hough sports have been cancelled during Covid-19, there is a new “spectator sport” that has arisen: online Church services.
With church services and gatherings being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an ease for the Christian expression of many to turn consumeristic. We can livestream our church services on Sunday morning, in our pajamas, from the comfort of our living room like we would a NFL game. Now more than ever, it is easy to disengage, riding the wave of apathy as we wait for restrictions to fully lift and COVID-19 to dissipate. As believers, there is a call now more than ever before to fully engage what is going on in the Spirit. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but there is no doubt that we are in a massive spiritual conflict right now. This calls for our full engagement, particularly in the place of prayer. Prayer, even through a Zoom call, is a full contact sport.
For many groups engaging in corporate prayer temporarily via an online platform—whether that be a church small group, a campus prayer ministry, or others—there are natural adjustments that will have to be made as people adapt to the new format. Here are five practical tips from what we have learned on how to help lead and facilitate a corporate, online prayer meeting.
Have A Designated Prayer Leader
While the entirety of the prayer meeting should be fully submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit, it helps to have a clearly designated prayer leader (most often the same person who is the “host” of the meeting) to help lead prayer. It is the prayer leader’s job to help cast vision for the prayer subject, keep people on track should prayers start to veer off topic, and encourage engagement throughout.
Have A Set Topic, And Stay The Course
Have a prepared prayer topic before the meeting. We encourage using specific Bible verses as a basis for prayer. Having a set topic and Biblical references helps people engage and focus in a corporate prayer setting. The aim should be to have a laser-beam focus instead of a shotgun approach to prayer. Should people start to veer off-topic, it is the job of the prayer leader to help limit distractions and bring people back on track. This oftentimes can be as simple as the prayer leader following up someone’s off-topic prayer with a prayer of their own that is in line with the targeted focus, bringing the group back on track to the primary objective.
Set a Consistent Time and Length
If you are helping to host a recurring prayer meeting, set a consistent time that works for the majority of the participants to attend. This way, they can best plan their weeks and other events around this commitment. Having a set length—such communicating in advance that prayer will be one hour long—will help people be able to say yes to attending as opposed to having uncertainty over when the prayer meeting will end each week. This will also help to keep the prayer leader on track when he or she knows that they only have a specific amount of time.
Have An Easy To Use And Consistent Platform
Making your online prayer meeting as accessible as possible will benefit your overall attendance. We recommend platforms such as Zoom, which is easy to create and send out a joinable link beforehand. There are pros and cons to each platform however (Zoom for example has a 40-minute limit for a free account), so we recommend researching first what will work best for your group. Whichever one you choose, there will most likely be a technology learning curve for at least some of the participants, so keeping the platform as consistent as possible will help limit readjustment each time. If you are hosting the meeting, make sure to test it out yourself beforehand so that you are familiar with the technology and know that it works with your computer. This applies as well to any others that you might have as co-hosts or as prayer leaders.
Utilize Different Types Of Prayer
Different styles of prayer serve to facilitate different types of engagement with the participants in the prayer meeting. The prayer leader should use each of them discerningly, gauging where the participants are and also the leading of Holy Spirit. A couple examples of different styles of prayer are:
- This style of prayer works particularly well on an online prayer forum. Participants take turns praying on a set topic, moving on from one to the next either by the prayer leader calling on each person by name, or by a pre-arranged order of prayer.
- Concerted Intercession.
- Here, all the participants pray out loud together on a particular topic. It will be helpful for the prayer leader to unmute all of the participants’ microphones and clearly communicate the expectation for the next segment of prayer. Once finished (this style of prayer typically only lasts for a minute or two as it is harder to sustain for a long period of time), the prayer leader can mute the mics of all of the participants and close out in prayer for that segment.
- “Popcorn” style
- This style of prayer is very free flowing, and like the name suggests the flow of prayer “popcorns” from person to person as each individual is moved to pray. Sometimes there can be awkward starts as two people try to pray at the same time, but don’t let that discourage you or keep you from prayer—press through! If there is an awkward silence, the prayer leader may have to verbally encourage others to jump in (example: “Let’s have one or two more pray before we move on to the next prayer point,” or “Let’s have someone pray who hasn’t gone yet”).
As you continue to figure out doing prayer meetings online, at the end of the day, the most important step to take is to simply just start praying! It doesn’t have to be perfect or exactly as you imagined, as you’ll be learning along the way. E.M. Bounds so notably once said,
“The most important lesson we can learn is how to pray.”