Taking the Fear Out of Corporate Prayer
By Kim Butts
Most churches struggle with corporate prayer. Pastors and prayer leaders teach and exhort and encourage believers to pray; however, when a prayer meeting or gathering is called for, very few people show up to “lift their voices together in prayer.” Here are some practical suggestions for increasing attendance and reducing the fear factor that prevents participation in corporate prayer:
- People need information. They are afraid to come to something with an “unknown” agenda. Have a specific focus for prayer that resonates with many people: for example – praying for schools, students, teachers, administrators, curriculum, etc. at the beginning of the school year or praying for our nation leading up to an election cycle. Other examples to focus on would be missions partners and their ministries, leadership and their families, asking God together how to meet the needs of your community.
- Reassure people that they will not be called on to pray out loud. This is probably the greatest fear people face in corporate prayer settings. There are two ways to solve this. First, have some mature believers who are comfortable praying out loud intentionally planted in each group. Second, give people permission to be quiet, assuring them that God is perfectly capable of hearing their silent prayers.
- Create an environment conducive to prayer. Use an appropriately sized room rather than a cavernous sanctuary. Make the room inviting…lamps, plants, Bibles, journals, Kleenex, relaxed seating arrangements so people can gather in small groups or “huddles.”
- Give prayer prompts on the screen or on paper. Allow people to visually take in what is being prayed for or about so they don’t have to “remember” it. It is okay to pray with eyes open!
- Pray Scripture. Use the example of the believers in Acts 4, who prayed Psalm 2 when faced with the threats of the authorities. Give them scripture passages to read that are already written in prayer form so that all reluctant pray-ers need to do is read a Scriptural prayer back to God.
- Consider praying in unison at least part of the time. You can put pre-written prayers on the screen or have a leader read several sections of prayers with the Response being something similar to: “Hear our prayer, Oh Lord!” This type of prayer gets people used to hearing their own voice raised in prayer with others and reduces the fear factor.
- Pray creatively. Try different postures of prayer, utilize worship, give opportunities for people to engage different sense, use prayer stations, allow people to move from place to place, etc.
- Make at least some of your corporate prayer gatherings intergenerational so that people can bring their children. Or, at the very least, provide what we call “prayer care” for younger children so that they can be praying with teens or adults who are comfortable leading children in prayer. This will take some creativity, but is of great worth for two reasons: First, parents will be able to come to corporate prayer gatherings and second, their children will also have an opportunity to learn more about prayer and to engage in its practice even at very young ages.
- Let people know you will start and end on time, and keep to that promise. You may wish to begin and end with worship, welcoming the presence of God in your midst and then thanking Him for being present and for hearing and answering your prayers.
As your congregation begins to learn that coming together for prayer is a safe place, and a time when they can feel that they are truly touching the heart of God with other believers, they will begin to warm up to the idea that a praying church is what Jesus has designed us to be as evidenced by the church He left behind in Jerusalem.
If you would like some great ideas for creative prayer ideas, prayer stations, etc. for all ages, here are some links to Pinterest boards that have been compiled to help you:
Prayer Room Ideas
© Kim Butts, Harvest Prayer Ministries 2016