We have very busy schedules. We are not used to praying for an hour. We are not used to praying out loud with other people. We did not grow up doing it and so we have no framework for it. We aren’t good at it. It seems to have little payoff. So why do we do it?
It is not coincidence that for 2,000 years Christ’s churches have considered members gathering to pray a “mission critical” ministry. The apostles, personally trained by Christ to plant the first churches, designed churches that prayed together a lot. We should sit up and take notice that the pastors personally trained by Christ considered corporate prayer an essential to the mission of a church. Acts 12:12 is one good proof text: When Peter got out of prison, “he went to the house of Mary…where many were gathered together and were praying.” This is talking about the church at Jerusalem, the very first New Testament, local church. The life of a local church is far more than the members gathering to pray, but it is not less than that.
Many missions experts have studied the history of revivals and “great awakenings” in an effort to discern what led to such extraordinary movements of God. Research is inconclusive. As the Scripture says, who knows from where the Holy Spirit comes when He arrives and to where He goes when He leaves? But scholars did find that one factor is true of every extraordinary movement of God in history: there had been believers gathering to pray on a regular basis. Extraordinary movements of God involve more than a church gathering to pray, but definitely not less than that.
Look Forward By Looking Back
Christians in America are now a minority group; America is a non-Christian nation. But that’s not all: Christians in America are now a persecuted group. The outer bands of the storm of religious persecution have made landfall–see the gay marriage ruling, the baker, the florist, the pressure on military chaplains, etc. When the heart of the storm comes and we personally feel the pain of being an oppressed minority group, we will only be able to persevere with joy by the empowerment of the Spirit derived through corporate prayer gatherings (see Acts 4:23-31, Acts 12:6-17). Why are we waiting to feel the pain before we are highly motivated to pray together? That’s like a fat person waiting to have a heart attack before deciding to lose weight. Perseverance as an oppressed minority will require more than just gathering to pray, but it will certainly not be less than that.
More than anything, biblical theology should drive us to gather to pray. Christ was clear about the expansion of the Kingdom of God in this world: God in heaven decides what He wants to do on earth…..then, by His Spirit speaking through His Word, God reveals His will to His disciples…..who then gather to pray God’s will into reality. God does not only move if His congregation prays, but in many circumstances He doesn’t. Do not miss the pieces in the sequence of God’s design: God decides His pleasure, the Spirit through the Word reveals it, God’s people pray for it, it becomes reality. (1 John 5:14-15, Matthew 6:10, Matthew 18:18-20, etc). When it comes to the presence of God in a local church, corporate prayer is the difference between a fine mist and a thick fog. Sound doctrine compels us to do more than just pray together, but certainly not less than that.
So, I ask you to come to prayer meeting when you can on Sundays, 6-7pm. Your attendance at any one prayer meeting will not be interpreted by anyone as a commitment to come every week. You can come late, you can leave early. You can bring friends from other churches. If you have children ages 3 years to 5th grade, children’s choir runs concurrently so they can be discipled in area of worship and biblical music while you pray. Or, you are very welcome to bring them with you to prayer meeting.
We get in small groups of 5-8 people and pray for an hour. There is no bible teaching or song set. We don’t have a time to submit prayer requests. We don’t have a prayer guide. We just break up into small groups and pray as the Holy Spirit leads. It is only awkward for the first twenty minutes on your first time. Somewhere around the 20-25 minute mark the Spirit begins to stir and you will be hooked.