The most familiar kind of prayer is pastoral prayer. It is a really good faith building discipline to ask for prayer from the group for particular issues in your life and then report back as to how God is working his purposes out in these situations.
A few words of warning though.
If this is the only pattern of prayer it is in danger of making the Kingdom of God all about me and my problems.
It is in danger of being group therapy under the auspices of prayer.
Some people don’t feel at all comfortable sharing their problems with a group.
It is worth making sure that there is a variety of patterns of prayer used in your group, and below are some resources to help.
The tradition of contemplative prayer is based on the belief that the presence of God is ‘not far from each one of us’ and is to be experienced in the silence behind our breathing, our thoughts and our consciousness itself. It is a prayer of resting in the presence of God and finding our identity not in what we do, or say but simply in being with God. It is something that requires practice, and can feel like a struggle to unite heart and mind, and still ourself. But in time it becomes a deeply refreshing discipline.
There is a helpful liturgical bookend to times of contemplative silence in Evening Prayer and a time of contemplative silence can be 5 minutes or much longer.
That this evening may be holy, good and peaceful,
let us pray with one heart and mind.
Silence is kept.
As our evening prayer rises before you, O God, so may your mercy come down upon us to cleanse our hearts and set us free to sing your praise now and for ever.
To intercede is to ‘Intervene on behalf of another.’ So Intercessory prayer is the practice of praying for God’s kingdom to come in our community, our nation and our world. People sometimes find intercession difficult because we don’t know what to pray, or whether our prayers make a difference. But the discipline is important as we enter into the pain of the world, and learn to as we learn to wrestle with complex and difficult circumstances and seek what it means to say ‘Your kingdom Come’
‘in Christ everything has been accomplished. Our prayer then is the discipline by which we pray for what has already been accomplished what to be made visible’
There are lots of creative ways to do intercessory prayer.
Share out the pages of a newspaper & prayerfully tear out stories for prayer.
Leo suggested a method called ‘inkpot’ where he would simply say a word like ‘war’ ‘peace’ ‘economy’ and so on and people would pray in response to those.
Pray into people’s work situation – give on person time to talk about the issues and problems within their sphere of work, or an area of interest to them – like teaching, the legal profession, economics, the arts, and so on. Then pray in an informed way for that sphere of life.
We will add more suggestions here…
The ancient tradition of the daily office – morning & evening prayer and night prayer (known as compline) offers a structure and rhythm of prayers. They take us by the hand and lead us into prayer and worship, which is really helpful when we are tired, or don’t know how to pray.
You can find many good patterns of prayer online
Anglican Evening Prayer
Anglican Night Prayer
Northumbrian Evening Prayer
And it is best to print some out beforehand.
Feel free to edit, shorten or mix up these prayers – they are tools to be used, not something sacred.
Lectio is a practice of contemplative prayer through meditation on the Bible.
In practice it is best to choose a short passage (no more than 2 or three verses) often a saying of Jesus.
Traditionally the practice is to allow four stages or movements.
Read. Prepare by asking people to still themselves and quieten their minds. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to illumine God’s word. Then after a moment read out the verse slowly and deliberately. Repeat this three times with a period of silence between.
Meditate Ask the group to reflect on the verse, focusing not simply on intellectual knowledge but personal application.
Pray. Ask the group to pray simple prayers of reflection on the verse.
Contemplate Spend time in silence allowing the depth of the truth to sink into you, and own them for yourself. Close with a prayer.
The Ignatian Examen
Ignatius of Loyola was a 16th Century Spanish Knight who became the founder of the Jesuit movement. The Examen is based on the practice he taught of reflecting on the events of the day to discern God’s leading and direction through them.
1. Still yourself and acknowledge God’s presence
2. Review the day with gratitude, as a gift from God. Recognise the good, the bad, the success and the disappointments.
3. Pay attention to your feelings and emotions. Recognise them as important, but also as flawed
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it for understanding.
5. Look toward tomorrow.