Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Small Groups: #1 Pray

I have recently been asked by a good friend of mine to help him learn how to be a better small group leader. There are many things I have learned over the last 20 years or so about leading a small group, so I will attempt to share them in the next few posts.

As the title suggests first you must Pray. By this I don't mean the little sentence prayers that we do before we eat a meal or before we start a meeting. I mean spend time in your prayer closet.

Confession time: I'm not good at this! This may be the area of faith where God is working on me the most right now. Having time set aside to just sit and soak in the presence of God is difficult for me. I want to go do this or that, the list in my head that needs to get accomplished keeps popping, I know there is one last thing to get the picture. But to really be an effective small group leader we must spend time praying for each member of our group and for your time together. Here are a few specifics to pray through.

1) Pray for the members. Jesus went out and prayed for his disciples before selecting some to be his apostles, "In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12). Our constant prayer for those whom we interact with is extremely important. If we are called to lead, we are called to pray for those whom we are to lead.

2) Pray for your time together. I find that very often I forget this in the process of preparation for my small group. I may pray during the week for the individuals and families, but do I spend time praying for our time together? Here the focus is on the presence of the Holy Spirit showing up and guiding discussion.
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Romans 12:12).

3) Pray over the scripture to be discussed and the discussion surrounding it. Praying through scripture is something that King David practiced as he meditated on God's word. We must let the scripture infiltrate our being, which only happens through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can not teach and discuss something that has not already penetrated our own hearts. "Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!" (Psalm 4:1). 

4) Pray together as a group. When together pray. Pray when you start and when you finish. Pray when answers or needs occur that you don't have. Praying for each other will bring a closeness and intimacy that can not be reached any other way. "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).

5) Take the time to lay hands on people and pray about specific needs. It is "easy" at times to just nod and say that you will pray when something specific is spoken during your group time. Don't say you will pray, don't (just) write it down on a list. Pray for the need right then and there. Lay hands on people and pray specifics for their lives. "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:14-16).

When prayer becomes a cornerstone of your leadership, small group, and life, you give God the place he deserves: Lordship. It is in this determination of his Lordship that we can receive the grace to lead boldly. It is in this place of prayer that God's Spirit can move mightily in our lives and in the lives around us. When we rely on our relationship with God, which is fostered in prayer, rather than relying on ourselves, everything moves as He desires rather than as we desire. Ultimately, He knows what is best, He knows our needs, He wants us to come to Him, that we might know Him more. That is relationship. That is closeness. That is the foundation from which small groups should be built.  

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