Because so many group prayer times are really request times, with little time left to pray …
Because so many group prayer times are only about surgeries and accidents …
Because, sometimes, one or two people pray long prayers in group prayers, which inhibits others from praying …
Here is an alternative, four-part strategy for group and public prayers. Crucial for this to work well: There must be a leader who moderates the whole prayer time, instructing as needed and modeling what a short prayer is!
I call it PRAY:
Praise / Repent / Ask / Yield
The leader calls for people to express a sentence of praise/worship directly to God, and he or she models this by offering the first praise, perhaps adding,
“Please hear us now as we worship you and thank you for who you are.”
When possible, it is healthy to have people stand up during this time. Usually, people participate easily and heartily. The leader might pray a second or third time, just to show that doing so is fine and to help this concert of prayer keep moving.
Then, at the appropriate time or before the praying dies down, the leader calls for next section.
The leader calls people to pray in confession or repentance: “Please pray now in confession before God—not out loud, but in your heart. Confess any known sins, and pray for your character and spirit.”
This does not need to last a long time, as most people will go immediately to a need in their own hearts.
The leader then thanks God out loud for his mercy and grace to forgive and to cleanse us.
Then, the leader asks the people to form groups of four or five—still standing—to begin the ‘ask’ segment.
The leader says, “Please do not pray in any order, or around the circle. No one has to pray out loud. But someone begin by praying for something you are worried about, and then someone else back that up with a short prayer for God to answer that person.”
You may be surprised by how easily people do this and how well it goes; how everyone is worried about something and at ease to pray about it in front of just a few; and how some still want to give a request and explain it before they pray!
Then, before silence or time allotted is up, the leader jumps in again:
The leader prays a prayer related to what you are all going to study, and saying that all want to obey that; or leads a quiet song that honors the Lord, and all join in; or reads a verse on the theme of the day and prays for strength for all to obey that. Then AMEN.
Knute Larson coaches pastors and leaders, drawing upon 41 years as senior pastor at two churches, and is the author of three books and two commentaries.