Every pastor and church leader knows that the hardest meetings to “sell” are those that feature prayer. Most believers know the power of prayer and affirm its importance for the church but seldom do our professed values translate into actual attendance and engagement at our prayer meetings. Prayer meetings are often not well attended simply because they are not well led. We may say that corporate prayer is so important that one ought to join in no matter what. Or we may say that it is so important that we need to do all we can to make it meaningful and satisfying to those who come. The apostle Paul tells us that we have the same Spirit in us and corporate prayer is that spiritual act of unity as we speak in one voice to God.
Corporate prayer is probably one of the most neglected and misunderstood forms of prayer we find described in the Bible. Usually when Christians get together to pray, a whole array of prayers are offered by each individual instead of the group simply bringing a few focused prayers in complete unison before the Lord. Despite some of the misconceptions that exist, proper corporate prayer is extremely powerful when we truly appreciate its value and perform it correctly. In Acts 2:1 – 2 we read of a very famous account of corporate prayer and its powerful result, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” The term “one accord” carries the meaning of having the same mind, or being in agreement mentally about the same thing. It also means to be of “one passion“. The early church met regularly to learn the doctrine of the apostles, break bread, and pray together (Acts 2:42).
When we pray together with other believers, the effects can be very positive. Corporate prayer edifies and unifies us as we share our common faith. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that corporate prayers are “more powerful” than individual prayers in the sense of moving the hand of God. The idea that corporate prayers are more likely to move the hand of God comes largely from a misinterpretation of Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” These verses come from a larger passage which addresses the procedures to be followed in the case of church discipline of a sinning member. To interpret them as promising believers a blank cheque for anything they might agree to ask God for, no matter how sinful or foolish, not only does not fit into the context of church discipline, it also denies the rest of Scripture, especially the sovereignty of God.
A corporate prayer meeting is not to be a spectator sport. It is to be a vital group conversation with the Almighty and there is no better way to ensure someone’s heart-involvement than to provide real opportunity for voice involvement. At the same time, we don’t want our prayer meetings to scare away new participants, especially new believers who are frightened by real or perceived expectations. Participating regularly in corporate prayer take out the individualistic assumption that Christianity is only about me and my relationship with God. It also helps us to become aware of the person who is sick, has a baby, unemployed or facing a family struggle. Participating in corporate prayer helps us discover that our lives as followers of Christ are tied up with one another. It helps us discover how God cares for the congregation. Corporate prayer is important because it creates unity (John 17:22-23) and is a key aspect of believers’ encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and spurring one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Dan Hendly pastor of Covenant PCA in Palm Bay, Florida have used the 659 model for corporate prayer meetings. This model delineates the flow of the prayer gathering. They begin with six minutes of musical praise from songs that are pre-selected, followed by five minutes of Bible readings. Each participant is encouraged to pick a favorite passage (no more than 15 verses) to read for the group. Then they go into nine minutes of prayer, with the understanding that no single prayer is to last more than a minute. Once they complete the cycle, they repeat it for one to three times. It is amazing how rapidly an hour or more passes. The variety keeps the mind and heart fresh. 659 is one of many creative models for prayer groups. Try it, and let’s give our God no rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in all the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)
Our prayer committee is crying for good prayer leaders. Our prayer meetings desperately need help from leaders who can give direction and provide motivation to help increase a feeling of belonging and security. There is something for us to learn from the poor attendance at our prayer meetings. It is more than just a statement about the spiritual condition of the contemporary believer. Let us come to our corporate prayer meeting and make it our incredible journey of faith. Jesus said, “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer.” When we really believe this, we will do what we can to make that house of prayer as appealing as possible, and full of eager prayers.
Ps Cheng Huat
March 6, 2011