This is the second 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 looks at the topic of lament, exploring some prayers of Jesus and the Psalmist, and giving some practical pointers about how to pray prayers of lamentation and protest.
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 how they’ve found praying since the last time you met.
When everyone has shared, watch Exploring Prayer Part 2: Learning to Lament.
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. The topic of lament is heavy but that does not mean that a corporate response should be avoided. In fact, the topic is so heavy that it is probably best practiced in a safe, community setting. Hopefully, the prayer activity set out below adds some normality to what otherwise might be a difficult experience.
Have someone in the group read Psalm 27 aloud slowly and everyone else listen. Then, give a few moments of space for people to note mentally or physically, places and situations where they long to see God move. These places and situations can be personal, communal or global – it does not matter. The number of things people list also does not matter.
After everyone has had a chance to think and note something down, bring everyone back together. Go round the circle, with each person sharing some of their burdens in turn. As each person finishes sharing, they should read the words of Psalm 27:13. The rest of the group should then respond in unison with the words of Psalm 27:14. When you have been round the whole group, finish by saying the Lord’s Prayer.
Before everyone goes you might want to up the stakes on how much everyone prays in the week. Challenge people to pray for 5 or 10 minutes more this week than last week. Again, consider taking a moment to schedule prayer time into people’s diaries.