Learning to Love Prayer Meetings

I don’t love prayer meetings. 

Am I allowed to say that? 

I’m married to a pastor. I love church. I love my church. I love prayer. I love God’s Word. But I really struggle with prayer meetings. 

I’m not saying this is anyone’s fault. I’ve been to a number of churches and a number of prayer times and I can honestly admit that this issue I have is ninety percent my own heart. I need to also add that I’m learning to like them, and in fact, to even crave times of prayer with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But it’s taken time, change, and fresh eyes to get here. 

Let me explain myself a bit before you decide I’m a terrible person. 

In many of the prayer meetings I’ve been a part of, we are all talking and sharing before prayer. There’s laughter, tears, venting, and processing. It’s usually after diving into a book of the Bible so God’s words are fresh in our minds. Then, as our eyes close and our heads bow, the emotional temperature of the room shifts dramatically to somber and serious. Tones of voice become soft and low. Someone who a moment ago used the word “higgledy-piggledy” is now speaking in fancy old English and might even be quoting Shakespeare. 

I picture God listening to us. I imagine Him as majestic and meek, Creator and Comforter, deity and Father. He came to us as we are, so that we could come to Him. He was born into dirt and cold and frail humanity; He does not require loftiness for connection. 

Why is it we can laugh and cry and be real with the friend sitting next to us, but we come to our Father prim and proper? The feeling of inauthenticity in many group prayers was such a turn off to me that for a long time I tuned out or avoided those times altogether. However, when we put up a roadblock in our hearts toward our community, it rarely leads to anything other than stagnation and bitterness. 

I mentioned my heart has softened towards communal prayer; here are a few things that have helped with that shift:

  1. Try praying with your eyes open. Years ago in youth ministry, we would stand in a circle facing one another and pray with our eyes open. It was super awkward at first, but eventually made group prayer feel more like a conversation. 
  2. Try praying Scripture. In our small group that meets in our home, we will pray the principles found in the passage we have just read. This is as simple as repeating the Scripture word for word as a prayer for your current times. For example, praying 2 Corinthians 6:4, “God, as your ministers, help us to commend ourselves in everything by endurance, even if there are afflictions and difficulties.” Pray God’s Word.
  3. Try the 3-5 word rule. “God, give us wisdom.” Pray as simply and directly as possible.
  4. Try recognizing that all people have their own style of praying. Being more or less formal doesn’t change the way God hears it. Believe the best of others. 

I’m confident there are countless prayer meetings around the world that have had unknowable impacts on the lives of others. Let’s not let our preferences, perceptions, and preconceived ideas prevent us from taking part in this gift God has given us. Like Matthew says in Chapter 18, verse 20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” 

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