A place of humility.
The heart of Sister Talk Faith: Gather.
Gather teachings are four-week studies to introduce Believers to spiritual disciplines or practices that connect us with God and prepare our hearts to be fertile places for Him to bless us with spiritual growth.
…spiritual growth and vitality stem from what we actually do with our lives, from the habits we form, and from the character that results.– Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
Only God makes things grow, but we have a role to play in preparing our souls for growth. Spiritual growth for Christians is marked by a character becoming more and more like Christ’s.
September’s Gather focus is the spiritual practice of Gathering for Prayer, a four-week workshop in corporate prayer.
What is corporate prayer?
According to AllAboutPrayer.org, “Corporate prayer is the term used to describe praying together with other people – in small groups or in larger bodies of people.” (May 22, 2019)
Yes! Group prayer. Praying out loud with other Believers in a group setting. This is the spiritual practice we are emphasizing in this gathering.
We call it a “workshop” because a workshop is a place of training, a setting where a skill is learned hands-on through practice. Our goal is to have a short time of teaching and then a time of corporate prayer.
What is your experience with corporate or group prayer? How does it make you feel?
I’ve been leading small groups in prayer weekly for close to twenty years now. I can tell you it’s something I entered into very reluctantly. Tried to find anyone to lead BUT me. However, I’ve come to see it is not about me. It’s about fellowship with other Believers and the Holy Spirit.
Anxious and nervous. These are the words I used to describe praying in front of others. Naturally I avoided these feelings if at all possible. In a group prayer setting I remained quiet, even when the Spirit nudged me to pray out loud. When I was brave enough to open my mouth and pray, my voice quivered, my thoughts raced, and I usually left completely focused on whether I said the “right” thing. It all seemed harmless until I realized how self-focused I was when it came to praying in front of others.
In the realization of my backward pride, I noticed something. A little phrase I’ve eliminated from my vocabulary when it comes to prayer–in front of others.
Corporate prayer is not a call to craft fancy words only to be spoken with assurance that every word is right. There is nothing “in front of” about it. The truth is we are all in the same boat, lifting our hearts to God with the words we have. In the end I recognize I’m thinking way more about me than others are.
This change in vocabulary reveals my new mindset about praying out loud with others present. Now, I just pray as best I can trusting God honors and delights in the prayers of His children.
Our foundational Scripture for this workshop in prayer is from the Old Testament, where God says:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers made in this place.
2Chronicles 7:13-15 ESV
What condition does God require of us if He is to hear our prayers?
If my people… humble themselves…
For many of us entering and participating in group prayer is a humbling experience. We become self-conscious and afraid to speak what’s on our hearts because we think we don’t have the right words. Well, apparently, this is exactly where God wants us to be, willing to humble ourselves to pray.
Humble as a verb means to make oneself humble (or lowly) in spirit or manner, to destroy the power, independence or prestige of something (Merriam-Webster’s).
Group prayer is often difficult to enter into because of pride, even the fear of not being good enough to pray is a form of pride. To humble ourselves means to recognize the barriers keeping us from praying and destroy them: pride, arrogance, self-importance.
What keeps you from gathering with others in prayer? What attitude or unbelief do you need to destroy?
- Do you think you can handle the problem yourself? you don’t need to pray, much less pray with a group about it?
- Do you think God has bigger problems than yours as if He has bigger fish to fry? Compared to the world’s issues does yours seem small or unimportant?
- Do you think you’ll sound foolish? you don’t have the right words?
A format for prayer.
One practice of group prayer that can both humble and help those who are self-conscious in praying out loud is having a format to follow.
Some object to a format because prayer is prayer and there is no wrong way to pray.
For others having a format helps with the fear factor. Having a plan. knowing what comes next.
We will practice a four-step prayer with a leader leading us through each step. We’ll sit in one area of prayer until the leader moves us to the next.
Group prayer pointers.
The first thing to remember is this is corporate or group prayer. We are praying with others, which means listening to what they are praying and listening for God to respond. The format we are using is a one-accord or conversational prayer.
Here are some things to think about as we begin to practice group prayer:
- Pray in short sentences. If you have more to pray great, but pray it one small piece at a time and let others join in prayer with you.
- Silence is okay. There will be times of silence, just like in any conversation. Don’t panic. Don’t feel pressured to fill the space with words. Listen. Listen for the Spirit’s leading in what comes next or how He may be answering the prayer in the moment.
- Praying on top of one another will happen. Again, like in any conversation two people may begin a prayer at the same time. Yield. Listen. Invite the other to go ahead, then listen for the time to add your prayer.
- Listen for the leader to lead through the steps. The leader will pray giving clear indication for what step of prayer is being prayed. Their role is to help keep the prayer time focused and moving forward. To listen to the Holy Spirit for when to move to the next step and when to close the time of prayer.
The Four Steps of Prayer.
Praise: A time to praise God for who He is NOT thank Him for what He has done for us. A time to exalt His character and remind ourselves who it is we serve.
This was the hardest aspect of prayer for me to learn when I first began. It is not something we practice often in church gatherings, but it is something God commands us to do because it is good for us. But it does take some practice and time in His Word because that is the only resource available to us to tell us who God is.
We praise Him from what we know of Him from the Bible. Praying praise is based on Scripture and can be as simple as: God, You are good. God, Your love is steadfast and unfailing.
This is a time for you to focus on what you know about His character, tell Him that you know who He is and boast about Him.
Confession: A time where we confess our sins and seek God’s forgiveness. All part of the humbling process. There will be a time of corporate confession, noting how we have failed to be an obedient church. We will follow this with a time of silent personal confession.
Thanksgiving: Before we begin to ask for anything, we will pour out our thanks to Him, recognizing Him as sovereign and that all He allows in our lives is for our good and His glory.
Intercession: Lastly, we will spend time inviting Him into our lives, the church, and our world to bring healing: physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally.
In preparation for a time of group prayer you may want to make a guide of the four steps to follow. At the shop today we gave one to each member of the group as a way to gather their thoughts and settle their hearts before we prayed together.
The link below is a PDF of the guide we shared at the shop.
As you prepare to practice consider the following things as you fill out your guide.
- Praise: Choose an aspect of God’s character you want to praise Him for. Write it down on your guide. Consider your life now and what you most need to remember about who He is. For example, if you or a loved one have health issues, perhaps you need to praise Him as Healer. OR first note the things you are thankful for, from your thanksgivings consider the aspect of His character that brought about what you are thankful for.
- Confession: Consider an aspect of Believers where we fail on the whole to confess. For example, our failure to love Him with our whole heart or love our neighbors as ourselves. Think about what you need to confess personally in our silent time.
- Thanksgiving: Write some things you need to thank Him for.
- Intercession: Make a note of things you want to ask Him for.
This is a starting point, a guide to get a group started in prayer. A format to keep the members focused and corporate (individuals coming together as one) as you humble yourselves to pray together.
We encourage you to gather with one or two and practice the spiritual discipline of group prayer. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. Yes, you may shed tears. But, we guarantee it will be worth it.
One of two things depending where you are personally in your prayer life.
- If you are not one who has practiced praying out loud, your homework is to pray out loud. When you are in the house by yourself. In your car. Outside in the backyard. This week spend some of your prayer time praying out loud.
- If you are one who already vocalizes your prayers to God at times, this week invite someone to join you in a time of prayer. Your husband, your children, a co-worker. Even if you are the only one praying out loud, have someone join you. Offer to pray for someone and do it, right then, out loud, with them. Just ask their permission first: Can I pray for you right now? with you?
We look forward to gathering with you next week.
In His grace,
Stacy & Carol