Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. (5:13-16, NAB)
Sharing of one’s concerns could be seen as complaining, attention-getting, or pleas for sympathy. To come to church was a time to show oneself off at one’s best. In public worship some of the expectation was to look good, as if everything was all right even when it was not.
In this context, the notion of the church as a community was not fostered in my own spiritual life. “We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear”1 was not as normative as “Before our Father’s throne, we pour our ardent prayer; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.” Dominant was the sharing of personal concerns with God possible through the work of Christ, private prayer; much less fostered was the notion of sharing concerns with the community and having the community also pray on behalf of the person (praying together). Of course, when someone was in the hospital, the prayer of the community was formally offered. But in my day-to-day life, most everything of a deep personal nature was between me and God.
At times, prayer and praise is an individual response. At other times, it is a response within the community. Mutual confession of sins and prayer for one another is considered to be a vehicle God in Christ uses for healing. God’s Word, the voice of the Church, and our prayers belong together. So we must now speak of common prayer. Bonhoeffer states: “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they may ask, it will be done for them of Me in heaven” (Mt. 18:19). There is no part of common devotions that raises such serious difficulties and trouble as does common prayer, for here we must ourselves begin to speak. We have heard God’s Word, and we have been permitted to join in the hymn of the Church; but now we are to pray to God as a fellowship, and this prayer must really be our word, our prayer for this day, for our work, for our fellowship, for the particular needs and sins that oppress us in common, and for the persons who are committed to our care.”
Father, You desire to hear my voice lifted up before Your throne, and You also desire to hear Your people praying together in community. May we, Your Church, discover the loveliness of the fellowship of corporate prayer as we set aside our discomfort and uncertainty. Help us to emulate the Church in the book of Acts, who gathered together constantly and continually to seek Your face. Forgive our pride and strengthen our resolve to lift our sins, needs and intercessions before You as the 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. There is also a PDF version.
Praise God that he is completely trustworthy and that he has never failed anyone (Jn. 14:1-23). Thank God that Jesus Christ is preparing a place for you at this very moment. Confess any reluctance to trust God in everything. Commit yourself to living with your heart as Christ’s home. Ask the Lord to do great things through you in the power of the ascended Lord.
Ask that our society will respect the value of human life at every stage of life. Pray especially for people who today are making decisions about the life of another.
“Trouble and perplexity drive me to prayer and prayer drives away perplexity and trouble.” —Philippe Melanchthon
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