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Teach Small-Group Members to Pray

Teaching adult followers of Jesus to pray out loud is essential. Jesus taught the disciples to pray. Shouldn't we do the same?

Teaching adult followers of Jesus to pray out loud is essential. Jesus taught the disciples to pray. Shouldn't we do the same?

An unforgettable ministry conversation took place one day after our Sunday gathering of Christ-followers. One of our small-group leaders at our church was telling me about the growth he was seeing in his group members. I was already on the edge of my seat, but when he told me one person prayed aloud for the very first time the week prior my heart started dancing!

And as I drove home later, my eyes welled with tears. You see, the "first-time out-louder" has a fantastic wife and two incredible sons. I realized these young boys would grow up in a home where Dad prayed audibly for them. And those kids will do with their own children what they have seen their dad do. Because a small-group leader took the time to teach others to pray aloud, untold believers for generations to come will know what it means to have godly, caring parents praying for them. As that happens, those children will understand God is real and alive, and they will want to know about His Son Jesus and will most likely choose a relationship with Him.

Teaching other adult believers to pray is a step-by-step process. Here's how to model this essential spiritual discipline.

Level 1: As the group leader, model conversational prayer. The term "conversational" is important. Exhibiting a preacher voice, speaking in old English terms, or sounding as though you've swallowed a pile of "O pity me's" will confuse the small-group member who longs to have an authentic relationship with Jesus.

Level 2: A couple of weeks later ask for volunteers to pray and watch who emerges.

Level 3: Calls on two people who have been consistently volunteering to pray before or during your meeting. Close your time together with a prayer of your own.

Level 4: Lead your group to "complete the sentence." Prompt others to pray with such words as, "God, this is ______." "I want to thank you for________." "God, would you help with ________." Let everyone know that if they prefer to pray silently to God instead of out loud, they should let the group know by squeezing the hand of the person next to them - if the group is that close - or say "Amen" to indicate they are going to pray silently.

Level 5: Your group members grow to the point that they can pray conversationally together using this method: One person shares a prayer request, and then the group spends time praying "sentence prayers" about that specific request. Others share additional requests until your prayer time is complete.

These are baby steps moving toward full-fledged paragraph prayers. In time, this will come naturally.

Rick Howerton travels around the country as consultant and trainer to teach churches how to build small-group ministries. He is founding pastor of The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Rick has authored Destination: Community - A Small-Group Ministry Manual from Serendipity House, and is co-author of Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups. He and his wife, Julie, make their home in Franklin, Tennessee.