Another favorite technique for group prayer, when time and environment permit, is what's commonly called conversational (or "popcorn") prayer. This method recognizes that corporate prayer can easily devolve into a series of individual prayers, where the "experienced" pray-ers dominate with long, eloquent, or fervent soliloquies while the newer, more timid or just more reserved participants keep silent (or spend most of the prayer time trying to compose an acceptable prayer, hoping to sound competent or at least not foolish). Popcorn prayer begins with a couple of simple ground rules:
- No prayers over 2 sentences
- When someone is praying out loud, we're all praying
- Try to build on one anothers' prayers
Warning: if you bring this into an established group, it will take some getting used to. Some people have never prayed this way, and find it difficult to stop themselves after 2 sentences.
We've even used this quite a bit at home and have discovered our kids open up much more using this kind of open-ended model.
A couple of final notes: First, just to clarify, a devotional setting in a food court or a bowling alley is seldom conducive to this kind of interaction. Second, depending on your group dynamics, you may find it convenient to skip the "prayer request" time when you use the popcorn method, and simply invite people to lift their requests straight up to God ... after all, you're all praying together!
ACTS and popcorn prayer can be used in tandem, with the leader providing the transition from phase to phase. Begin with the leader explaining that you'll begin with adoration, and then at intervals announcing the transition to the next phase (i.e., "Confession!").
Finally, I'm a fan of praying the Scriptures. Psalms are perfect for this, of course, though there are others that can be used. I like to open or close a prayer time with a prayer directly from Scripture.