“We” trumps “I.” Jesus instructed us to pray “OUR Father…” (Matthew 6:9). Ordinarily, things are getting off-track if there is too much use of the word “I” in corporate prayer.
God-centered rather than problem-centered. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayers in Acts and Paul’s epistles, and the other prayers in the Bible sometimes addressed current problems (e.g., prayer in Acts 4:23-31 regarding persecution). However, the overwhelming them is always God’s power, glory, and sovereignty (e.g., “Hallowed be Your name” and Ephesians 1, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”).
Brief trumps long. The Pharisees were known for their lengthy prayers, but Jesus encouraged His disciples to not put their trust in long prayers or “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7, Matthew 23:14).
Focused prayers trump shatter-shot prayers. Too often, people’s prayers are unfocused, covering too many topics and petitions all at once. If we want to have our prayers answered, it’s much better eliminate “fluff” and unnecessary rabbit trails. Specific prayers bring specific answers.
Prayers filled with faith and victory will always trump prayers marked by doubt and defeat. Nothing will bring discouragement to a prayer meeting faster than people who are praying prayers of unbelief.
United prayers trump individualism. Corporate prayer is only powerful when the prayers are offered in one accord (Matthew 18:19-20, Psalm 133). This is undercut when people’s prayers cannot receive an “Amen” from the rest of the participants.
Spirit-led prayers trump human concerns. Understandably, prayer meetings often attract people who have “burdens” to pray about, whether the burdens are for themselves or for others. But unless these human concerns become motivated by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-30), they will end up just being filled with well-meaning “flesh.”
It’s often helpful to mix elements such as worship and Scripture into prayer meetings. We see this approach in Colossians 3:16-17: Word, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” etc.
Prayer meetings should be times of HEARING from God and not just SPEAKING to God. The principle in James 1:19 applies, being “quick to listen and slow to speak” (or pray). This means it’s OK to have times of silence and listening, not feeling it necessary to fill the entire time with speaking/praying.
Prayer meetings usually work best when there is a balance between human leadership and free-flowing group involvement. If the hand of human leadership is too strong, people will be intimidated from listening to God or participating. But if there is no leadership at all, the prayers will often go off on tangents and become unfocused. This doesn’t mean the leadership has to be from just one person, but it’s helpful if people know who is “in charge” of sensing God’s direction in the meeting. People who are intercessors or prophetic sometimes distrust structure and time constraints, but the Bible provides numerous examples of God instituting structure before He performed miracles (e.g., breaking up the people into groups before feeding them loaves and fish). However, if there is going to be structure as to the format, time limitations, etc., they should be clearly communicated in advance (e.g., Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 about the use of spiritual gifts in public meetings).
When revival is one of the objectives of a corporate prayer meeting, the elements of 2 Chronicles 7:14 should be kept in mind: E.g., humbling ourselves, seeking His face, repenting (turning from our wicked ways), listening, receiving His forgiveness and forgiving anyone who has wronged us.
Just as in our individual prayer lives, it’s helpful to keep an informal record of some of the prayer requests offered, and then the answers received. Keeping track of some of the testimonies will build faith in God’s faithfulness and in the power of prayer.