Ever heard someone start praying and all of a sudden they’re talking about something that wasn’t requested and you’re thinking, ‘what does that have to do with anything?’

photo credit: creation swap user Stacey Lewis

If you have, you’ve been a part of a prayer hijack.

If you’ve ever been in a small group, you’ve seen this in action. Allow me to illustrate.

Bob volunteers to pray for Mike and Sally because they’ve got a busy week ahead. Here’s how his prayer goes, starting with minute *0:00*:

00:00-1:00 – Opening intro to God

1:00-1:24 – Prayer for Mike and Sally

1:25-3:00 – Reciting random Scripture references

3:00-4:00 – Short exegesis on those Scripture references

4:00-5:00 – completely unrelated prayer of thanksgiving

5:00-7:00 – 5 point sermon on prayer, each pointing starting with the letter Y.

If you’ve ever used an outline for your prayers like that, or if you’ve ever heard someone use that outline and thought, “Oh, please Lord, let me never, ever pray like that out loud…” then make sure you refer to these 5 prayer reminders below.

5 Prayer reminders to Prevent Hijacking

1. Don’t preach a mini sermon. People aren’t bowing their heads and closing their eyes to hear your 5 alliterated points from Romans 8. If your prayer has points and subpoints, you’ve got a mini-sermon on your hands. Remember: you’ve been asked to pray. Not preach. They both start with the letter “p” but they are much different, oh mighty pray-er.

2. Don’t pray longer than 5 minutes. If you do, there’s no possible way you can stay on track. And there’s no way that anyone else is thinking anything positive about you after minute 1.5. If it takes you longer than 1.5 minutes to pray out loud in a group setting, ask them if you can be slated for the devotional next time.

3. Keep it focused. Remember the request you’re praying for. Stay on track, prayer warrior. I know your mind is running to all kinds of different prayers, sub prayers, and sub sub prayers…but keep your mind on the task at hand. Mike and Sally need you right now.

4. Long prayers intimidate others. Praying out loud is a great fear for people. And the longer your prayers are, the more people feel like they need to pray at least as long as you. Want to encourage people to pray? Then bring your stopwatch with you to small group.

5. This isn’t about you. Build your platform somewhere else. Impress your small group later. For now, bring someone’s request before God, and let the group move on. By trying to impress, you depress. And nobody wants a depressor in their small group. Nobody. Not even you.

Feel free to print these out on index cards and give them to everyone in your small group. Don’t just give them to that guy. If you do, it’ll just make things more awkward. And by “awkward,” I mean that his 7 minute prayer will blossom into a 12 minute prayer before the night is up.

Ever been a part of a prayer hijacking?

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. – Matthew 6:5

* photo credit: Stacey Lewis, creation Swap