Does the phrase “disciple prayer band” bring to mind an image of Simon Peter, Andrew, Thomas, and the gang praying in an upper room? Perhaps in your mind’s eye you see early Christians gathering secretly to worship together? Or maybe you imagine an actual group of musicians–a band–bowing their heads. None of these are inaccurate, but they’re also not the subject of today’s musings.
At our church (please see below for more information about New Life Methodist), we have formed several disciple prayer bands over the past few months, and those of us who have participated have been immeasurably blessed.
What’s a prayer band, you ask? You can find much more information in the Discipleship Bands Field Guide, but I’ll give you an overview–a “quickstart guide,” if you will. The quotations in today’s article come directly from the above link.
First, a little history. John Wesley, a cleric, theologian, and evangelist, founded the Methodist movement within the Church of England in the 18th century. He was originally introduced to a form of band meetings in 1738 when he observed them in the Moravian church. Wesley’s band meetings, small groups divided by gender and marital status, provided a place for people to speak about their lives without reserve. He believed that “a holy life cannot be lived out alone, but only can be lived out in relationship to other Christians.”
Today’s bands don’t necessarily replicate Wesley’s band meeting model exactly. In short, we meet together, share our lives together, and pray for one another.
A discipleship band is neither a traditional small group nor a typical accountability group. The primary curriculum is the lives of its participants, joined together in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Our bands are flexible, and not necessarily meant to be long-term, although in some cases, that may happen. After meeting weekly for four to six weeks, we re-evaluate. Perhaps the band wants to stay together. Perhaps a member wants to step back for awhile. The hope is that members will step out and form their own bands, with the result of forming multiple disciple-like connections within the congregation.
In the Discipleship Bands Field Guide, authors Mark Benjamin and J.D. Walt explain that a discipleship band is for:
…anyone who desires to grow in love for God and neighbor. It is for those desiring to share life on a deeper level with a few others. It is for those who wish to share joys and burdens and pray and be prayed for. Most important, these groups are for ordinary, everyday people who face real life and want to journey with real people.
Every prayer band is unique in the way it operates, but they all follow these general guidelines:
We respect the clock. Meetings seldom run over one hour.
Every member has permission to skip a question.
When someone is sharing, we listen deeply. We don’t give advice or interrupt.
Everything shared is strictly confidential. Members do not share another person’s story, struggles, successes, sins, or secrets outside the group. What happens in prayer band stays in prayer band!
Here’s what happens in the band meetings that I’ve participated in. Our opening and closing prayers are adapted from Ephesians 5:14 and 3:16–21.
The opening prayer:
Heavenly Father, we pray that out of your glorious riches you would strengthen us with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And we pray that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
After the opening prayer, we take turns answering the following questions:
How is it with your soul?
What are your struggles and successes?
How might the Spirit and Scriptures be speaking in your life?
After each member speaks, we pray for that person. After all have spoken, we close with the following prayer:
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
My personal experience with a prayer band has been that we have truly become sisters in Christ, and these kinds of friendships strengthen our lives as well as the life of our church.
While prayer bands could be formed outside of a church setting, I do believe that this type of small group is most beneficial when multiple groups are formed within a congregation. “To be sure, Jesus dwells in our individual lives, but He multiplies His movement through the bonds between us. It’s where two or three are gathered in His name that He presences Himself in powerful ways.”
If your church already has prayer bands, I encourage you to join one. You will find that you become more connected, not only with your band members, but with your church as a whole. If you have questions, feel free to send me a message below on this website.
If you attend New Life Methodist of Pell City, prayerfully consider joining a band! I think–I know–that you will be blessed.
*New Life Methodist of Pell City–We are an independent Methodist Church in the Wesleyan tradition. We are not a United Methodist Church. Our congregation was formed in 2022 when 180 of us exited the UMC over doctrinal differences. For more information about what happened (and is continuing to happen) in the United Methodist Church, see the previously-published articles:
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