Few things sound as overwhelming to Rooted participants as the Prayer Experience. Two to three hours of praying during Week 3 of Rooted? Let’s be honest, most people don’t spend 30 minutes a day praying, much less a few hours seeking to hear from God. For many, the thought of the Prayer Experience conjures up fear, anxiety, and sounds just about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, it’s a beautiful experience and one that participants will walk away from feeling encouraged and reminded that they can do this every day.
After the pilot rounds (please don’t skip these), our campuses made the shift to start hosting and centralizing the Prayer Experience. This may not work for everyone in every context, but below are five of the reasons we made this shift.
- Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That—Participants don’t skip the experience.
Participating in Rooted is a big ask. Tack on a two-hour experience and we found pilot groups felt like they didn’t have margin. So, we flipped the ask: join us for two and a half hours for the Prayer Experience and then, find additional time (such as breaking the fast and eating dinner afterwards) to debrief that week’s daily devotions. Basically, if you are going to skip something, skip discussion, not prayer.
- Mix It up with Old School Vibes—You can stretch your current prayer culture.
Every church has a liturgy, but ours is not a historically liturgical church. So, we wanted to stretch our Rooted participants through Lectio Divina (pages 108-109 of the Facilitator Guide). We also designed a prayer labyrinth and other experiential elements for the experience. One of our joys has been seeing people grow in comfort with these ancient practices and desire to use them.
- It’s a Big Big House (Without the Football)—Larger spaces were less intimidating for people.
You probably know this, but it rains a lot here in the Pacific Northwest. Add the short days in fall and the cold of winter, and the ability to host a Prayer Experience outside is hit and miss. The logistics of sitting in a living room for two hours or asking a leader to open up every room in their home for people was a barrier. A centralized large space allows for people to move around independent of the weather. As an added bonus, it is absolutely beautiful to see every corner of our space used for prayer during the experience.
- Leaders Are People Too—Leaders get to participate more in the prayer time.
By centralizing, hosting, and using the Lectio Divina guide, leaders do not have to watch the time or carry the responsibility of creating the perfect prayer environment. Instead, they are able to guide their group and immerse themselves in the experience. Freeing their minds from the logistics of the experience frees their hearts to engage with God.
- Bowling with Bumpers—You can develop younger staff in a safe environment.
Leadership development is a priority of our church, and yet finding great opportunities to let young staff lead is sometimes difficult. The Prayer Experience is one of the best environments to empower the people you are developing to lead. With a set structure in place, it gives them opportunities to learn how to set the tone for the experience, guide the participants through it and debrief with their group at the end.
There you have it, five reasons why we centralize our Prayer Experience. Doing this may not be for every church context, but it has worked well for us. And one of my favorite things about it is that the Prayer Experience is not just a Rooted event. We invite our staff and existing Home Communities to join us each round. It has become another tool for us to use as we pursue building prayer into the foundation of our culture and make it a rhythm for our whole church.
J. Grant Hickman is a Teaching Pastor and Rooted Champion at a multi-campus church in the greater Portland, Oregon area. He enjoys woodworking, surfing, and Texas, but mainly spending time with his wife Jenna and their five kids. Outside of exploring the PNW with his family he is working on a Doctorate in Ministry from Denver Seminary and loves equipping others to love like Jesus.