"What place does authentic encounter... occur more clearly than when two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ with Christ present as promised...?" ~ Bruce M. HartungAre you more likely to be authentic in a group of two or three or a group of four or more?
Some larger groups can have very authentic relationships. But it's more common that in a group of four or more, some are being authentic while others are left to manage their struggles and celebrate victories alone.
Bruce Hartung points out in "Praying Together vs. Private Prayer" that although private prayer is essential to our relationship with God, it is easy to protect ourselves with God. We need to be in vulnerable relationships with other people. And, we need to bring the authentic relationship with God into our relationship with others.
I don't think I'm the odd one when I say that my words are self-censored when there are more people in the conversation. Ok, yes, sometimes I forget to censor and I end up regretting it because there is not enough of a relationship or time to interpret my words with everyone. A smaller group generally creates a more comfortable environment to share differing opinions or personal struggles which lead to quicker resolution.
In my experience, the most powerful prayer groups break down into groups of two or three at least for the asking of God part of prayer. For most of us, this is extremely awkward and is probably one reason people don't want to go to prayer groups. However, once you experience that intimacy in a group of just two or three people who are truly seeking the presence of God together, you'll be hooked. There are no words to describe it.
There are times in large groups when someone's prayers seem to move us in some spiritual sense. However, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 20:47, those types of prayers usually stir up more awe of the person speaking than awe of God. The God-awe inspiring large group prayers generally contain a lot less words. And the significant cries of a person's heart are generally spoken only in the presence of one or two others who are all seeing God right there in that little circle.
My challenge to you (and to me), push through the awkwardness. Find just one or two other people who want to talk freely to God with you and see what happens.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17
Vulnerable Moment of Confession: I have only truly experienced what I'm talking about in this post a few times - so it's more than just the number. But it is those few experiences which give me hope and determination to try to be authentic and find others who are also trying to be authentic in prayer with others. It doesn't happen naturally for most of us. And, it's not for the sake of the experience but for the sake of the relationship with God and with others. For it is the supernatural connection of genuine relationships, not the experience itself, which sustains me.