I was talking too long and short-changing prayer time, so I reversed the order.
- At first, I spent time trying to teach people how to present the gospel and encouraging them to share their faith. After a while, I wound up repeating myself, and my talks seemed to be marginally effective. So I changed to the Bible study format above.
- Prayer time used to be more structured. First, we’d spend five to ten minutes just with praise and thanksgiving (popcorn style). I’d actually time it. Then we’d spend three to five minutes in silent confession and consecration. Finally, we’d spend as much time as necessary in intercession. During this time, people would take a prayer request card (see below) and pray for the request on the card. This would continue until all the cards had been taken. People would then take the cards home with them and pray for them throughout the week. They would bring them back to prayer meeting the next week, and we’d update their status. The process was cumbersome as I did it, so I abandoned it. There is probably a way to improve on this concept.
- I designed prayer request cards that can be used for prayer meeting or another use. The cards are available here as a Microsoft Word document. Put 3″x5″ index cards into your color printer and print away. Blue cards are for specific (i.e., measurable) requests, green cards are for general requests (e.g., the government, our church, etc.), and red cards are for requests seen only by God and the pastor. Note: The cards use the fonts Cooper Black and Arial Narrow. If you don’t have these fonts installed on your system, you might have to make some adjustments in order for the cards to be formatted properly.
- Before beginning a group study of a particular book of the Bible, it would be quite helpful if you as the leader would find out something about the background of that book. To whom was it written? Why was it written? What are some central themes of the book? For the New Testament letters, what do we know about the recipient church/city/region? You can find some basic answers in a good study Bible, such as the NIV Study Bible, which you will also find helpful to have along during the study.