The early Church in Acts did four things when it gathered together. “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). I don’t think that means 25 percent of the time was given to each, but it clearly shows a significant importance was put on each element. If our church gatherings were measured against those four things, where would we stand?
Clearly, corporate prayer was given a significant place in early Church meetings. In our day, most churches relegate prayer to a pastor or leader praying once or twice in a service, maybe a worship leader offering a simple prayer amid a song set, perhaps there is a time for people to come forward and be prayed for. While these are important expressions of prayer, they do not usually constitute powerful, corporate prayer. Instead, corporate prayer has been relegated to the weekly prayer meeting, certainly an important service and event for a church. Unfortunately many churches have disbanded these due to lack of interest or sheer boredom.
Most prayer meetings have become a few sitting around in a circle, taking requests about all the physical and personal needs of the church’s members, then praying until each one has been mentioned. It is hardly a dynamic time of powerful corporate prayer.
Congregations need to experience powerful, dynamic, earth-changing corporate prayer. And the best place to experience it is in the Sunday morning worship service. Why? Three reasons:
1. Because prayer is not truly corporate unless it is done with all of the people. The morning worship is the only place where you have most of your people each week. Acts 12:5 tells us that “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” We can have good times of people praying together at other moments, but the value of an entire congregation calling out to God in agreement is extremely powerful. When a congregation agrees on something and prays, it is effective!
2. It teaches people how to pray. These days, most believers never participate in times of praying with others. They may observe prayer a few times in a worship service, but they are never required to try it. As a result, most believers do not have any confidence to pray. When they can see and hear others pray, that can grow their own prayer lives as well.
3. It is easier to have a leader-led prayer time in the morning worship service than at a less formal meeting. This is important for prayer to be truly effective. Often times well-meaning pray-ers will take the prayer meeting away from a leader to pray about their own agendas. This will not happen in a worship service. As a result, a season of prayer is allowed to be guided by biblical principles.
Father, You alone are worthy of my highest praise, and You alone hear and answer the cries of Your children. I long for the day when the leaders of churches everywhere call for significant times of corporate prayer to seek Your face in an expression of unity and agreement. Give my own church boldness and eagerness to call upon Your name in seasons of powerful intercession as the corporate Body of Christ!
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 46, Praying Together Vs. Private Prayer by Bruce M. Hartung). This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise God because “he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things” (Dan. 2:21-22). Thank God for revealing himself to you in his written Word. Confess any lack of interest or discipline in regularly reading and meditating on God’s Word. Commit yourself to a steady and balanced spiritual diet. Ask God to be your teacher, leading you to knowledge and wisdom.
Pray that God will use you to lead unsaved people out of the darkness of ignorance and rebellion into the light of his truth.
“The prime need of the church is not men of money nor men of brains, but men of prayer.” —E. M. Bounds
–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.