Note: To me, it’s a very good idea for churches to offer formal training before releasing individuals to pray officially on behalf of their church. Therefore I developed this etiquette guide for Prayer Team members within the church setting. I have used it as part of overall training of those who wanted to minister at the end of services or on the church prayer team. I have always found that training people in the practical aspects of praying for others produces a positive experience on both sides and avoids misunderstanding or any harm.
I give permission to reproduce the Prayer Etiquette Guide for those who might find it helpful as long as credit is given. When copying, include this statement: ©Prayer Etiquette by Barbara Lardinais, www.hannahscupboard.com, Used by Permission.
Sensitivity and common sense are the keys to proper prayer etiquette. We pray “in the Spirit” but we live in a physical world and need to observe some rules of behavior in the way we relate to people and their prayer needs.
In prayer we often operate in close quarters and need to be sure we are not a distraction or offense to the people we are trying to minister to. Clean bodies, clean clothes, fresh breath is a must. Carry breath mints. Don’t invade people’s personal space. (Watch body language such as if people back up.)
Think through the clothes you are wearing in ministry situations. Be properly covered. Again, do not be a distraction to people you are praying for. Women with skirts need to be careful of walking around a floor where people may be laying or resting in the Spirit. Don’t walk over people. Maintain a proper distance.
Try to pray for people of the same gender; however, this is not always practical or possible. In fact, often a good prayer team consists of a man and a woman so that you can cover all possible situations. As the prayer request is mentioned, sometimes one or the other partner needs to step back and be in a more prayer support mode. For instance, a woman conveys a need for prayer of a gynecological nature. The woman prayer team member takes the lead on that and the man takes a more passive position. (But don’t be afraid if you are the only one available.) Take cues from the person you are praying for regarding what is comfortable for them. Do not be drawn away to pray for someone of the opposite sex in a private room outside the open scrutiny of the church setting.
For people you don’t know well, get permission to pray for them and ask if it is all right to touch them/lay hands on them. If you have oil, ask if it is okay to anoint them and explain the oil if you sense they have no idea why you would do that. Respect people’s privacy, don’t invade them or seek details they seem uncomfortable to give. If you do lay-on-hands, do so appropriately—no rubbing or massaging. Just a gentle touch on the forehead or shoulder is enough to connect. If you want to add another person to your prayer team for this particular situation, ask if that is all right.
Regardless of what discernment you may have about a person’s situation, pray in a way that is positive and gives hope and encouragement. If you can’t think of a positive way to state something you are sensing, withdraw and talk to another person about it and come to a conclusion about how to broach the issue. Or, pray in the Spirit and see if God will reveal an acceptable approach. This does not mean that you need to be Pollyannaish and only say nice stuff because that can be offense too. But a person should come away from prayer feeling encouraged and touched by God, not discouraged, angry and defensive.
You may learn things about a person in the prayer setting that could be embarrassing for them if known in a wider circle. Keep confidences. Cause people to trust that they are in a safe place by maintaining strict integrity with what you know about them. (Exceptions to this: criminal activity that MUST be reported i.e. child abuse or suicide intention.)
It is entirely appropriate (though not required) to seek feedback when the prayer is finished. “How do you feel now?” “Is there anything else I can pray?” “Did the prayer hit the mark for you?” Etc. By the way, it is also sometimes appropriate to pause during prayer and ask for clarification or direction from the person you are praying for. This is especially true if you did not clearly identify the purpose of the prayer very well up front.
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