I love a church that prays. I love being a part of a church that prays. Every Wednesday night we gather—often a packed-out room full of us—to bring all our petitions and all our praise before the Lord. Far more often than not it is a sweet time of seeking the Lord together. I usually lead these meetings and along the way I’ve learned a few things. Here are some ways you increase the likelihood that your prayer meeting will miss the mark.
Go Unprepared. The best prayer meetings are the ones that have been prepared. Sometimes that preparation involves putting together a list of items you will pray for at the meeting. Sometimes that preparation involves a brief devotional or another means of getting people to think about the Lord before they begin to pray. Sometimes that preparation simply involves praying—praying for the prayer meeting. Either way, I’ve learned that prayer meetings are at their best when the leader has prepared himself and when he is able to bring direction.
Dominate. Sometimes a leader fears silence during prayer meetings, so immediately fills any silence with yet another one of his own prayers. Or he is so sure of his ability to pray that he will go on and on. And on. But there are some people who thrive in silence, who need it for their own private prayers, or who need a few minutes to work up the nerve to open their mouths and pray out loud. (A shout-out to my fellow introverts!) Lead the meeting, but don’t dominate it. And learn to embrace the silence. That silence isn’t wasted.
Only Ask. Without a deliberate effort to be thankful—to consider all the good things God has done and to thank him for them—a prayer meeting will always be dominated by requests. Of course God wants us to bring him our requests. He commands it! But when we focus equally on thanksgiving for answered prayer, we set a tone of expectation that God will hear our requests and respond to them. (This is probably one of the most difficult things to do, at least in my experience!)
Don’t Address Your “Tics.” Some people have prayer tics, little quirks that no one has ever told them about. I have heard people use the phrase, “Father God” a hundred times in a single three-minute prayer, without the smallest inkling that they have done so. Some people preface every prayer request with “just.” “I just pray that you will just grant us…” The thing is that even if you aren’t aware of your tics, everyone else is; you may be oblivious to them, but they are a distraction to others. So, as the leader of a meeting, be sure to ask someone if there is anything you are doing that you ought to stop.
Forget to Pray. We have all been to those prayer meetings that are 90% requests and 10% prayer, or 20 minutes of teaching, 20 minutes of requests and 5 minutes of prayer. Too often prayer meetings are dominated not by prayer, but by talking about prayer. Lead the meeting in such a way that you get to prayer, and get to it quickly. Adequate preparation will help a lot in this regard.
Keep it the Same. While there is comfort in familiarity, there is also joy in freshness. After months or years of doing the same thing in the same way, even the best things can begin to feel boring. Try varying the meeting a little bit—break into small groups, separate the men and women, have someone else lead—whatever it takes. Sometimes deliberate change can bring unexpected blessings.
Be bored. Sometimes prayer meetings are drab because the person leading the meeting seems like he would rather be somewhere—anywhere—else. No one will believe in the prayer meeting more than the leader does. If you aren’t interested, it is unlikely that anyone else will interested. If you don’t believe in the meeting or aren’t interested in it, pray about it until you are. And then lead it willingly and joyfully.