popcorn prayer

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Did you know that there are five distinct meanings of “popcorn prayer”? How many meanings do you know?

definition of popcorn prayerI must be on a food kick this week, because just the other day I was talking about Prego Christian. Well today we have popcorn. Popcorn prayer, that is. Popcorn prayer is one of those Christianese expressions that Christians must have a fun time saying, because they’ve found a whopping five different distinct contexts in which to use it. (For another Christianese word that people have come up with all kinds of meanings for, check out frozen chosen.)

The first paragraph of the formal definition of popcorn prayer below explains these differences pretty clearly, so I’ll let the definition do most of the talking today.

What do you mean when you say popcorn prayer? Did you know there were all these other meanings that Christians had for the term?


popcorn prayer n. See various senses.
The imagery of popcorn is used in several ways in the 5 senses below. In sense 1, group prayer is like popcorn in that the group’s prayer is made up of an accumulation of small, individual prayers. In sense 2, group prayers are like popcorn in that people voice their short prayers at random (like the random popping of popcorn). In sense 3, a prayer is like the popping of a popcorn kernel in that it is a single prayer suddenly made. In sense 4, group prayer is like popcorn in that the prayer is made up of the simultaneous voicing of many people’s prayers (like the roaring sound popcorn makes when its kernels are all popping). In sense 5, some prayers are considered to be insubstantial and inferior in the way that popcorn is not considered to be a serious meal.
1. Any of various formats of group prayer in which participants supply a single-word response to a prompt that is given by the person leading the prayer. For example, the person leading the prayer may offer the first part of a sentence so that the participants can complete the sentence with their own prayer needs (see citations for 1980 and 1993), or the participants can take turns naming one thing they would like prayer for (see citations for 1985 and 1990).
1980 Wingeier Working Out Your Own Beliefs 78 : When all have shared, close with “popcorn prayers”—offer one-word responses to each of the following: •In regard to my job, Lord, I thank you for … •In my work, Father, I ask your forgiveness for … •Oh God, in my job help me to … •Father, in my work, save me from … 1985 Benson Dennis Benson’s Creative Bible Studies I. 226 : Lead the class in a popcorn prayer—go around the circle and have each person add only one word to the prayer. 1990 Meyer One Anothering I. 34 : Popcorn Prayer: The enabler begins by simply saying, “Lord, we bring before you these joys and concerns.” Members suggest prayer intentions as they are moved to. One word, name, or short phrase is mentioned at a time. The group may take ten or fifteen seconds between each intention to pray silently for the joys or concerns brought to mind. 1993 Brestin The Joy of Hospitality: Recovering a Lost Art 33 : If time permits, take prayer requests and pray in a circle or have Popcorn Prayer. Popcorn prayer is prayer in which the leader lifts a participant’s name to the Lord. Then whoever feels led prays a short sentence (just a “pop”) about that woman.
2. A format of group prayer in which people pray aloud by taking turns in no particular order.
1996 Lutheran Woman Today vols. 9–10 3 : It’s called a popcorn prayer because it seems to pop from one side of the circle to the other, and the effect is like that of com popping on the stove. Of all corporate prayers, this has been for us the most participatory, and often the most joyful! 1997 Bruce, Beman Get Acquainted With Jesus, Leader’s Guide 36 : Then form a circle, holding hands, for a “popcorn prayer.” Invite persons to offer one-sentence prayers expressing their feelings about the parables, their personal joys or concerns, or any petitions they want to bring before God. 1998 Freudenburg Family-Friendly Ideas Your Church Can Do 17 : Close with several minutes of “popcorn” prayer in which people “pop” up, one at a time, and offer short prayers of thanks to God for families and for his “active” love for them. 2004 McCormick Companions: Christ-Centered Prayer 31 : A unique type of corporate prayer where individuals verbalize their prayers at random around the room is sometimes referred to as a “popcorn prayer.”
3. An immediate, usually brief personal prayer.
Such prayers are also called *arrow prayers and *flash prayers.
1995 Kallestad The Everyday, Anytime Guide to Prayer 82 : My son Patrick and I frequently jog together. We enjoy what we refer to as “popcorn prayer.” Whatever pops into our minds, we pray out loud about it. 2003 McDowell Children Demand a Verdict 52 : You can do this by practicing “popcorn prayers.” As needs and concerns and points for praise arise, take time for brief prayers with your child. Explain, “You know, we don’t have to wait until dinnertime (or family devotions or bedtime) to talk to God about that. “Let’s pray about it right now.” 2004 Whelchel Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer xii : Another race against the clock with only seconds to spare for a few “popcorn prayers” shot up to the Lord throughout one more busy day in the life of a mom. 2005 Bernecker God: Any Time, Any Place: The Many Ways College Students Pray 47 : My favorite prayers are what I like to call my popcorn prayers. These are prayers or thank-yous that I give to God sporadically throughout the day. 2006 Morris When You Obey God, He Will Work for You 4 : “Don’t give God popcorn prayers. You stay on your knees until you know God has heard your prayers,” she would say.
4. A format of group prayer in which people pray aloud simultaneously.
See also *African-style prayer; *Korean-style prayer.
2003 Holford 100 Creative Prayer Ideas for Kids and Grown-Ups Too 9 : And one of the prayers we prayed was a “popcorn prayer.” Popcorn prayers are good for a large group of people because everyone can participate—even very shy people—without feeling singled out in any way. Everyone is invited to say a one-word prayer—often the name of a person. At first, just one person speaks, then another, then a couple at a time. Then everyone seems to speak at once and finally the words die down to just a couple. Then one, then another. It really does sound like popcorn popping.
5. A disparaging term for a prayer that is alleged to be hasty or superficial.
2011 Smith The Master Is Speaking 000 : When you pray for your wife, you are asking for a hedge of protection around her and the kids, if there are any kids in the home. Your wife doesn’t need your two minute, popcorn prayers, she needs you to get on your face and seek God for what it is that she has need of. 2011 Hall The Walk at Work: Seven Steps to Spiritual Success on the Job 226 : I’m tired of subsisting on popcorn prayers, so no more one-minute sessions with a quick look at your Word.
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