You want to start a prayer meeting at your church, but nobody wants to go.
Here’s the deal:
Typical prayer meetings are boring. It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that prayer groups are an hour of uninterrupted, drolling prayers that put half the people to sleep.
Here’s the good news:
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Prayer meetings can spark revival in your church.
Prayer meetings can breathe new spiritual life into your community.
Prayer meetings can prompt beautiful moments of confession, desperation, and spiritual renewal.
Ask yourself this question:
If I could revolutionize my prayer group with only a few small changes, would I?
If you want to turn your prayer meetings from snooze-fests everyone avoids into rich experiences that people are eager to attend, here are seven prayer meeting ideas you can use to increase attendance and participation:
1. Designate a point person
Everybody hates awkwardness.
And nothing says awkwaaaaaard like a prayer meeting with no point person.
People arrive and just look around the room until someone starts praying.
Instead, the leader would perform the following tasks (explained more below):
- Cast the prayer meeting’s mission.
- Create the meeting theme.
- Bring refreshments.
- Write the opening/closing prayer.
- Organize the time and location.
- Market the prayer meeting to the church.
- Designate any of these tasks to a regular member
If you don’t have a single point person, the meeting will burn out.
It’s easy to rely on a “group of regulars” to keep your meetings going. Don’t.
For the sake of newcomers and regular attendants, have a single point person.
If you have a point person who takes responsibility for the entire meeting—start to finish—you will not only experience deeper prayer, but deeper relationships with fellow believers as well.
2. Create a mission statement
People can pray in the shower. So why would they go to your meetings?
They want to contribute to a mission.
Here are a few mission statement examples you could use for your prayer meeting ideas:
To seek God’s help for people in desperate circumstances in our community.
Sometimes, prayer is not just a way to change God’s will, but is an opportunity for God to change our hearts. When the Apostle Paul commands Christians not to become thieves, his reason is that a Christian should be “doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).
Praying for your church and with other members is a way of knowing how to partner with God in helping others. This is inspiring to people who want to be valuable to the community, but don’t know how.
To practice the ancient liturgies of prayer for personal spiritual renewal.
Millennials are running in droves to liturgical churches.
Ancient and Anglican liturgies are currently very attractive to younger Christians.
It saturates the Christian in the depth of the Christian tradition.
This will draw in a younger audience who want to try a new, fresh approach to prayer. It also guarantees to newcomers that prayer won’t get lost in the humdrum of warbling that often happens during mission-less prayer meetings.
To confess sin, receive forgiveness, and pray for the needs of the saints.
This statement draws attendants interested in building relationships and deepening their own discipleship. Sometimes, we think of prayer meetings as get-togethers of the deeply mature Christians. But if it’s done correctly, the beginner believer has a primal need to meet in prayer.
Everyone needs prayer, and it is the job of the organizer to explain why:
“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16).
Get a mission.
Attract the purpose instinct that drives people to attend things.
Don’t rely on God to compensate for your lack of vision. God can’t give people a heart for a vision that isn’t cast. That’s what leaders are for. That’s what you are for.
Cast a vision and let God give people a heart for it.
3. Create a theme each week
One of the main reasons prayer meetings get derailed into wandering drawl is because the leader didn’t create a theme.
Making a theme doesn’t mean that attendees can’t pray for normal things—wife, kids, family, sickness, etc.
Creating a new theme each week has several benefits.
- It manifests the stated purpose of your group every week.
- It gives attendants who don’t usually pray something to start praying for.
- It helps attendants feel embedded to the needs of the church.
- It gives attendants a sense of community—it helps them feel: We are together in this.
Here are some ideas for leading a prayer meeting you can create:
“Today, let’s keep in mind our church’s missionaries in Togo, Mark and Joanna Jones, missionaries in Africa, whose three children are all sick right now. Let’s pray for healing, trust in God, and the doctors treating them.”
“Today, our theme is: … Forgiveness. ...Consistency. Love. Family. Chaos. Perseverance. Promises. Grief. Confession. Honesty. Integrity. Wisdom.
Today, let’s reflect on Philippians 4:19—"My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Paul felt a sense of relief, gratitude, peace, and dependence on God. Let’s ask God for that same experience with things we’re struggling to trust him with today.”
4. Write a liturgy to open and close the meeting
I know what you’re thinking:
An “opening” and “closing” sounds WAY too formal.
Trust me. It’s not.
People love formality. And, if there’s one thing prayer meetings lack, it’s formality.
Opening and closing liturgies accomplish two things:
- A clear beginning and ending to the prayer time.
- A way for the group to participate together and approach God.
If you can accomplish these two things with an opening and closing liturgy, then attendants will feel a sense of focus and fraternity as they pray together.
You don’t have to write a liturgy from scratch. But it will be good to have a call and response. Paul commands Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).
You can easily turn Scripture into a call-and-response liturgy. For example, you could take 2 Timothy 2:12-13 as an opening and Psalm 52:8-9 as a closing.
Opening (2 Tim. 2:12-13):
Leader:The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him,
Respondents:we will also live with him;
Leader:if we endure,
Respondents:we will also reign with him;
Leader:if we deny him, he also will deny us;
Respondents:if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
Closing (Ps. 52:8-9):
Leader:But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
Respondents:I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
Leader:I will thank you forever, because you have done it.
Respondents:I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
Use these liturgies as a tool to transfer from small talk into the time of prayer.
These liturgies can either be sent as an email to attendants before the meeting or printed and shared among attendants.
5. Make “free prayer” a closed time
Some people love long hours of unending prayer.
But some people get very anxious and claustrophobic in settings like this.
By creating a mission for the meeting, a theme for this particular week, and brackets for the prayer time (opening and closing liturgies), you give antsy attendants a light at the end of the tunnel.
When attendants trust that the leader will bring the “free prayer” time to a close at a responsible time, they are less distracted by wondering when it will end, and are able to better focus on the mission and theme of the meeting.
6. Write down a schedule
This sounds excruciatingly formal.
Think of it this way—the more boring things you do before the meeting, the more you are able to make your prayer meeting not boring for attendants and attractive to others.
Why do you need to write down a schedule?
Because there are a lot of details here.
But it’s very simple.
It goes like this:
- Show up.
- Small talk over coffee.
- Hand out opening prayers/closing prayers.
- Explain the meeting mission and introduce this week’s “theme.”
- Ask for prayer requests from the previous week.
- Lead opening prayer.
- Free prayer.
- Lead closing prayer.
- Ask for prayer requests for the coming week.
This is a simple prayer meeting idea.
Use this template to transform your prayer group.
You will tap into the deepest drives of human behavior that compel them to connect with others, with God, and to contribute to a purpose bigger than themselves.
7. Ditch the “email list”
This will be hard to hear:
You need to stop relying on the Gmail chain to communicate information.
An easy solution is to use a church management software to schedule, organize, and clearly communicate with prayer meeting attendants.The best event management app for your church is Tithe.ly’s church management software, which syncs directly with the custom app Tithe.ly builds for your church.
Members can just open the app and see all the latest details about events in your church, including your prayer meeting. There are several benefits to this.
First, people don’t want to read every single person replying “Okay!”
Attendants want immediate access to the latest details of the meeting, not a dozen inside jokes that they have to sift through to find necessary details. Give your prayer group—and every group in your community—the gift of clarity and ease for attendants.
Second, more people will hear about your prayer meeting!
You don’t have to rely on “word of mouth” for others to hear about your meeting. Anyone looking at events will see your meeting pop up on the app.
Nobody has to ask themselves the question:
“Is there a prayer meeting I can attend? Who leads it? How can I get information about it?”
In your prayer meeting event, you will have the point person’s contact information listed, the date, time, location, and description of the prayer meeting. It’s a pastor’s dream software.
Ready to start a prayer meeting?
Ask yourself this question one more time:
If I could revolutionize my prayer group with only a few small changes, would I?
Be honest with yourself.
Are you satisfied with the three regular attendants who show up? Or do you wish more people would be passionately committed to prayer in your church?
Lack of attendants at your prayer meeting might not be a matter of spiritual apathy—it might just be a matter of poor planning. Get planning. Set your church up with Tithe.ly’s ChMS.
Revitalize the spiritual life of your community today.
This post was updated on May 26, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.