I’ve been moved lately by the idea of starting a local, interdenominational prayer time in my area. This is partially my attempt to answer the frustration I felt back when I wrote about the lack of quiet prayer/altar time at my church; if I’ve been feeling sorely the lack of a quiet place to simply come and to pray in the presence of other believers, is it possible others have been feeling the same?
I like the thought of being able to pray quietly somewhere alongside others, or encouraging others to do so. Additionally, the thought of meeting other believers who aren’t necessarily members of my church heartens me. But I have had some rough times in prayer groups before, and I wanted to avoid some of the issues that have plagued them (and me) in the past.
I’m not sure if I’m going to go through with this yet or not; it’ll require more thought and discussion with God. But even thinking about it has been helpful, and it’s forced me to consider what the fundamentals ought to be in a group prayer time or group prayer period. Here are a few I’ve considered:
1. A prayer time needs to have a distinct time span. Sometimes people want to pray for a while. Sometimes they want to pray quickly. Sometimes, if they finish their prayers, they want to leave without feeling guilty even if others are still praying. And I think that everyone benefits from knowing that there is a particular time span in place: they can spend the entire time there, or they can drop in or out as needed. That’s why I’ve always liked the idea of an open prayer time at churches, where you can come and go as the Spirit moves without feeling beholden to stay the entire time if you don’t need to do so.
For me, an ideal time is 30 minutes for a small neighborhood group; I might extend that time to an hour for, say, a church prayer time. But I like the idea of being able to say, “Prayer from is from x to y, and you can join us whenever you feel comfortable.”
2. A prayer time needs to be in a neutral space. A prayer time in someone’s house could quickly grow awkward if people wish to remain and pray but the host has places to go or people to see. Similarly, prayer times in churches can be disrupted by events and happenings. I like the thought of having a prayer time at a local public park area that is central to the neighborhood: it’s quiet and peaceful in the early mornings and provides a sheltered area in case of rain. Additionally, this helps those who might want to linger past the allotted prayer time: they can stay after the “prayer time” is over without worrying about disturbing someone else’s time or plans.
3. A prayer time permits a multitude of prayer styles. A lot of people assume that “group prayer time” equals “group prayer,” but that needn’t be so. If people bring prayer partners and want to pray in groups they certainly can, but I see myself more as creating an environment where people can come together and pray individually in the company of other believers. There’s something soothing, when you’re praying, about knowing that others are praying alongside you. And a neutral space can be big enough to permit this.
4. A prayer time requires prayer aids. I’m sure that some people will show up with prayer requests and thoughts already in mind. For those who don’t, I intend to bring either Bibles or “prayer prompts”: prayers or verses that you can pray straight from Scripture. That way no one need feel awkward or uncertain about what to do or what to pray about.
5. A prayer time is the first step to larger Christian community. I confess that one of the reasons I am considering starting an interdenominational prayer time is that I am sometimes disheartened by how sequestered I am from other believers in my community. I think it does good for believers from various groups and denominations to come together over a mutual cause and purpose: it strengthens relationships, it builds community, and it is more reminiscent of the great family of God we all share in together. A shared prayer time, even when it’s just individuals praying in the same place, can be a small step toward breaking down those barriers.
6. A prayer time is a ministry. If you’ve ever been in a prayer group or are a dedicated pray-er yourself, then you know that people are drawn to you: they bring requests, and they expect you to pray. It’s important to remember that prayer itself is a ministry, and that when you pray for others you should let them know you’re thinking of them, and check in on them now and again. To take someone’s requests to the throne of God is a privilege, and treating it as such can make prayer a special and powerful act of service all on its own.
As I mentioned above, I’m not 100% certain this is something God wants me to do; I intend to chew on it and then, if necessary, act on it in the spring. Either way, it’s been constructive in helping me think about what it means to share prayer time with others, and how to handle typical problems in a more concrete way.
Do you have any ideas to better a interdenominational group prayer time? Leave them in the comments!