I must admit one of my pet peeves is a prayer hog. You know when you pray in a group and one person prays FOREVER and when they are done there’s almost nothing left to pray. Okay, so that is a bit overstated. But the truth is that in most situations, short conversational type prayers are much more enjoyable and easier to follow. After a couple of minutes of the same voice, it can be easy to drift off, “Did I answer that last email?” “I wonder how ____ is doing?” etc.
In a group setting, being sensitive to those around you and praying with the flow can significantly increase unity and joy in intercession. It’s meant to be a team sport, not where one person carries the “ball” the whole time.
It works well when the prayer leader sets a theme with a few sentences and then others join in with short prayers related to the theme and then when it appears no one else has a “comment” to add, move to another topic, just like a good conversation. When everyone has a chance to participate in the dialogue, they feel a significant part of something, rather than simply observing others talk to God.
Of course, there are exceptions! When a friend has a great experience or has just returned from an exciting trip and have lots to tell you, their enthusiasm carries the conversation and you don’t mind listening to them for a longer spell. In the same way, when the Spirit moves on someone and they are very passionate as they pray and you know the Spirit is leading them, it can be a great experience!
One reason for prayer hogs may be an old religious mindset that somehow longer prayers equal greater spirituality, causing some to develop a pattern of longwinded prayers. Reject this thought! Length of prayers has nothing to do with spirituality. A lot of Jesus’ prayers were quite short and to the point.
Another may simply be different styles of conversation that carry over to prayer life. There are what I like to call “stream” people who in five minutes you know all about what is going on in their lives as the “water” of their life flows freely exposed to everyone around them. Then there are “deep well” people who have a lot to say but typically wait for you to “put the bucket down” and invite them to share. One style isn’t better than the other, just different. I enjoy friendships with stream people and how what they are thinking and feeling just spills all over. I also enjoy the discovery process of deep well people who wait for timing and for invitation and whose conversations develop in layers as you ask questions.
“Stream” pray-ers may think that the “deep well” pray-ers don’t have anything to pray, not realizing they are waiting for the invitation of the pause. As we learn to honor one another in prayer, giving space for those who need it, we will find the ebb and flow of conversation in the Spirit that will unify and bless all.