Prayer groups sprang up spontaneously and simultaneously in many parts of the world as the first fruits of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit among Catholics.
When Pierre Goursat and Martine Laffitte received an outpouring of the Spirit at Troussures in February 1972, their first decision was to gather to pray together regularly. They invited others to join them and, in one year, without any advertising, the group grew from 5 to 500 members. These came from several parts of Paris.
The initial experience was very simple – the first « charismatics » took the words of the Gospel literally, ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Mt 18: 20) and ‘… how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’(Lk 11:13). They decided to meet together to invoke the Holy Spirit, and immediately charisms arose among them – the Lord spoke to His children gathered in His name. ‘These meetings’, said Pierre Goursat, ‘are under the inspiration of the Spirit. Very simply, we allow ourselves to be led by Him.’ The foundations of theprayer meetingarepraise,invocationof the Holy Spiritand listening tothe Word ofGod.
Ordinarily the prayer meeting takes place once a week in the evening (some groups may also adopt another frequency or meet at other times). It is led by a small team (the ‘core group’) which meets to pray before the main group comes together. This team, after ‘consulting’ the Lord, chooses someone as co-ordinator who leads the meeting so that ‘all things be done decently and in order.’ (1 Cor 14:40). But this person decides nothing on their own and frequently consults other team members.
The prayerdoes not take placeaccording to a setstructure, but it is goodthat it begins witha time freely praising God who is alive and present – praise thatopens heartsand disposes people to listen to God. Singing has an important placeat theprayer meeting – one or morepersons are appointedto selectthe hymns andstart them at an appropriate time.This may be after an acclamation,an invocation tothe Holy Spirit or a meditativechantthat encourages an interior awareness etc.During theprayer, everyone can freely expresstheir own prayeraloud, exercise a charism, give a testimony, etc., while remainingattentive towhat God saysthrough thegroup. It is desirable, before speaking to ask confirmation from one’s neighbour – so that prayeris communaland not just ajuxtapositionofindividual prayers. Whenthe co-ordinator thinks it is time to conclude, he or she summarizeswhat God hasmade clearduringthe meeting and then all singa finalprayer.The meeting may continue withsmall sharing groupswhereeveryone expresseswhat the wordof God has meant in their own personal life.
The prayer meeting is a school of humility, where one listens to the Spirit in fraternal submission. There is however a risk of staying locked in isolation. Pierre Goursat ensured that groups bore fruits of charity, compassion for the poor and evangelization.
Theprayer meeting, open to all,isthe ideal place toinvite aperson who is far fromthe Church.There are many peoplewho experiencea personal encounterwith the Lord there and meet theChristian community.They can thenmove towardsthe Church and a commitment toserve it.
To go further
- Il est vivant !n°190, January 2003
- ‘Fire and Hope’ by Hervé-Marie Catta and Bernard Peyrous, Emmanuel Publications, 2005
- P. Elet, Petit guide pour les groupes de prière, Salvator, 2005