When a prayer request is shared during a meeting, the group members need to be quiet and listen to the Holy Spirit. One or two people in the group will feel a tug in their heart to pray for the person who shared the request. Those two people can take the person to a side room to pray with them briefly—then return to the meeting. To help grasp this process, here’s an example:
Frank is leading the group tonight. He has allowed 20 minutes for prayer requests and ministry at the end of the meeting. He knows it is not nearly enough time, and this is by design because it forces him to discover, then delegate.
During ministry time, one of the members—John—shares he is frustrated with his boss. He arrived to the group meeting angry, unable to focus on worship or the group discussion. Frank thanks him for sharing so transparently and asks the group members to wait on the Lord. After a minute or two of silence, Frank asks the group, “Who feels led to pray for John tonight?”
Brad and Allen can relate to what John is going through and offer to pray for him. Frank invites the three of them to step out of the room to pray for John, then return when they are done. Then the next person asks for prayer, and this process repeats itself.
Follow up on prayer requests outside the group meeting.
One of my biggest gripes with prayer requests in small group is the group will stop en masse to pray for someone and place what I call a “spiritual band-aid” on the issue, considering it healed by faith. The person usually shows up next week with the same prayer request. Additionally, this takes a lot of time during meetings.
This can be avoided by briefly meeting with those who prayed for others and received ministry during the meeting to create a strategy for follow up. The goal is to get to the root of the problem—not just pray away the negative fruit— so true freedom in Christ can be attained.
Going back to the earlier example, Brad and Allen prayed with John during the meeting about his polarizing anger. Frank huddles with Brad, Allen, and John right after the meeting to ask John what the Lord might be revealing to him about his situation. Frank asks Brad and Allen if they would be willing to get together with John in the next couple of days to see how John is doing. Their role will be to help John determine what his next steps should be, and what responsibility—if any—he needs to take for the situation. John might have issues with authority, need to draw some healthy emotional boundaries, or just talk more about his issue to see his part in it.
At this point, it’s important for the group’s leader to touch base with the members who have prayed with someone during a meeting, coaching them how to be good listeners and “bear one another’s burdens” in productive, healthy ways. What you do not want is for a very needy member of your group to consume the time and emotions of the other members who do not feel supported or fully trained to minister to deeply hurting people.
There is one last thing I have learned about member-to-member ministry: don’t delegate and forget—delegate and inspect! When someone receives ministry from other members of the group, and they are following up with the person, I check in with them to see what is happening and if I need to get involved as the group’s leader. I also pray daily for everyone involved, specifically asking the Lord for two things: