Thanking is one of the most important parts of prayer; without it prayer can sometimes grow dull and heavy. This is particularly likely in intercessory prayer groups where a long list of people dying from cancer, or people with broken homes, people without jobs, the homeless and the hungry can suck the person praying down into a kind of depression.
There are always two sides to anything in life, so intercession in a prayer group needs balancing with thanksgiving. In prayer groups this may well be verbalised, but the essence of thanking is not words but an attitude to life. Many years ago 'Punch' featured a cartoon of a great long chain gang of slaves engaged in building an Egyptian temple, passing bricks along the line one at a time, and one slave is saying crossly to his next door neighbour, 'For goodness sake, STOP saying "thank you" every time.'
Maybe even God might get fed up with repeated routine and the not really felt ‘thank-you’ but he surely rejoices at a thankful attitude to life.
A POSSIBLE GROUP MEETING
- Give paper and pens to everyone in the group and invite them to list all the things for which they would like to say 'thank you' to God. Allow a good fifteen minutes of silence for this so that people get past the things uppermost in their minds and go to matters deeper down and further back. Urge people to write, because for most of us to write helps to unblock both the mind and the imagination.
- Have available a very large sheet of paper or card and several tubes of glue. On a table in the centre have some small squares of paper (something like 3 inches square) along with plenty of coloured felt pens.
- Invite members of the group to take 3 or 4 or 5 small bits of paper each (according to the size of the group and the time available) and draw (or write if they must!) on each piece of paper something to illustrate one area of thankfulness in their life, selected from the longer list they have made.
- When all the drawing is complete, invite the group members to paste their papers to the chart and display it. If some kind of a pattern can be made, so much the better.
- Some of the words and drawings may not make sense, but leave the group to ponder the chart in silence for five minutes or so and then go round the group asking people to explain their own contributions.
- The whole group now prays both with the chart and with the rest of their own list in silence for about ten minutes.
- Finally, the leader names each member of the group in turn with a minute or two between each name so that silent prayer can be given for each person.
- End with a short spoken prayer or Grace said all together.