Gang prayer definitions and conventions
To be clear, 'gang prayer' is a noun which denotes the Pentecostal ritual of an assembly of people rallied around one, usually at the altar in an attempt to bring the person (henceforth known as the "praythroughee") to a state of physical, emotional, outwardly observable response. The praythroughee's reponse is the desired ending to gang prayer, although it also sometimes dissipates if the praythroughee fails to respond accordingly. The infinitive verbal form of 'gang prayer' is 'to gang-pray' (note the insertion of the hyphen). The verb form is often accompanied by a direct object and normally used with the preposition 'through.' Ex: The fervent congregation members were ready to gang-pray John through to the Holy Ghost as soon as altar call began.
IMHO, gang prayer has good intentions. Some of us have a need to ensure that people get what they need from God, and gang prayer, for some, is a means to that end. However, gang prayer gets tricky when it relies so heavily on an outward response. Once the person starts crying and jumping around, we can breathe a sigh of relief and go on with our business, knowing that God is still able to touch them. The downside is that though emotional responses can be positive, they are rarely indicators of lasting change. It can also get annoying because a response of a certain type is expected. Sometimes the praythroughee feels obligated to go through the motions due to that expectation to satiate the gang prayers rather than actually having any spiritual needs met.
Meet the gang prayer team
Gang prayer is not as simple as it sounds. There are specific roles that each member plays in order to maximize the chances of the gang prayer being a success. Here are the most common of them:
1. The Arm-Uplifter—That person who feels it necessary to keep the praythroughee's arms uplifted. There's some kind of Pentecostal folkloric belief that you have to have your arms upraised to receive anything from God.
2. The Whisperer—They're all up in the praythroughee's face and the Whisperer's breath can be felt as he or she whispers holy sweet nothings into the praythroughee's ear. What they say is usually soothing, always spiritual and more often than not, intelligible. (i.e. "Yes . . . that's right . . . That's the Lord's Spirit . . . don't be afraid . . ." )
3. The Yeller/Screamer—This person is also all up in the praythroughee's face, but instead of feeling his ears being tickled and warmed by soothing breath, the volume causes the praythroughee's ears to ring, making him wonder if God will then restore his hearing after He's finished having His way. The Yeller/Screamer's exhortations are not soothing suggestions, but rather firey demands, and also interspersed with unintelligible glossolalia. (i.e. "Let the Lord have his way! Recieve it! Let go! Don't hold back!")
4. The Back-Rubber—This person feels obliged to make sure the praythroughee gets a holy back rub, either in an attempt to make the praythroughee feel at ease, or out of a misguided hope that they can literally rub the Holy Ghost into somebody.
5. The Rocker—This person starts a back-and forth motion and obligates everyone involved in the gang prayer to stay in motion as well. Staying in rhythm is necessary because if anyone’s timing is off, there will be a bit of uncomfortable collision. Besides, the Holy Ghost likes it when folks move around.
6. The Clapper—These people don't usually physically touch the praythroughee. They just huddle around around and clap, maybe interspersing encouraging commands in an effort to create an atmosphere of praise around the praythroughee, thus allowing the Spirit to flow more easily.
7. The Head-Palmer—This person is either Mufasa, one of the Pillars or one of the Excited Ones, (see the Hierarchy post) and they often play the role of either Whisperer or Screamer as well. The head palm is like hitting the gas on the Spirit's movement, and it usually happens after the other six team players have already had a crack at the praythroughee for a few minutes. Once that palm is planted on the praythroughee's forehead, something better happen. It must be noted that each Head-Palmer has a special style of handling the forehead (sometimes the entire head) of the praythroughee. Perhaps discussion of head-palming styles will be fodder for a subsequent entry.