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Does praying out loud with others scare you? You are not alone.

Mark Howell, Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada and founder of SmallGroupResources.net, points out that a real challenge and a very common fear for praying out loud together is that of public speaking. For some, public speaking is their greatest fear. That is exacerbated by the idea of talking to God. Many folks think ‘King James English’ is essential for good praying – ‘thee, thou’ and the like! High-sounding phrases sprinkled with Bible verses, and good intercessory oomph![1]

Here are some ideas that Mark suggests, adapted here:

  • Delineate a prayer focus. For example, “Tonight, we are going to pray for a deeper relationship with God. Nothing else.” Or, “Our prayer focus tonight is on folks who do not have a relationship with God.”
  • Read a psalm and pray it. Or choose another passage of Scripture. Let the language of the Bible inform the prayers.
  • Choose a Bible prayer passage, not merely a Bible passage, but a Bible-prayer. Have each participant open their Bible or have printed copies. Read and briefly comment on each verse or phrase. Then go vertical. Ask participants if they can ‘pray it,’ taking the conversational observations and praying them to God. At first, it might seem awkward, but only because we are more accustomed to talking to one another than to God. But watch how so much changes when the conversations go vertical.
  • Encourage each person to choose a prayer passage and develop their own prayer.
  • Put a chair in the center of the room and invite folks to the chair. Call it ‘the Father’s lap’ or the ‘Mercy Seat.’ Have them mention one thing they desire from God. Or some burden they are carrying alone with which they need help. Have them pray it, not say Then allow others to pray with them and for them.
  • Use word or phrase sentence completion prayers as ice breakers. For example, “God, I need your help with __________.” “Lord, I’m so grateful for _______________.”  “Lord, you have been to me like ________________.”
  • Group the attendees in triplets for a time of prayer.
  • Pass out paper or index cards along with a pen. Make it easy and give each person time to write out a simple one sentence prayer need. They can choose to remain anonymous for this one. Swap cards. It is easier to read someone else’s need, at least at times, than our own.
  • On the back of the card, ask each person to list one thing for which they want to give gratitude to God. “Lord, I am so grateful for _______________.”
  • Designate a ‘Jesus chair’ in the middle of the room. “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Mt. 18:20). Say, “Folks, imagine if Jesus was here in the room! Well, He is! Anyone want to talk with Him?” Arrange another chair opposite the empty chair. Then gather the crowd around. Allow one after another the privilege of ‘talking to Jesus.’ Then gather round and pray over them.

[1] Adapted from Mark Howell, www.markhowelllive.com.


This is an excerpt from The Praying Church Made Simple, a new resource for congregational prayer ministries. The purpose of The Praying Church Made Simple is to establish clear beginning points for revitalizing the congregational prayer effort; and to set forth a simple approach to prayer mobilization for the smaller congregation.

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Receive this book for FREE with your paid membership in The Praying Church Movement, a network of local prayer leaders who are on a journey to bring prayer to the heart of all they do.

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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.

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Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on September 12, 2018 at 7:12am

I have also found that it helps people to participate when individual group members do not pray overly long prayers.  The one who prays a long, flowery prayer intimidates others in the group and keeps them from following.  The one who covers a number of different topics in one prayer makes it hard for the next person to "agree" in prayer, since so many things were covered.  Keeping it short and focused encourages other group members to participate.

Also, if there is information to be shared, sharing that before the prayer time means that people don't need to share it during prayer, helping to keep the prayer time shorter and more focused - and more directed toward God (who already knows all the information!).

When praying for group members, I've typically found it helpful to focus on one group member at a time and to set boundaries - for example, if you're going to pray for 30 minutes and you have 6 group members, then give each member 5 minutes of time - divided between sharing requests and then the group focusing on prayer for that person.  The typical sharing/prayer time finds a group spending 25 minutes talking about requests with very little time left for prayer (and no one remembering what the first person even shared by that point!).  Focusing on one person at a time ensures that each person will be covered and gives the group a sense of agreeing in prayer for each individual.

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