Texts, KJV: Acts 2.41-42; Matthew 18.18-20; Acts 4.31 (Matt 6.9-13; Luke 11.2-4; John 17)
Featuring the sketches of Cruz
Last week I explored Lent and Fasting in Dialogue with a local Associate Pastor, Christopher Jarvis. This week, I would like to continue with another key ingredient to Christian seasons like this, Prayer Practices. I will address only one key question. Do we maintain a private devotional life versus corporate prayers when we gather with others?
When I speak on corporate prayer, I generally get pushback in 3 areas:
1) First, there are Scriptures that speak of praying alone
I agree, but I have to point out that these Scriptures are usually in reaction against the outlandish public prayers of the religious leaders in the days of Christ. Also, we should bear in mind that there are more passages related to corporate prayer in the NT than to individual prayer, or personal prayer.
2) Another point of contention is that when we gather to pray, shouldn’t we be doing something more, like taking action?
I must admit, I have struggled with this at times. For four years, I have been part of a group of pastors who meet weekly for prayer. In those first few months, I thought, “This is great, let’s storm the city!” Over time, I began to realize that the end is not something that our combined prayers produce. The end is our combined prayers. That’s all. As the Body of Christ, we must learn to pray together.
3) A third area of pushback is generally a very valid one
Some of my parishioners over the years have had genuine fears of group settings for various reasons. As ministers, we should be sensitive to these real issues, and accommodating in any way possible.
Call to Action: Consider ways to pray together with other believers in this season. Attend special services in your congregation, make family prayer commitments, visit community prayer events, attend a Good Friday Service, etc.
Acts 2.41-42: Doctrine, Fellowship, Breaking Bread, and Prayers (see note 1). What is the Church known for? Luke seems to be showing us things that the Early Church (EC) is known for. Do we keep on continuing steadfastly in the mission that God has called us to? How do we share our time and our lives?
i. The EC made the church a place of prayer
The word prayers means prayer, but it can also mean a place for prayers. We want to have a private devotional life, but the EC also has ways of praying together in community.
ii. There is power in praying together
Matthew 18.18-20: You don’t need more than 2-3 to have church. You don’t need more than 2-3 to have a prayer meeting. You don’t need more than 2-3 to agree together to get your prayers to be answered. You can pray together and God will show up.
Acts 4.31:This beautiful prayer is recorded in verses 24-30. In Matthew, Jesus says 2 people are a quorum to get something done in the Spirit-realm. In Acts 4 a number of people come together to pray, and it is so powerful that God literally sends an earthquake to shake the building where they’re assembling. The power of God is manifested in a miraculous way.
iii. Do we miss something by not praying together?
The verb prayer indicates an on-going prayer, in verse 31. They are filled and the house is shaken while they are still praying. “It would seem from these passages that, in addition to the initial experience of being filled, there may be subsequent fresh fillings from the Holy Spirit” (J. Rodman Williams, see note 2). We need to be consistently praying in the Holy Spirit. We also need to be consistently praying together. Are we missing a blessing by not sharing time together in prayer?
iv. When we pray together we learn how to pray
Jesus teaches his Disciple how to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6.9-13; Luke 11.2-4). Jesus prays for His Disciples in John 17, one the most magnificent prayers of His that is recorded. It’s all about the unity Christ has with the Father being shared among the Disciples. So there’s something powerful about us joining together in prayer.
. . . Are we being challenged to grow in our prayer life?
note 1: Adapted from Rev. Jared V. Ingle, Marks of the Spirit-Filled Community: Prayers (sermon presented during Worship Service MT. ZION F.W.C., Traverse City, MI, June 12, 2016).
note 2: J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 202.