When a good friend proposed the idea of a weekly prayer group to our shared circle of friends, I jumped on the idea. My confession is that the eagerness I felt had less to do with the idea of praying and more to do with the thought of seeing this group of women regularly. We’re in a long-distance series of friendships, spanning two time zones and four states, and the prospect of having a particular reason to meet through video chatting every Tuesday thrilled me.
The fruits of this practice
I didn’t underestimate how much this practice would nourish our friendship—years of long-distance friendships have taught me that there’s nothing like weekly check-ins to keep your relationships connected and close—but I did underestimate how much it would nourish my prayer life. I dabbled in small group Bible studies throughout high school and college, I attend Mass regularly, and part of my job as a Director of Faith Formation at a church is facilitating small group faith sharing for teens and adults, but this was my first time truly praying with others in an open, vulnerable, hold-nothing-back kind of way.
I noticed several things through group prayer. For starters, the insights of my friends helped me see God in a new way; hearing their interpretations of the sections of Scripture that we read together widened my perspective on passages that I’ve been examining through my own lens for years. Secondly, I discovered the comfort and peace that come from knowing that good friends are praying for you in a specific way. At the end of each of our chats, we named intentions that we’d like each other to hold for the month, and this practice became a buoy for me. The opposite is also true: knowing how I could pray for my friends gave a portion of my offline prayer time a new kind of focus.
How to start your own long-distance prayer group
Having a prayer group deepened my spiritual life and my relationships, and it wasn’t difficult to do. Here are three simple steps to starting a prayer group:
- Think about who you would like to pray with, and ask them to join you.
Though inclusivity is always a worthy objective, remember that a prayer group isn’t a trip to the bowling alley. Your group will be most fruitful if all who are involved are equally committed to openness, caring for each other, and deepening their relationship with God. Also consider your group size. I found that with four group members we were all able to contribute substantially (during our catch-up time, prayer, and sharing of intentions) and still keep our gatherings to an hour. It’s worth keeping in mind how larger numbers of members would impact the timing as well as the group dynamics.
- Sort out the logistics.
Together, figure out how often and in what way you and your circle will meet. If you live in the same geographic area, you could meet at someone’s house, a coffee shop, or a church. (Most parishes have space that goes unused at least one night of the week; ask a parish staff person if you could use it.) If your group lives far apart (or even if you live close by but don’t have a good meeting spot or don’t want to spend time commuting) do not be deterred. Apps such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom make it easy to meet remotely.
- Decide on a format for your gatherings.
My friends and I chose to pray together using Lectio Divina, but other forms of prayer could work equally well in a communal setting. We determined that we would spend the first twenty minutes or so of our time together catching up on life, the next thirty minutes on Lectio, and then devote the last ten minutes to sharing our prayer intentions for the week. Having a game plan helped us to make the most of our time and allowed us to be present for the whole hour.
Group prayer has deepened my spiritual life and my friendships. Maybe it can for you, too!