The martyred Dietrich Bonhoeffer helps us understand the place and function of the fellowship, of the community of believers: “The fact simply remains that where Christians want to live together under the Word of God they may and they should pray together to God in their own words. . . . Here all fear of one another, all timidity about praying freely in one’s own words in the presence of others may be put aside where in all simplicity and soberness the common, brotherly prayer is lifted to God. . . . It is in fact the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.”
Is there reluctance of Christians to pray together (except when led by a worship leader in a formal worship service)? Perhaps in the traditions and experience of some of the readers, the answer is “No.” Yet I see considerable reluctance, even in some group prayer, to move very deeply into significant prayer issues. If my perception is correct (as well as my own reluctance), why? There are likely as many responses as there are people, each with particular concerns and discomforts. But one set of possible reluctances based on my own life and ministry experience, seems relatively clear to me. If we stay in our individual prayer modes, we, while we share with God, have little or no personal vulnerability to others in the community of Christ. Thus, our classically American individuality is preserved, as are both our exaggerated view of privacy and a sense of the preservation of our personal space.
The core issue is personal vulnerability to each other. While I know that I am vulnerable to God, who knows my most inward being, I, frankly, am less likely to share that vulnerability with someone else, even if that someone is a member of Christ’s Body. Praying together—or at least prayer together in some depth—requires the presentation of myself as less than ideal, less than piously all together, less than whole. It requires the presentation of myself as who I really am rather than who I would like others to believe that I am. It requires as much honesty before others as it requires before my God.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my self-centered mindset that is concerned with what other people think about my prayers when I am in a corporate gathering. Help me to continually remember that I am not talking to others, but to You. My focus is pulled off of Your heart, and my trust in the Holy Spirit to speak through me is compromised when I try to sound “competent” in prayer in front of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please equip and release me to seek Your face with others and give me complete confidence to simply converse with You as others join me in agreement.
–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 the most high God, whose kingdom is eternal and who is sovereign over all the earth (Dan. 4:2-3, 17). Thank God for being your Lord, as well as your Savior. Confess any pockets of resistance to his rule in your life. Commit your full and lifelong allegiance to the Lord. Ask him to use you in extending his rule.
Pray that your family will be God’s loyal subjects in his kingdom. Pray that “the footprints that we leave will lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey.”
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