This is the first session of a five-part series exploring prayer – speaking and listening to God. The series will cover why, how and what of prayer, helping participants develop their conversation with God. This session, and each session in the series, includes a short video from Justin Welby, some discussion questions and suggestions for response. While each session will work as a standalone session, they will be best done in a series as the discussion and response builds from week to week.
This session offers an introduction to making requests of God and covers topics including why we pray at all, how we know what to pray for and how to make a start.
Start the session relaxing as a group. You could share a meal, go for a walk, or even just have a chat over a cup of tea. Whatever you do, make sure everyone feels at comfortable and at home. When it’s time to start moving towards the session’s content, shift the conversation towards prayer and ask everyone what their experience of prayer is.
You can structure this how you think best. If the group knows each other well already, a free-flowing conversation will be fine. If the group is less well established, it may be best to go round in a circle giving each person a brief opportunity to share their experience about prayer. Don’t let too much discussion develop at this point (if any). What’s important is that every begins to get comfortable talking and sharing and that you as leader get a gauge on where everyone is at.
When everyone has shared, watch Exploring Prayer Part 1: Asking God.
Give a minute for the video to sink in. Then move towards a time of discussion. Set healthy parameters for discussion from the start. The aim of this time is not persuasion but exploration. Allow everyone to share their understanding and experience but try to keep the group from instructing or counselling each other as much as possible.
For the most part, try to let discussion go where it goes. Ask other’s what they think about what is being shared to bring them into the discussion. In doing this, your greatest tool will be simple questions like ‘What do you think about such and such?’ and ‘Has anyone else experienced anything like what so and so has just shared?’ Don’t be afraid of moments of silence – they create the space for people to process.
You may find the following discussion points helpful:
After discussion has run its course or your time together is coming towards an end, move to a time of prayer. Depending on how much time you have left and on how well the group knows one another, you may want to skip the first stage of the response below.
Put on some reflective music, maybe light a candle, provide pens and paper and encourage everyone to find somewhere comfortable to sit. Set a timer for 5-15 minutes and leave space for people to pray. Encourage people to use pens and paper, to use the bible (Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 are good places to turn) and to put some of Justin Welby’s reflections on prayer into practice. If time permits at the end of the time of prayer, ask everyone to reflect on the experience. What was good about the time? What was a challenge?
Finish on a note of encouragement, reminding the group of the depth of relationship with God David exhibits in Psalm 23. Challenge everyone to set aside 10-15 minutes before you next meet to pray. If appropriate, leave a moment or two for everyone to put a time into their diaries. You might also consider putting people in pairs to hold themselves accountable to pray in the week ahead.