Prayer Request Monopoly

The evening is here and people are filing into the room to join you for your weekly small group meeting. There is some small talk, a few jokes exchanged as you finish setting up, and finally you call the group to order. It’s pretty simple, really. You welcome everyone, perhaps ask about how the week is going, then you ask the question that many small group leaders dread (for all the wrong reasons).

“Does anyone have any prayer requests this week?”

Small group leaders cringe because this question leads to one of two possible outcomes. Either there is no one in the group who feels comfortable enough sharing prayer requests out loud which can lead to an uncomfortable silence, or there are a couple of people in the group who monopolize this time to share every tiny, insignificant detail (and sometimes force the group down rabbit trails), and before you know it your hour is up and all you did was field prayer requests and rush the lesson and discussion into 5 minutes. And you don’t want to cut out prayer requests, especially if someone genuinely is seeking to be lifted up by their brothers and sisters, or crying out for real healing.

Is there a better way?

There can be. In fact, there are a couple of options.

The first option is to simply move your prayer time to the end of the evening. This allows you to get through your lesson and discussion without trying to rush, and still allows you to engage each other in prayer. The drawback to this option is that you push group prayer to the end of the evening, and in some cases it could be relegated to little more than an afterthought for your group.

The second option would be to collect prayer requests through writing. Each week I pass around a sheet of paper at the beginning of our meeting time to collect requests while I run through announcements, make small talk, or recap on last week’s lesson. Then we can still begin in prayer as a body, and could even pray for specific requests as a group, all without monopolizing our entire evening’s timeslot. Then, when I get home, I e-mail the requests to the group using Facebook and MySpace, asking them to pray for the list throughout the week. This provides a nice streamlining of the request process, and also encourages people to engage in active prayer for their brothers and sisters throughout the week.

Are these methods perfect? By no means, but they do provide you with some alternatives to always struggling to get through the lesson, racing against the clock because one or two people are rambling off their shopping lists for God.

And don’t forget, it would be perfectly acceptable to plug in a regular evening in which all you do is share prayer requests with each other and pray as a group together.