One of the secrets of having a group of trusted friends you can count on is to form a small prayer group of those who support each other in prayer through the sharing of personal needs, struggles and opportunities as subjects of group prayer. Here are some ideas on how to form a mutual prayer support group.
A mutual support prayer group begins with an inner call from the Holy Spirit. If you are reading this article, you most likely have had forming such a group on your heart for some time. Maybe something that you’ve recently experienced has caused you to have a deep need for this type of prayer group, or maybe you have seen a great need in the life of others you know.
My personal opinion is that God wants all of us to be in close spiritual communion with others, especially with others who will pray for us on our life journey. God created us to love Him and to love each other by being intimately connected to others. This was the unique mark of the early Church as it says in Acts: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42 NIV) Outsiders looking in hungered for this sort of sense of love and belonging to God and to each other and the Bible says that the early Christians enjoyed the favor of all the people and that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47 NIV)
Furthermore, Jesus tells us that the power of prayer is multiplied when we gather with even a few others to pray. Jesus says, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19,20 NIV)
2. Consider the typical elements of a successful mutual support prayer group.
Here are some of the key elements that make small prayer groups work:
The purpose is lifting each other up in prayer with loving, caring hearts.
Members usually share a common life bond.
Members feel comfortable sharing details of their personal lives with each other.
The group is small enough so that everyone has a chance to share. About 10-12 is the maximum size.
The group focuses on praying for each other and typically does not seek prayer requests from those outside of the group.
Group members treat things shared in the group as strictly confidential.
Group members are committed to attending all meetings possible.
Group members refrain from trying to “fix” each others’ problems but instead pray for God’s help and guidance.
The leader keeps the meeting time focused on prayer, not on discussing specific personal issues in detail.
Group members maintain a non-judgmental attitude about what is shared.
Most small sharing/support prayer groups work best if the members share something important in common, such as similar needs or concerns. Groups can be formed within a church, among co-workers, in neighborhoods, communities or among those connected through schools, civic clubs or sports.
My first experience with a mutual support prayer group was with a small group of mothers who met weekly during the hour our children were at children’s choir practice. We naturally shared concerns about our children’s schooling, behavior, health and our roles as busy mothers of active families. We looked forward to our Wednesday afternoon times together as a unique chance to recharge our spiritual batteries as moms by praying for each other with the insight that comes from walking the same life path together. It also helped us realize that we weren’t alone in the challenges we faced and encouraged us when anyone shared an answer to a specific prayer we had prayed on their behalf.
Here are some common bonds that you might consider which may be a perfect opportunity to form a mutual support prayer group:
Age groups, such as young singles, parents of teenagers, senior citizens, etc.
Life situations, such as divorced people, cancer survivors, those dealing with infertility, job seekers, families of those with mental illness challenges etc.
Similar life quests, such as college students, aspiring writers, artists, social activists, ministry leaders etc.
Similar professions, such as teachers, firefighters, caregivers, etc.
Once you have determined the common bond of the prayer group God is calling you to form, begin praying about whom to invite. God will begin to bring names to your mind. One woman I know prayed and wrote down 12 names God seemed to bring to mind. Several she didn’t know well ended up on the list. She personally met with all 12, and every one of them joined the prayer group!
Another approach is to put out an announcement in newsletters, bulletins and local newspapers etc. However, don’t rely on written announcements alone. Personal contact is always the very best way to invite people to join a prayer group.
Another idea is to have a social get-together for possible group members in your home for coffee or lunch and then discuss the idea of forming a mutual support prayer group. The key is to keep inviting people until you have a core group who are interested in forming a prayer group.
Even if you get only one other person who shares your interest, you have a prayer partner with whom you can meet to pray about forming the group
One of the biggest obstacles you will face in the invitation stage is the problem of “busyness.” Most people with life situations that need mutual prayer support are so busy handling their life that they may not feel that they have the time for a prayer group. Pray that God will help you formulate a time and a place where members can easily attend. For instance, if your church has a weekday preschool program, starting a one hour mother’s prayer group at the church right when the mothers drop off their children at preschool might work well.
5. Designate a prayer group leader or co-leaders.
If you are being called to form a prayer group, it’s possible that God is equipping you to lead the group. In a mutual support prayer group the role of the leader has three parts: logistics, discussion/prayer leading and member care. These three roles of the group leader may be shared with a co-leader or with other members of the group.
Logistics: The group leader makes sure that dates, times and meeting place are in order and sets up some means of contacting the group, whether via email or phone.
Discussion/prayer leader: T he group leader’s role at the meeting is to help control the sharing of needs and concerns so that there is time for everyone to be heard while leaving ample time to actually pray together for these needs. People appreciate a group leader who begins and ends on time. Obviously there will be times when a particularly serious need arises with a group member, and the leader should be sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit to discern whether the majority of the group time should be devoted to the member in great need that particular day. The group leader is also in charge of beginning and ending the time of prayer. Since the leader is not a teacher, but rather a discussion leader, there is very little advance preparation of content to teach or share needed for each meeting.
Member care: The group leader keeps an eye out on attendance patterns of group members and follows up to see what’s going in the member’s life if they are absent for several meetings.
6. Set the group focus on prayer and care.
When the group meets for the first time, have an introductory exercise so everyone can get to know each other a little better. Then go over the characteristics of a mutual support prayer group that were listed in step 2, paying particular attention to having group members agree to confidentiality and also to having a nonjudgmental mindset toward what others share in the group.
Groups may elect to have a short 5-10 minute devotional or Bible reading to begin the meeting. To keep prayer and caring the focus of the group, make it a rule that you will spend an equal amount of time in prayer as you do on sharing needs, joys and concerns.
7. Learn to pray together.
When forming a mutual support prayer group, be aware that individuals come with a large variety of experience levels in group prayer. Some may have been in prayer groups previously. For others this may be their first time.
Nearly everyone who is new to prayer groups experiences some anxiety about praying out loud in front of a group. Often it’s because they feel that they don’t know how to word their prayers as well as others. In the beginning, it’s wise for the group leader to structure the prayer time in such a way as to make everyone comfortable with their own skill level.
For ideas see this link:
Don’t forget to allow time for the sharing of answers to prayer and also for updates on ongoing life situations and challenges.
Scriptures on praying together:
Copyright Karen Barber 2013. All rights reserved.