Communities of Authentic Encounter

David Hilton, a psychiatrist, pastor, and former missionary, says somewhere that the task of the contemporary church is to change from being communities of pretense to communities of authentic encounter. I believe that he is correct. What place does authentic encounter, person-to-person, occur more clearly than when two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ with Christ present as promised, where they share their struggles realistically and personally together and where they pray together in the name of Christ, at the foot of His cross and with the power of His empty tomb?

Thus, the question is more than praying together vs. private prayer. It is both/and. Additionally, it is the personal vulnerability and depth of individual sharing that takes praying together from pious soliloquies, surface chatter, and religiously correct formal language to the deeper areas of personal risk (and therefore deeper personal healing) made possible by personal vulnerability, openness, and authenticity.

Medical researchers are just beginning to understand what the early Christian community understood: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas. 5:14-15).

–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 46, Praying Together Vs. Private Prayer by Bruce M. Hartung). Click on the title for more information about this resource.

Loving Father, You have designed Your people for Yourself and in Your own image. And, You have said that where two or three are gathered in Your Name, You will be present in our midst. Help me to learn how to be fully willing to seek Your Presence both in solitude and in the company of others! Show me how to have an authentic encounter with You even in the midst of a corporate gathering as our hearts align with Your purposes. Allow me to be a risk taker, both in sharing my own needs, but also in willingly opening my heart to the needs of others. Pour out Your healing power in the midst of Your corporate body and stretch us out of our zones of easy comfort to embrace a world You are longing to bring into Your kingdom!

Prayer Points
Praise God for his limitless power. Thank the Spirit for being “in you” and for being “greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). Confess moments when you have limited God’s power because of doubts or unbelief. Commit yourself to living in the presence and power of God every day. Ask him to make you more aware of his presence and protection daily and not to take it for granted.

Ask God to help children choose their friends wisely. Pray that young people will not give into the “evil desires” of this world (2 Tim. 2:22).

–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend  (Click on title for more information about this resource).