Ask them, “How may I pray for you?”
I have found asking people how to pray for them is one of the most valuable things I can do. This simple question unlocks the doors of their hearts. This is especially true when they know that you are listening carefully and will pray for them. People will share their deepest problems and greatest concerns with you.
Ask them, “What do you want God to do about this?”
I used to pray for people how I wanted to pray for them. Now, I ask what they want prayer for. This is important. Once, a lady asked me to pray for her mother who was very sick. I would have prayed for God to intervene and heal her, but that is not what the daughter wanted. She wanted God to take her mother home quickly and without any more pain because her mother was a Christian and had suffered greatly. Asking what they want God to do helps you get to the heart of the matter. It helps you be on the same page so you can agree in prayer with them.
Then say, “Let’s pray right now.”
I used to tell people I would pray for them, and then I would forget. Now I pray for them right after they tell me their need, even if it is over the phone or in the lobby of the church. I have learned to `strike while the iron is hot’ by immediately taking the need to God. I recently spoke with one of my small group leaders whose 85 year-old father is dying. At the end of our conversation, I prayed aloud for him, his father, and his family. He was choking back tears as we concluded the prayer. He thanked me and told me he was so glad to be in a church where he was loved. Many times I have sensed the inrush of God’s Spirit when I paused to pray aloud for someone’s request. Hundreds of times, I have seen them wipe tears off their cheeks when I have finished. A simple prayer can draw us wonderfully near to God and each other.
Now ask, “Do you want to pray?”
If they are reluctant, do not push them to pray. If they tell me they don’t want to pray, or if their silence tells me they do not want to, I usually say, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. God knows your heart. Maybe next time.” But often they do appreciate the opportunity to express for themselves their need to God and their gratitude for your caring enough to pray.
It also gives you added insight in their need and their prayer lives.
Dave Earley. The 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders (Kindle Locations 432-440). Kindle Edition.
Check out the study guide to Dave Earley’s book: http://www.joshhunt.com/8Habits.html