This article on how to start an intercessory prayer group will gives ideas on what type of intercessory prayer group you want to start, how to organize a group and what kind of format will work best for you. Here are some intercessory prayer group ideas for you.
Step one: learn how intercessory prayer works to start an intercessory prayer group
Intercessory prayer is asking God’s help or favor on behalf of others. The word intercede means to intervene on behalf of another.
Jesus tells us in the Bible, “Again, I tell you that if two or 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 you.” (Matthew 18 :19,20) In the book of John Jesus tells us, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13 NIV)
Intercessory prayer is made possible because of our relationship with Jesus. Once we accept his saving grace, through Jesus we gain access to God. We no longer intercede on our own merits but rather through the avenue of Christ’s grace and heart and his desire to bring glory and honor to God. (see Hebrews 4:14-16)
In Matthew, Jesus tells us that interceding with two or more like minded Christians brings an added dimension to our intercession. He even tells us that when we gather, He is there in our midst!
Intercessory prayer groups are built around these principles and promises that gathering together to pray for needs and concerns is Biblical and effective.
Here’s a link on how to begin a personal relationship with Jesus.
Step two: Seek God’s calling to start an intercessory prayer group
Because you’re reading this article on how to start an intercessory prayer group, you probably have already felt some sort a calling or interest in starting an intercessory prayer group. Callings can come in many different ways. You might be asked to start an intercessory prayer group by your church. You might feel a need in your own life to get together with a group of people who will support each other in prayer. You might be looking for a way to cover prayer requests submitted to your group. You might feel a passion for a group or a cause that needs prayer such as feeling a passion for troubled teens. Or you might be looking for a way to systematically cover your church or organization in prayer.
The most important thing at this stage is to pray for discernment to see if God is calling you to do this. If you’re not sure how to do this, refer to this article praying for direction and discernment. As you pray for direction, pay attention to messages you receive in your Bible readings. Take time to silently listen and think. Ask a Christian friend to pray with you or for you during as you seek God’s direction.
Don’t worry about whether or not you’re qualified to start a prayer group. If God is calling you, he will help you do it. As an example, a number of years back a friend at church began to get the idea of starting a prayer group to cover all of our church staff and volunteers in prayer on a regular basis. She wasn’t sure she had the organizational skills to do it, so she approached our associate minister with the idea. The associate minister was enthusiastic about the idea and my friend realized that if God wanted her to do it, he would show her how to stay organized.
Step 3: Ask God to send you a partner to start an intercessory prayer group
As you begin the praying about direction on how to start an intercessory prayer group, ask God if there is another person with whom you can partner to help start an intercessory prayer group. Often when God calls one person, he has also been calling others as well.
Ask God to put a name or several names into your mind and then contact them to find out if they’re interested in or are feeling called to help start an intercessory prayer group. Going back to the scriptures we quoted in step one, having two people together praying and planning has already formed the basic nucleus of a prayer group!
Step 4: Decide on the type of group you want to form to start an intercessory prayer group
Over the years I’ve participated in a number of different types of intercessory prayer groups. Here are some ideas of the different types:
Committed membership intercessory prayer group. This type of group seeks members who will commit to be part of the group and to attend regularly and pray faithfully. The group my friend started was a committed membership group. She chose to recruit 12 members and each of us agreed to receive a different list of names of church staff and volunteers to pray over on a regular basis over a one year period.
Drop-in intercessory prayer group. This type of prayer group has a core leadership team and then invites any and all who wish to come to attend the meeting. As an example, a church near me has a healing prayer ministry one night a month where a trained team of intercessors prays privately over each person needing prayer. This group is open to the whole community. Here’s an article on how to start a healing prayer ministry like the one I have mentioned.
Short term intercessory prayer group. This type of prayer group can be formed when an issue or crisis draws people to prayer. As an example, a few years back a woman in our church felt a calling to pray about a national crisis. We opened our prayer chapel every Thursday morning at 7 AM before the start of the work day and invited anyone who was interested and able to join together in praying about the issue. The group never had a large attendance – often it was 3- 7 people. God doesn’t measure the success of a prayer group by numbers but rather by faithfulness to the calling. This group continued for about 3 months until the crisis passed and we felt that our prayers had been answered.
Mutual support intercessory prayer group. This type of group meets together to pray for each other’s needs within the group. Such groups often are formed around mutual needs or life situations, such as a cancer survivor’s group or a young married couple’s group. Refer to our article How to start a prayer group for mutual support and care.
Email intercessory prayer group. This type of group is a virtual group. Prayer requests are sent out to each person on the mail list and they pray individually over requests. See our article how to start and run an email prayer chain for more information.
Prayer request intercessory prayer group. This type of group prays over requests submitted by others that have been previously placed in a prayer box or have been collected during a church service, via email, etc.
I was a member of this type of group that met every Sunday evening at 6 PM to pray over the requests in the church prayer box. If you are starting an intercessory prayer group like this, make sure you let the people making the requests know whether each request is being prayed for individually or prayed over as a group. The Sunday night group I participated in felt that people wished their requests to remain between themselves and God so we brought the box into our prayer meeting and prayed over the box as a whole without opening it. Other groups pray specifically over each request.
In our church, we have different confidentiality levels for requests. On the prayer request card in the pew racks, people can check different boxes as to what they feel most comfortable doing. These choices include having only the ministers pray over the request, having a small prayer team such as the Sunday night group I mentioned pray over it, or having the request sent to the email prayer chain with 200 participants.
“No coffee, no small talk” prayer group. A number of years ago a speaker used this term to describe a prayer group where people gather at an appointed time and begin praying without fellowship or talking about needs and concerns. I participated in such a group with two other women during a time when our church was having issues. We agreed to meet in the prayer chapel at 8 AM daily for a month to pray together for 15 minutes. We then left and went on with our daily business.
I noticed a very interesting dynamic during these get-right-to-praying prayer times. First of all, we could cover quite a bit of prayer territory in such a short time because instead of discussing issues between ourselves, we brought them up directly to God in prayer.
Secondly, not chit-chatting prevented us from having discussions that bordered on criticism and gossip in the guise of prayer requests. All three of us were already pretty worried about our church problems and had strong opinions on them and it kept us from fanning the flames of blame and discontent.
A final benefit of using this kind of intercessory prayer group for a church issue was that it gave the Holy Spirit freer reign to work. For one thing, I noticed that through these prayers God kept us all encouraged and balanced because one day one of us might be down and discouraged and someone else might be in a good place and through our prayers we could lift up each other. Also, God seemed to give us all different ideas of what to pray about each day so we covered more details that needed prayer.
Specialized focus prayer groups. These groups pray for a specific group of people. An example would be an international organization where moms pray together for their children. Another example is where groups gather at school flag poles on a set date to pray for our schools.
Conference call, video chat or online virtual prayer group. Prayer groups can also function in real time on the phone or online. Our nonprofit board has used conference call prayer meetings to pray for our organization. We obtain a number from a website offering free conference calls. We then send each member the number and time and appoint a leader. This allows for collaborative, verbal group prayer in contrast to the email prayer group where everyone prays privately.
Step 5: Decide how you will invite others to start an intercessory prayer group
Pray about the best way to go about inviting others to join your prayer group.
I’ve found that it usually works best to personally invite people. Pray and ask God to bring likely participants to mind. Once you have a core group of members, you can ask them to recommend names of those who might have an interest.
Intercessory prayer groups can be publicized through many other means, such as group emails, online notices, through facebook groups, via an event invitation website, church newsletters, posters, church signs, pulpit announcements and postcards.
You can also target your invitation to a specific group. As an example, a church I attended our church had a weekday Kindergarten program and started a mother’s prayer group that meets after the children are dropped off in class. It was advertised in the Kindergarten newsletter, on their website and via posters in the nursery wing hall.
The healing prayer group I mentioned earlier has a sandwich board sign that they put out on the road in front of the church the week of their event, telling the day and time. They also have the same sign that they put up near the front door of the sanctuary to direct people in. Since the prayer group is held on the same day of the month (the second Thursday) and time, these signs can be used over and over.
Step 6: Decide on meeting place, time and duration to start an intercessory prayer group
Pray about the right time and place for your intercessory prayer group. The reality is, people have very busy schedules these days, so finding a time that’s convenient to your group is essential.
Deciding where to meetWhen deciding on a place to meet, there are many options depending on the size and needs of your group. Options include in a home, school or church meeting room, office break room, senior housing activity room and in a church sanctuary or chapel.
As an example, our church prayer group usually meets in a church classroom to discuss business and prayer requests, then we move to the prayer chapel or sanctuary for our prayer time.
In another case, a women’s group I was in held what they called a prayer coffee every month the week before our meeting to cover all aspects of the upcoming meeting in prayer. This was always held in someone’s home and included light refreshments provided by the hostess and a time of general fellowship before our prayer time. If you do decide to meet in a home, make sure distractions are kept at a minimum, such as pets or phone interruptions.
Meeting time. Pray about a meeting time that is most convenient for your members or those you hope to invite. Many prayer groups choose to meet on a weeknight when those who have 9-5 jobs are available. Other’s choose to meet early in the morning before the workday begins. Still others meet mid-morning if their members are available during the day.
Be prayerful and creative in deciding on a time. For instance, I was once in a prayer group of young mothers who met at 4 PM on Wednesday afternoons at the church. We all had children we brought to children’s choir practice during this time and since we were at the church already and had to wait for our children to finish, we formed a prayer group during choir practice.
Step 7: Decide on a format to start an intercessory prayer group
The basic format of an intercessory prayer group includes some means of sharing prayer requests and praises, a designated time of prayer and a group leader who keeps the group on track and on time.
Means of sharing prayer requests and praises. The most common means of sharing prayer requests is inviting group members to tell the group their prayer requests. Most usually all group members or someone designated to send out the requests to the group later write down the requests so they can keep them covered in prayer.
If you are using this method of sharing requests, the leader needs to be able to keep the group from spending the majority of the group time talking and not leaving much time to actually pray about the requests. Take care that one person doesn’t monopolize the time with a long, detailed request. Also, remind members that the purpose of the group is not to solve the problems or offer advice. Unfortunately, we’re all problem solvers and it‘s easy to immediately jump right in to help! The leader should steer the group toward prayer, not fixing things.
Another mode of sharing requests is via written request. These written requests may come from a prayer box used by anyone who chooses to submit a requests. These can come from the leaders of the organization being lifted up in prayer who submit specific requests about their program or missionaries. Written requests can also be submitted by individual group members instead of having everyone share something out loud. This method works well in groups where time is limited and many members are present. The written requests can then be exchanged so that each person has someone else’s request for which to pray.
Prayer time. The most common way intercessory prayer groups do prayer time is having the leader start a prayer and allowing those present to pray something out loud as they feel led. Be aware that the majority of people are somewhat reluctant to pray out loud in a group and it’s best not to put anyone on the spot.
I’ve found it’s best not to have prayer that moves around a circle where the next person is asked to pray something after the person beside them has finished. Instead I explain before the prayer time that we’re not going in any particular order and that we welcome those who would rather pray in silent agreement with the prayers being spoken out loud. Another idea if you are go-around-the-circle praying is to have the group hold hands while praying. Before praying, inform participants that if they don’t wish to say a prayer out loud when their turn comes, they can squeeze the hand of the person who would be next after them if they want to pass on praying out loud. Or you can invite them to say a short sentence in place of a long prayer such as “Lord, hear our prayer.”
Other examples of types of prayer methods that can be used include having the group gather and lay their hands on an individual when they are receiving prayer, silent prayer, unison prayer such as the Lord’s prayer, responsive prayer etc.
Leadership. Every prayer group needs a leader for the meeting to make sure things start and end on time. The leader is also responsible for arranging for the meeting place and publicizing dates and times. If you are meeting in a church setting, it is important that you speak with a member of the clergy or church leadership team to let them know your plans to form a prayer group.
Another role of the leader is to encourage and shepherd the prayer group members. Intercessory prayer is sometimes draining ministry, especially since you are often praying about all of the crisis situations and tragedies in the church, community and world. Pay attention to attendees and those who might stop coming. Get in touch to see what’s happening in their life and pray for them!
Select a name for your group. Having a name to call your group will help identify you to church members and visitors. Names don’t have to be fancy. Often a simple name that defines your group is best. Examples would be “Tuesday morning intercessory prayer group” or “Moms prayer group.”
One prayer group I led decided that they wanted to select a more specific name. We took ideas and then voted on the selections. We named ourselves “Flamebearers” to signify carrying the torch of prayer.
Other helpful tips in starting an intercessory prayer group
Here are just a few other things you might want to consider.
Prayer focal point. Some groups like to use a visual, such as candles, a cross, a picture of Christ etc. As an example, if you’re praying for world concerns, you might want to use a globe or if you’re praying for a missionary you might want to have items native to the country where they serve. Some churches have a prayer bulletin board where they post pictures of people and prayer requests.
Tissues. Sometimes intercessory prayer evokes people’s emotions, especially in the case of healing prayer groups or ones where people are praying at the altar. It’s a good idea to have a box of tissues on hand or under chairs.
Childcare. Be aware of the makeup of your group to determine whether you need to provide nursery care during the prayer group. Care can be provided from volunteers who take turns weekly or paid sitters can be hired.
I was previously in a neighborhood group where all of us had preschool children. We met in various homes and each hostess provided a room for the children to play, often a basement rec room. We found a local woman who was willing to babysit during our meetings and all of the mothers using childcare pitched in to pay her.
Another idea is to meet when childcare is already being offered for other events. Our church has programs and programs for all ages on Wednesday nights and the church provides childcare during this time for everyone.
Confidentiality. Make sure that all prayer group participants understand that all prayer requests are confidential and are not to be shared with others outside of the group without the OK of the person who made the request.
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Copyright Karen Barber 2019. All rights reserved.