Without you, I wouldn’t have the chance to write a book version of Stuff Christians Like with Zondervan. Thank you for that opportunity. I’m going to say that as often as possible. And I want to be open about the book writing process. Part of what I need to do is pick posts from the site that should go in the book. The majority is going to be new but I do want to include some favorites. So I’m going to post a few essays every now and then and would love to hear if you think they should go in the book. Today’s is “The 7 People You Meet in a Prayer Circle,” which is a remix of post #159.
Should it go in? Yes? No? Did I miss something? Thanks for your help.
The 7 People You Meet in a Prayer Circle
Prayer circles can provide some surprisingly tense moments. At church or in a small group, someone will say, “I’ll open us in prayer, Lisa you close us. 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? There are so many questions, each fraught with danger and intrigue. That’s why I have created the simple, “7 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 not become a made for television movie.
7 people you meet in a prayer circle:
1. 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 add cute little jokes to the opening prayer, the people after them will 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.
2. 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 small inhale that occurs a split second before someone speaks. 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 an inhale from the Almost-er stops you again. It’s quite a little dance.
3. 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 the Rambler’s 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.”
4. The Cave In
Deciding not to pray in a prayer circle is like not giving to a love offering. What you don’t feel led? You’re the only person in the room that didn’t get led? The Holy Spirit isn’t speaking to you right now? Maybe we should pray for you instead of doing this prayer circle. Expect at least one person to be the Cave In.
5. 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 end up 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 there 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!”
6. 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 when everyone in the rooms knows that someone is praying for something they should be praying. The entire circle knows that Mark is the wrong guy for Mary but she prays for their relationship. Here’s what happens:
Mary: “Lord, I pray that you would continue to strengthen and bless my relationship with Mark.”
Shot blocker: “Lord please give Mary more patience, discernment and clarity in her relationship. Help her see the truth you are trying to reveal to her.. Help her not rush into anything.”
This is the basketball equivalent of someone blocking your shot into another state. Right as the prayer if floating up to heaven, someone swoops in and shot blocks it back into the crowd.
7. 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.
Those are the seven. I didn’t list out the Encore-ist with any detail because God can’t stand that person. Hopefully, in the next prayer circle you get in, you’ll be able to save some embarrassment and rush quickly to the role you want to play.