This, can be a surprisingly tense moment. At church or in a small group, someone will say, “I’ll open us in prayer, Lisa you close us, and everyone else pray if you feel led.”
Suddenly, there’s an expectation. In less than a minute that opening prayer is going to be finished and you’ll be faced with an incredibly difficult decision. Do I pray? Do I feel led? When do I pray? When is the “Closer” going to speak up and put an end to this prayer? How do I not start praying at the same time as someone else? So many questions, each fraught with danger and intrigue. That’s why I have created the simple, “6 people you meet in a prayer circle.” It’s like that book, “5 people you meet in heaven,” but slightly more sarcastic and bound to sell slightly fewer copies. Actually it will sell none, because here it is:
6 people you meet in a prayer circle:
1. The Almost-er
This is the person sitting near you that is constantly on the verge of praying. You can hear them doing that little breath thing, that little exhale before you are about to speak. And you can hear it because it’s loud in the deafening silence of the prayer circle. Every time you are about to say a prayer you hear the Almost-er and you stop out of courtesy. And then they don’t pray. So you start again and a long exhale from the Almost-er stops you again. It’s quite a little dance.
2. The Gun Slinger
When there are only two people left that have not prayed and the Closer is mentally warming up to end the session, you may find yourself in a prayer showdown. It’s just you and another girl that looks like a heathen right now for not praying. The entire circle senses that the prayers were good but they need one more before the Closer prays. They need one more tiny prayer to kind of wrap things up. But you don’t want to pray and neither does the Gun Slinger. So you sit their in silence across from each other like cowboys in the street, waiting, letting the tension and the awkwardness build until finally someone draws their gun and blurts out, “Lord thank you for this day and everything you blessed us with!”
3. The Opener
You might think the “Closer” is the one with all the power, but don’t be misled, the opener is in control. In addition to often choosing the Closer, they set the tone for the entire prayer circle. If they go long, people after them are going to go long. If they work in cute little jokes to the opening prayer, the people after them are more likely to be casual too. More than that, they don’t need to worry about the Closer or fear someone cutting them off. They can pray and then relax. Their job is over and done in a matter of seconds.
4. The Rambler
Another name for this person is the “Jon Acuff.” This is the guy or gal that sees the chance to pray in front of people as an open microphone. A chance to not so subtly reference everything they’ve recently learned during their quiet time in one long, rambling prayer. And there’s no way to stop them, unless you are married to them. If you are, then like my wife, you can grab his hand and give him a squeeze that says, “I love you, you are good at praying but no one wants to hear about the spiritual mysteries you have uncovered recently in the book of Joel.”
5. The Cave In
Deciding not to pray in a prayer circle is like not giving to a love offering. What you don’t have any love in your heart? What you don’t feel led? You’re the only person in the room that didn’t get led? Maybe we should pray for you instead of doing this prayer circle. Expect at least one person to be the Cave In.
6. The Closer
Closing a prayer circle is like being Spiderman. It’s a gift and a responsibility. Although you get to determine when it ends, you also have to monitor the amount of quiet time that signifies everyone has gone. Because what you don’t want to happen, what the Closer fears the most is the “Encore-ist.” This is the person that goes after the Closer, boldly defying all rules of group prayer. It’s an embarrassing situation for a Closer and for a few minutes afterward it’s hard to make eye contact with them.
Bonus – 7. The Shot Blocker
This one is rare. Hearing this one in a group prayer is like seeing a unicorn. On the highway. With Gary Coleman riding it’s back in the breakdown lane. In basketball, when someone on the opposing team swats your shot with their hand, preventing you from scoring, this is called “shot blocking.” The same thing can happen in a prayer circle. It usually looks like this:
Person 1: “Lord, thank you for affirming my decision to take a new job.”
Shot blocker: “Lord please give Danielle more patience and discernment as she looks for a new job. Help her not rush into anything.”
This is the basketball equivalent of someone blocking your shot into another state. Just as you try to send up a prayer to God, they swoop in and contradict you. (Thanks LunarWorld for the idea.)
Those are the six people I find most common in prayer circles, but I bet you’ve run into some others in your day.