Most small groups end with a time of shared prayer requests and prayer. This is more than routine and playing nice with spiritual expectations. It is a recognition that information alone (even biblical information) does not change our hearts—God does. It is also a recognition that we were made for relationship with God and that to study God’s Word without consulting the Author is like buying your children battery operated toys for Christmas and not getting batteries.
More can be done during these prayer times to fulfill the model of the church found in Ephesians 4:11-13:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The following steps are designed to maximize the ability of prayer during small groups to intentionally equip the saints for the work of ministry.
1. When preparing the lesson, identify the core life struggles to which the passage speaks (i.e., suffering, communication, hope, love, forgiveness, etc…). During the Bible study, mention that you would like members to reflect on these areas in preparation for the upcoming prayer time. With this, you are preparing to think about their spiritual growth as something that will be lived out in the community of this small group.
2. When you ask for prayer requests, let the class know they are free to bring any life challenge, but ask that they give special consideration to the subjects raised in the Bible study.
3. Provide the class with a “Prayer Request Journal” [link] page to record prayer requests in the class. This will enhance the expectancy with which requests are given and is very important if members are truly going to minister to “one another” (Gal 6:2).
4. Ask the class to keep the journal in their Bibles and review it as they have their times of personal devotion. This again raises the level of expectancy that prayer requests will be regularly prayed over.
5. Ask the class to write one letter or e-mail that seeks to encourage another member of the class with a portion of the lesson. This repetition increases learning. It also places the class in both the position of student/learner as well as teacher/minister.
6. Ask the class to seek to follow up in one practical way per week to a prayer request given in the class. If an idea comes to mind, as they pray for the request, they can write it on the “Follow Up” line beneath the request. Once they follow through on God’s prompting, there is even a nice box to check.
We hope this serves as an enriching part of your small group experience. One of the marks of good teaching is that it raises up new leaders and creates a context for each person to utilize his/her gifts.