Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training resource Revolutionary Prayer in Your Small Group.
At first glance, Nate and Melissa's small group looks like the perfect model for any person to follow. They kick their Tuesday evenings off with a theme dinner, and there is always plenty of food to go around. After dinner, everyone gathers in the living room for a short game, which always provides some opportunities for laughter. During the Bible study, Nate and Melissa lead their group through some great discussions. They are gifted facilitators and know how to ask thought-provoking questions that spark conversations. The evening is wrapped up with a closing prayer. After each gathering, Nate and Melissa go to bed feeling like the time was successful.
One morning, though, Nate received an email that really took him by surprise. A group member expressed an ongoing frustration with the weekly gatherings. For the past two weeks, she had some important prayer requests to share with everyone, but felt the prayer time was rushed at the end of the evening. So she didn't voice her requests. She hoped that Nate and Melissa would create some positive changes so that prayer would become a higher priority for the group.
That email opened Nate and Melissa's eyes to a missing ingredient within the life of their small group: quality prayer time. Even though they closed in prayer every evening, it was normally short and often seemed rushed. But as Nate and Melissa examined their evening agendas, they didn't see much available time. Dinner was important to their group's life because it helped everyone connect through conversations. The game served as a transition into the Bible study time. And there was no way they could cut out their Bible study! So they faced an obstacle—where would they find the time to pray more with their group?
Many small-group leaders are facing a similar obstacle. They would like to have more prayer time with their small groups but do not know how to practically make it happen. I believe this happens because these groups have not made prayer a priority. But they can do so, and the following steps can help.
Seek God's direction
The first thing to do is pray and ask for God's guidance. Ask him to show you his heart's desire for your group. Patiently seek him with all your heart. Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all yours ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." He will show you how to lead your group toward revolutionary prayer!
Set Your Goal
Nobody knows a small group better than its leader. Before making any plan of action, make sure that you understand your goal. Every small group is unique and made up of people with different levels of spiritual maturity. Some groups have several seasoned prayer warriors and would likely benefit from a longer time of prayer. For other groups, prayer could be a brand new concept to the members. They may agree with the purpose of prayer but lack the discipline to follow through consistently. These groups may become discouraged if the bar is set too high in the beginning. So know your group well.
When setting your goal, begin with the end in mind. Try to imagine what your group's prayer time would look like if everyone were an experienced prayer warrior. This will be your long-term goal and will provide direction, much like a compass. If your group's prayer time were a race, the long-term goal would serve as the finish line. When a race has a finish line, the runners make steps in the same direction toward their goal.