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How to Start a Prayer Chain (And Keep It Going): Step-By-Step

This is part of Cake's collection of Condolences articles. Create a Cake profile for free to discover, document, and share your end-of-life wishes.

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A prayer chain can bring a deep sense of comfort to someone going through a difficult time. A prayer chain is simply a request that people join you in prayer and pass the chain along. The idea is that the more people you have praying together, the more amplified the power of the prayer.

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There are many different ways to start a prayer chain and keep it going. You can choose an email, letter, phone, conference, video chat, or in-person prayer chain. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide that includes unique prayer chain ideas as well as sample prayer chain messages to get you started.

Steps for Starting a Proper Prayer Chain

If you are interested in setting up a prayer chain, we’ve thought through the process from beginning to end. Read through our step-by-step guide to ensure your prayer chain is effective and respects the wishes of the recipient.

Step 1: Get permission

If the person you are praying for is of sound mind and body, speak with them first. Make sure that a prayer chain is aligned with their values and is something that they would want and appreciate. 

If they give you the green light, you can ask them if they have any specific requests. Maybe what they most wish for is prayers for health and well-being, but it’s possible they may be ready and want prayers of hope for a peaceful transition from this world. 

If the person would rather you not start a prayer chain, it’s important that you respect their wishes. You can always say a private prayer for them.

If the person isn’t able to speak with you, and you are a close family member, you’ll know whether it’s appropriate or not to start a prayer chain. 

If you are not a close family member, but a friend or health aid, consider privacy when starting a prayer chain. You might say something like, “please pray for a dear friend who was just diagnosed with cancer” or “please say a prayer for a man who has transitioned to hospice care this week.” If it’s kosher to say the person’s name, but not the reason for the prayer, it’s totally okay to request a prayer chain with a simple, “please pray for my family” or “we are requesting your prayers for Aunt June.”

Step 2: Detail your prayer chain request

Here are some things to consider before sending your prayer chain to your network:

Consider how you will send out your request and what medium you want to use. 

  • Perhaps you want to use social media or a website where people can post their prayers. You might want to send out an email to alert people of the prayer chain with a link. 
  • You can share the prayer chain through word of mouth or the phone. 
  • You can also ask your Rabbi, Priest, Imam, Pujari, or other religious or spiritual leaders to lead your congregation in prayer.
  • Snail mail is another great option.

Consider what details you want to share and how specific you want to be. 

  • Do you want to share details of the person’s illness or struggle?
  • Are you asking for prayers of health, hope, or something else?
  • Check in with the person to see if they would like you to share their name and contact information so that people can contact them directly to offer prayers and/or send healing gifts.

If you are setting up the prayer chain for someone else, create a draft of your post, email, letter, or phone message and share it with the person. Get their feedback before you hit send. 

Step 3: Decide who to include

Decide how far and wide you’d like your prayer chain to extend. If you are making a post on social media, consider if you want just your ‘friends’ to see it, or if you’d like to make the post public to really get the word out.

If you are sending the prayer chain over email or spreading the message over the phone, you’ll need to collect emails or phone numbers. If you’re using the phone, you can split up the numbers among some friends or ask each person you call to let a friend know. 

When you think about who you want to include, think about who is important to the person you are praying for. If you are making specific requests, consider who will be reliable, who can help you organize, keep the chain going, and let others know. You can choose to include family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, faith community, and even strangers. 

Pro Tip: If you are setting up a service or prayer line, make sure to invite the person that the prayers are for and let everyone know they will be attending. Be thoughtful about the best way to include them during the prayer session.

Step 4: Ask for confirmation

Once you’ve sent out your prayer chain request, and it’s gathered some momentum, ask for updates on people’s prayers. 

Keeping track of people’s beautiful prayers can be of great comfort to you and/or the person who the prayers are for. Plus, requesting confirmation of prayer can help to keep the prayer chain going. 

Step 5: Communicate updates

Make sure to share updates as soon as they become available with the members of your prayer chain. 

Let people know that their prayers are working! Whether it’s healing, hope, or peace that’s happening, make sure to communicate it. 

If things take a turn for the worse, make sure to share these changes as well. You can always ask for more prayers. 

Unique Prayer Chain Ideas

If you decide not to do something more traditional, here are some unique prayer chain ideas.

Set up a prayer line

You can set up a ‘prayer line’ using a free conferencing or video chat service. Let people know the time and link or phone number, and people can call in to listen and offer their prayers.

Host an in-person prayer chain

Get everyone together, light some candles, hold hands, and pray together. You can create space for people to speak or even join together in song.

Create a physical prayer chain

Ask everyone in your prayer chain to write out a prayer on a piece of construction paper. Collect all of the prayers and link them together. 

You can also have everyone create something artistic and then display them on a wall or a window. This would be really nice for a hospital, rehab, or hospice room. 

Prayer Chain Letter, Email, or Invitation Wording

Now that you’ve read through our guide and checked out some unique ideas for a prayer chain, here is some sample wording you can use and inspiration for getting started.

Email:

To the Most Caring and Generous People I Know,

As you all know, I work in a rehabilitation center. One of my patients, a man I absolutely adore, has taken a turn for the worse. He is being moved to hospice care. I am devastated. I am wondering if you would all please join me in a prayer chain for him. I would ask that you pray for peace for him in his transition to the afterlife, and for his family to be surrounded by love and strength through this difficult time. 

Please forward this email to anyone who would be willing to pray for this man and his family, and please keep me posted on your prayers. They will be of great comfort to my patient, his family, and to me as well. I will make sure to keep you all posted on his journey.

Thank you all so much,

Laurie

Letter:

Dear Friends & Family,

We are writing to request a prayer chain for our dear sister Joan. She was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Her prognosis isn’t promising, but our family strongly believes in miracles. We have seen the power of prayer manifest in all of our lives in many ways. We are asking you all to pray for Joan’s healing, for remission, and for strength for Joan and our family. 

Please pass this letter along to anyone who you think would be willing to pray for us. If you are willing to make phone calls to request prayers, please feel free to do so as well. We want to keep this prayer chain going and garner as many prayers as we possibly can.

If you are comfortable sharing, please let us know how and where you prayed for us. We want to share all of your beautiful messages with our Joan so she can feel the power of your prayers.

We will, of course, keep you updated on Joan’s condition and the road to recovery.

With Gratitude & Love,

The Smith Family

Invitation:

Loved Ones,

I am writing to invite you to a Zoom prayer chain on August 1st at 4 pm. This prayer chain is in honor of our friend Ted who is recovering from a car crash that left him unable to walk. We will be praying for hope and healing, and to see him take his first steps soon.

While the prayer chain is in honor of Ted, we also invite you to come, pray, and to request prayers for anyone in your life who may be suffering. We will join in listening, prayer, and song together. 

Ted will be joining us, and as everyone who knows him is well aware, he has a beautiful voice and plays a mean guitar. He will be leading us in our first song of prayer. 

Please find a link and instructions attached. Feel free to pass this prayer chain invitation to anyone who would like to pray with us or is in need of healing. 

Looking forward to seeing and hearing all of you,

George 

Long-Distance Prayer Chain

If you can’t be with a loved one who is going through a hard time, a prayer chain can be a wonderful way to feel connected to them. It can be hard to care for someone who is far away. A long-distance prayer chain can be of great comfort to both you and also your loved one.