I have often wondered

It seems a pretty standard trait of almost every church I’ve been a part of (including Upstream) that when it comes to praying in a group, we almost always ‘share’ what’s going on (talk about it) and then when everyone’s had a turn we pray about it.

I have often wondered if the ‘sharing’ isn’t actually the prayer and I have always felt a little weird telling God the stuff he just heard when he was present with us in the conversation.

Its almost as if we behave like he’s not in the room until we are officially praying.

And yet because of my long history of prayer in this form I would feel like I hadn’t ‘prayed’ if we just talked. Maybe this is something I need to unlearn?…

What do you think?

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22 thoughts on “I have often wondered

  1. I was in a small prayer group (3-4 of us) for a while, and often our “sharing” took up all of the time we had. Our closing comment then was “catch” — kind of tossing the entire previous conversation up as prayer. It was a refreshingly nonreligious way to pray. I suppose the only thing that might have been missing was a pause in the conversation somewhere to let God speak.

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  3. What if, instead of sharing, we just went directly to praying and agreeing instead of sharing and (at least in my experience) discussing? I do like your point, though, about how we act like God isn’t there until we’re officially praying… whatever that’s supposed to look like. Good thoughts.

  4. Funny – I kinda had the self same thought when we were praying/sharing in our small group thang this Sunday. I found myself getting confused about whether I was praying or “sharing”.

    I agree with Paul – good thoughts

    Peace & blessings


  5. On the other hand, God knows our needs before we share or pray so why bother anyway?

    I guess that the sharing is about agreeing together and then the prayer is the act of demonstrating that ‘agreeing’ to God. I know that he’s just heard everyone agreeing together but if he already knows the need or that we’re thankful or whatever, isn’t the whole exercise about demonstrating our dependence on him and building relationship with him?

    I like Paul’s idea of just getting straight down to it, demonstrating our agreement with one another through prayer, as long as we don’t end up just talking to everyone else in the room and simply phrasing it as if it were directed to God.

    Of course praying for the benefit of the others in the room rather than speaking to God can be an issue with whatever method you choose.

  6. I agree. The gathering that I am a part of did the same thing. Too much time was wasted talking then repeating everything in prayer.

    One thing that did work well was to start a prayer time with confession. Once confession was complete we engage in silence. when silence was complete we just prayed.

    There really isnt any point in discussing before hand. Just pray…again just pray.

  7. Maintaining constant dialogue with God. He is always with us. Spiritual mystics such as Brother Lawrence and Thomas a Kempis had a constant awareness of God being with them and viewed all of life as a prayer (as I read them). There’s much to learn from this.

    I agree with Rev, more time listening in our actual ‘prayer time’. This would be easier and more natural for us if we understood that God is with us during our other conversations. Perhaps our prayer life can be improved if we made God more welcome in our other conversations.

  8. some of the most powerful prayer times i have encountered in a group setting included lots of silence, if prayer is communicating with God, we seem to only ever do it one way, we talk, he listens

    IMHO until we turn it the other way and we listen as he talks, prayer is mostly ineffective,

    listening prayer also nips in the bud any human tendencies to use speaking prayer as a preaching or guilting or grandstanding tool…..

  9. I think another thing is that we often use the “sharing” time of prayer requests for other needs than prayer requests (eg. our need to be listened to by others; not a problem necessarily but I reckon important to name) – I wonder how it would be different if we thought about what we were sharing as a thing “before God”, as a prayer etc. In my experience even when we have had the attitude that our conversation is prayer there has often been a different level of focus on ourselves, being heard by others, not as on about the kingdom etc than in the actual prayer time. So I wonder if part of the question isn’t about whether it’s sharing time or prayer time but about where our hearts (for want of a better word) are.

  10. The person that shares the request is often the one who leads the saints in prayer repeating what they have just shared!!! I wonder though how they feel when what they have just shared is not prayed for? Like, isn’t my request important?

  11. Hamo,

    Yes it has taken sometime to adjust too. I would not use the word “learn”. I think a better way of putting it is that we are discovering prayer. I am not sure there is a right or wrong way here.

    I have also observed that sometimes people need to just talk. We just need to get stuff off our chest. So people are not really interested in praying just talking.

    We are still growing here. If anyone has any advice please drop me a line.

  12. Maybe we need to start the sharing together with a starter that may be more useful to us than to God along the lines: Well, Lord, we are going to have a chat about the things that are really important to us. Thanks for listening in on our conversation.

  13. I would agree , praying is talking to god about anything, but I dont know if our sharing time could be also called our praying time. My experience has been that it is easier to sit and share than to pray, and sharing isnt wrong in fact I think more is needed. Perhaps we should look to what the scriptures say, when Jesus was in the garden and he went and asked the disciples to stay awake and pray for him I dont think he meant a have a sharing time, also when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray they must have noticed something different in the way he spoke to god.

    I dont think pray is an easy thing and seems to be something men have struggled with for centuries.

  14. Perhaps the answer is to change the focus of our time of sharing. Rather than it being a time of sharing items to pray about, perhaps the focus should be more on sharing maters which can be discussed briefly. I guess I mean having less of a shopping list of prayer items and more of an opportunity to raise matters through which we discuss things together, working through matters in the light of God’s word, gospelling one another and then praying through them together. I’m trying to envisage making the transition from it being a list of prayer items from individuals to a more community based discussion/prayer time.

  15. I suppose one thing I would say from our experience is that sharing together is vital in order to collate information, which then goes on to inform the prayer, which is surely the heart’s groaning to God.

    In reality a lot of ‘prayers’ are just sentences with ‘amen’ at the end (or not as the case may be), but often when speaking out prayer, one finds oneself being led by the spirit into different directions.

    As an example, somebody might share about a difficult situation in a country, so we begin to pray – and as we speak out our prayers, which may simply begin, ‘Oh Lord – we pray for the people of Chad…’ (or wherever) and then the prayer begins to form and become expressed in words. So perhaps a prayer forms for the leaders, for peacemakers, for whatever which then sparks something in someone else, and prayer becomes a living thing, a fluid connection between us and God, where we listen to him, and cry out for his will to be done.

    Another point to make is that when Jesus taught us to pray, he showed that there were a number of things to remember in prayer, not least to affirm God’s position in all things, which is something we often forget when ‘sharing’. Spoken out prayer can help put things into perspective in this way.

    Lots more stuff to say, am sure others will do so much more eloquently and wisely than I.

    Main thing is though, that all things can be prayer if God is deliberately included. Otherwise we could not pray constantly.

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