If you are participating in CatholicMom’s summer study program, Lawn Chair Catechism, you know we are on the last chapter of Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, “Expect Conversion.” In her conclusion and recommendations, she mentions the resource of prayer groups in several sections.
Those unfamiliar with prayer groups may not have a clear idea of what they do, especially at the most evangelistic level of a prayer meeting.
- The prayer meeting is not a mass, yet provides a structure for worship.
- It is not a Bible study, but Bible passages will always be read by at least one person. Bible study groups are held at another time.
- It’s not a devotional service with repeated prayers. The Lord is worshipped and praised with all kinds of prayer expressions.
- It’s not a lecture, but often one of the leaders gives a prepared teaching.
- It’s not a share group, although people share with the group how the Lord is working in their lives. Small share groups are held at other times.
- It’s not a healing service, but prayers for healing are directed to individuals. Some prayer groups have intercessory prayer teams for extended prayer at another time.
- It’s not a concert, but music enhances the praise and worship and the healing prayer.
- It’s not a social hour, but there is plenty of fellowship before and after.
- It’s not a retreat or structured study of how to form a personal relationship with the Lord, engage in spiritual warfare, find spiritual direction or evangelize. Separate retreats, Life in the Spirit Seminars and other formation courses cover many aspects of the priorities listed in Forming Intentional Disciples.
- The prayer meeting doesn’t teach you how to form or equip disciples. It helps you become one. For me, the prayer meeting is a place to love God freely and let him love me.
If your diocese has an area-wide prayer community or charismatic center, that’s a good place to start. Most of their events are open to the public and their leaders can point you to websites and local resources. The larger covenant communities may have an outreach ministry that will come to your parish and give a Life in the Spirit Seminar.
The first step is to grow your own relationship with the Lord so you can understand where your fellow parishioners are coming from and the heights to which they can rise. From a personal commitment to the Lord comes a deep prayer life, a close connection with the Holy Spirit and everything else you need recognize those whom God is calling to form a core group to evangelize your parish. With the inspiration, teachings, example and support of a prayer group you can discover and yield to the charisms needed to form a community of intentional disciples.
A prayer meeting is only one of the many first stepping-stones toward discipleship. Pray for guidance and understand that evangelism is not up to you and your strengths and hard work. Free from that burden, you can receive the confident assurance that God will manifest his power and presence and provide whatever you need to build up his body. As Sherry writes, “We have to expect and plan for conversion and the fruit of conversion.”