Rethinking Small Groups
These are some areas which I feel we should think about before starting a small group in the future.
It is quite difficult to form a group for the sole purpose of prayer alone. We will eventually find it dry and boring. That's likely because we don't feel a personal connection with the things and people we pray about. This is quite different from intercessory groups made up of "prayer warriors" who are especially gifted in intercession (see below for a clearer description) and are called into the ministry. We need to identify the main purpose of our group and make sure everyone understand what it is before they commit themselves.
- So this means that, if our group is gonna focus on intercession, we need people who are passionate about prayer and are committed. Usually such people already have a sense of sense their gifting and calling. I don't think such a person exists yet within our group. And that's alright. It's nothing to be ashamed of. All of us are gifted differently and called to serve God in different ways.
- Therefore, if a group like ours were to continue we will need more than prayer alone. Over at our group, we do sharing as well. By that I mean we talk about what God is doing in our life, our struggles and also our blessings. Somehow it's all getting a little mechanical and obligatory now. Honestly, I feel that the reason for this is because we try to put together a group of people who hardly know each other apart from work and expect them to share about their life as part of the "fellowship". This could be a problem because people will not open up and be real unless they know they can trust each other and know that they will be accepted without judgement. Trust and acceptance don't grow overnight. So what am I trying to say? I'm saying that no small group will thrive well if there is no real fellowship. Friendship bonds are what motivates people to stay in "small groups" where we feel connected and are part of a small family, within a big spiritual family. There are many in such groups who are just getting on with the program without genuine interest in each other's life. It cannot work that way.
- With that in mind, I'd also say that part of the reason why people are reluctant to share prayer request is because it's a very private thing. When we ask for prayer we are sharing something personal. Not everyone is ready and willing to do so. Even if we know of a co-worker who needs prayer we are not free to share it during such meetings because our friend trusted us to keep it confidential. In an office environment, this can be tricky. So general prayers work better in such groups. For more personal ones, I suppose all of us would prefer to do it with a trusted friend or a spiritual mentor.
- Finally, I think it's perhaps better if a few people who already have an established friendship, who share a common vision and at the same time felt led by God to fulfill that vision, to come together and work towards that vision; be it prayer, worship , support or bible study. Until then, we can't form a thriving group.
These are just some of my own observations and thoughts. Our prayer group lasted over a year and I am glad for the opportunities to learn and grow and get to know each other better. Most of my fellow group members were actually relieved that we're giving this a break.
The gift of intercession referred to above is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to pray for extended periods of time on a regular basis on behalf of and for others, seeing frequent and specific answers to their prayers, to a degree much greater than that expected of the average Christian. These people have a continuing sense of responsibility to pray for people and situations. Prayers for others is considered a Christian vocation - we are all to do it. But some people are gifted in such a way that their "prayer channel" seems to be uniquely static free.