Jesus spent quite a bit of time teaching on prayer. You are doubtless familiar with Matt. 6:6, where Jesus instructs his disciples to go away and "pray in the closet." This was in response to the Pharisees that prayed out in the open so onlookers would see how pious they were. I think we have the opposite problem in the Church today, there is not enough prayer.
We have lost the central importance of prayer. When the first major schism happened in the early Church (Acts 6), the Apostles made a statement; "...But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word." (6:4). When I look at current church leadership best practice, I see a huge amount of effort and resources that going into the organization of waiting on tables but little being invested in the weightier matter of prayer and teaching our people how to pray. Are we minoring on the majors?
Prayer is not a bolt on to "proper ministry." Prayer IS the ministry. Doubtless, there are many reasons why prayer meetings are among the lowest attended meetings in the week. (Assuming you have weekly prayer meetings!) Unstructured prayer meetings leave people feeling lost and without direction and being honest, can lack atmosphere. If we are to encourage more prayer, we need to facilitate engagement.
How to create structure and atmosphere to facilitate engagement:
Write some prayer topics on a whiteboard or butchers paper. This will provide structure.
Put on some worship music loud enough so people don't feel self conscious when praying aloud. This will create a positive atmosphere and helps keep the focus on the Lord.
Encourage people to sit, stand or walk around when praying. This helps focus and releases creativity.
Have whiteboard markers or sharpies available for people to write scriptures or words the Holy Spirit brings to mind as they are praying. This will maximize engagement and encourage others as they receive similar promptings.
Finish off the prayer meeting with silent, listening prayer and have the group share any further insight they get from the Lord.
Try this in your own Church or cell group, or, you can join me at our next prayer meeting.
P.S. You won't find me in the closet!