In a previous Prayer Matters article, I mentioned the value of being connected to God by being part of a Prayer Group This is no less important now in these COVID times of lockdowns, physical distancing, and restrictions on meeting with others. Despite our wishes that the Pandemic would go away, it looks like it will be some time before we can meet together safely for prayer in small or large groups as we have in the past. As we go forward, we need to adapt and develop new ways to stay connected with each other and God in prayer.
Our ability to worship and pray together in a church building has become severely restricted. With the restrictions imposed by the Pandemic, being part of a group that meets together for prayer has become problematic and has caused may such groups to shut down. Many of us find it challenging to maintain a connection with God in prayer on our own. While we may pray for God’s help on an ad hoc basis when we, or others close to us, face difficulties, we often do not find the time, energy, or discipline to pray regularly by ourselves. Becoming part of a group that comes together regularly for prayer is more important than ever.
Electronic Prayer Groups
These days more and more of us are connecting with our family, friends and business colleagues by electronic means (e.g. Zoom, Uber Conference, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). In addition to allowing us to meet for much needed social contact, these electronic technologies also offer us opportunities to pray together more informally than in a worship service. This pandemic has cajoled and forced many of us to use video conferencing tools when we would rather not. Some have reluctantly learned how to use the technologies, and others have been unable or unwilling to do so. In forming an on-line prayer time, it is important to have a way of teaching and supporting those who may be either intimidated by the technology or otherwise lack the knowledge of what is required. Also, an impediment for some is a hesitancy to have their face seen closeup, or not at all. In this case, selection of a conferencing technology, such as Uber Conference, that allows for simple phone calls to a local phone number, can be helpful. People who cannot join electronically should not be excluded. They can also participate on their own by knowing when the on-line participants are gathering, and what the theme or reading will be for that session.
On-Line Prayer Time Framework
The structuring of a prayer time depends on the desires of the participants and the number of people involved, so the framework offered here is just a guide. Groups should feel free to shape their prayer time to their own needs and situations. Experience with video conferencing sessions has shown that keeping the time to less than an hour, preferably 30–45 minutes, works best. A possible outline follows. Items can be left out, the order can be changed, or other items included.
- Begin with an introduction to provide both an explanation of the structure of the prayer time and the application of the technology being used.
- Ask everyone to light a candle where they are.
- Opening prayer by a leader.
- Short check-in by participants, including introductions if necessary. Note: this will depend on the size of the group.
- The playing of some appropriate music.
- Establish a theme, with the reading of scripture or other selection.
- A reflection time about the reading. This may be a discussion or a silent time.
- A time of silent and/or verbal prayer by the participants. Note: this might need some management to avoid more than one person talking at once.
Being in a Prayer Group is deeply rewarding and strengthens our connection to God and we should not let the Pandemic prevent us from this important way of being in contact with the Divine Presence.