Prayer Groups are God's Plan
"A chain of earnest, praying believers should en circle the world. Let all pray in humility. A few neighbors may meet together to pray for the Holy Spirit."—In Heavenly Places, p. 93.
"Let small companies assemble in the evening, at noon, or in the early morning to study the Bible. Let them have a season of prayer, that they may be strengthened, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit...."—Ibid., p. 92.
Most Important: Most important in the success of prayer groups is prayer. Since each prayer group is God's plan, we are dependent upon Him for its beginning and its continuance. Pray earnestly that the hearts of your people will be ready for a prayer group or groups. Once groups have been started, pray continually for each member and for the presence of God at each meeting. Wait on Him for guidance each step of the way. Success in no way rests upon the talents or ability of the leader but upon the power of God. "We do not value the power and efficacy of prayer as we should. Prayer and faith will do what no power on earth can accomplish."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 509.
Preparation: Prayer groups are a growth experience; and as leaders we need to claim God's blessing for our own personal growth. "It is our own character and experience that determine our influence upon others. . . . The gospel we present for the saving of souls must be the gospel by which our own souls are saved. ... If we would draw sinners out of the swift-running current, our own feet must be firmly set upon the Rock, Christ Jesus."—Ibid., p. 469, 470.
A wonderful promise belongs to each prayer-group leader: "The Lord Jesus knows just what His children need, how much divine power we will appropriate for the blessing of humanity; and He bestows upon us all that we will employ in blessing others and ennobling our own souls." —Ibid., p. 513.
In addition to a consistent study of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings, we recommend for prayer-group leaders two books: With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray (this is an old book with tremendous power for stimulating growth in personal prayer), and Groups That Work (a collection of articles on prayer groups that have been held in many churches. It contains many valuable suggestions that can be adapted to meet our needs.
Purposes of Prayer Groups:
1. To learn to pray and to grow spiritually.—We find that praying together in a closely knit group, using conversational prayer, helps our own personal prayer life to grow as it has never done before. As we learn to omit the customary phrases and cliches from our prayers (the fillers that we tend to put in when our minds have turned off), and come to the Lord with the simplicity that cries out for purity of heart, our lives are changed and we are becoming prepared to meet Him. Wonderful answers to prayer have been experienced by group members, perhaps the greatest of which are victories in their own lives.
2. To share, to bear one another's burdens.—"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). Since we must share in order to truly love, it could be that our churches lack love for lack of opportunity to share experiences and burdens. As our hearts grow to include the joys and sorrows of those in our group, in addition to our own family and loved ones, we find that our capacity to love others outside of the group increases. Criticism and faultfinding are alien to the prayer-group spirit, and the power of love is the healer our churches need. As we speak to one another in the group of God's love, we find it easier to speak of the joy of the Christian way to all those we meet.
Time.—Prayer groups should meet once a week for an hour to an hour and a half. Regularity in attendance is extremely important, and you will find that once your members have tasted the vital experience the group brings, they will allow nothing less than an emergency to keep them away. You will become aware, however, that there is probably nothing the enemy hates as much in the church as prayer groups, and you can be sure he will work to prevent regular attendance. But the power of God prevails. If someone misses a meeting, a personal contact from the leader and other members of the group, sharing the inspiration of the meeting, strengthens continual attendance.
Size of groups.—Six or eight is an ideal size for a group. However, successful groups have ranged from three to twelve. By the time you have reached ten members it is wise to begin to think of starting an other group.
Study.—Throughout the week each member of the group reads one chapter of a book you have selected together. Steps to Christ is a wonderful one to begin with.
The blessings of sharing The Desire of Ages is unspeakable. Any of the E. G. White books, of course, provides endless inspiration and an excellent basis for growth. Each member underlines her book and is prepared to contribute to the discussion. The work of the leader, of course, is to guide and to help each member share in the discussion, and not to present a study on it herself.
Prayer.—Always allow plenty of time for prayer at each meeting. As members linger together before the throne of grace, the Holy Spirit is present and hearts are softened and victories gained. The chapter "Instant in Prayer" in G. H. Minchin's book Bow in the Cloud is a tremendously illuminating study on prayer, which will be a great blessing to you and each member of your group.
"Conversational prayer is this: instead of each one present praying once and covering many subjects, each one prays as many times as he wishes, but he prays for only one subject each time. ... It is a law of love among us that whenever anyone prays (for himself personally or for any request upon his heart), someone who is present will 'cover with love,' by audible prayer, of course. . . . We are not afraid of silences. We know that in the silence God speaks. Sometimes unworded prayers are more healing than any other kind."—Groups That Work, p. 43. (For a better under standing of conversational prayer, read this entire book. It is available from Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Your local Book and Bible House may carry it.)
Prayer lists.—Lists include the name of each member of the group and her two or three most important requests. General re quests—our church, our school, our pastor, our world leaders, et cetera—usually head the list. Then if you wish to list the members' names and requests alphabetically, everyone's list will be in the same order and a telephone chain is thus formed. If an emergency request for prayer arises during the week, or other information needs to be shared with the group, the leader may call A, who in turn notifies B, and she C, et cetera. Each member of the group remembers each other one and her requests in her personal prayer each day. The beauty of this plan can be understood only by those who have experienced the comfort of this constant prayer bond. The chapter "Asking to Give" in Christ's Object Lessons is a help that you won't want to miss in your study.
Why not start a prayer group in your church? It will bring one of the greatest blessings one can know!
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The following material was presented at a ministerial students' wives' meeting at Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska. In sharing it with us, Mrs. Linda Gage writes of her own experience with prayer groups over the past three years. "These groups," she says, "have been the most thrilling experience of my life as a minister's wife. I've started one small group at the end of a School of Prayer, which was held on Wednesday nights, and when we left Lincoln for Loma Linda the eighth group was being formed in College View. Two other groups in other States are also thriving as an outgrowth of the first group. In each group lives are being changed and made ready for the kingdom, and we praise God for what He has done and is doing." (See also pp. 40, 41.)