Last month the focus was on beginning with prayer – beginning the year and beginning each day on our knees in private communion with the Living God above. That personal relationship with God through personal repentance (God’s saving grace that gives each individual an awareness of their sin and a blessed understanding of the mercy of God in Christ so that each one of us turns away in disgust from the sin of our own heart and life, grieves over our sinfulness, and with God’s help fully intends and strives for new obedience–see WSC Q&A #87) and personal trust or faith in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation is absolutely essential! However, although our faith is personal, it can never be private; real saving faith always is seen and made manifest in and through our own obedience as well as by our uniting together with other believers to worship and work corporately for God’s glory. As we continue through 2017, will we move forward united together in prayer?
Our union with Christ should be visibly demonstrated
by uniting together in prayer.
Why pray together?
We intuitively know that we should pray together; where do you think that im-pulse comes from? It must be more than just that we like the people or have some extra time! It is part of the beautiful, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit as He knits us together as the Body of Christ. This godly impulse flows from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit as the wonderful renewal of being created in the image of God–when we understand and embrace the reality that we were not made for isolation and individualism, but for relationship with God and with others. That sanctified intuition that we have much to learn, that the godly saints around us can lead the way as we spend time together in God’s presence. It is a cold-hearted Christian who refuses the opportunity to pray with another saint – certainly none of us would refuse to pray together! Perhaps not, yet somehow our regularly scheduled seasons of praying together are pretty poorly attended. Please “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11 niv). Satan would like nothing better than to keep us from gathering together to pray for the building up of the Church, for the advancement of the Gospel, for the name of Jesus Christ to be lifted high and sin to be laid low! Paul ends that section with this exhortation: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18 NIV).
Megan Hill gives a wonderfully helpful description of why we should seek every op-portunity to pray together in her book Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches. This is the book that a number of our small groups are using following the completion of our study of the Heidel-berg Catechism. If you join one of these studies you will learn both the “Foundations” (Relationship, Duty, Promise) and the “Fruits” (Love, Discipleship, Revival) of praying together as well as looking at the practical aspects of praying with others. We offer several groups at various times and the books are available for less than $10 each; won’t you consider joining if you haven’t already?
The early church is a model for us of believers gathering together to pray.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42 NIV emphasis added).
In anticipation for the gift of the Holy Spirit promised by the Father the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14 niv). In the face of persecution, believers gathered and “raised their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:24 niv). And almost every NT letter we have was written to the church–to the saints gathered to worship and work together as the body of Christ. Paul writes to the communion of saints in Thessalonica and pleads with the church, “Brothers and sis-ters, pray for us” (1 Thes. 5:25 niv). We can only follow their example and obey those Biblical exhortations if we also pray together!
When can we pray together?
We join our hearts and minds together in prayer every Sunday morning in our corporate worship service. We add our own voices to the prayer when we recite the Lord’s Prayer as well as anytime we have a unison prayer of confession. But we also meet beforehand at 9:00 to plead together for God’s blessing on our Sunday School hour and Worship time. We pray for the teachers and the students, for the pastor and visitors, for our particular congregation and our witness in our community. We pray for God’s kingdom of grace to advance in our hearts and through our neighborhood and we together long for His kingdom of glory. Our weekly Tuesday afternoon prayer meeting at 1 pm is a precious time to lift up our church family’s requests as well as intercede for our nation and Christians around the world. Everyone is invited to this focused time of prayer which is taking the place of Wednesday evening. We are adding a monthly concert of prayer on the fourth Sunday. We are excited to offer this time for children and adults, new Christians and seasoned saints to come and participate in concerted prayer.
We have a new opportunity every Fourth Sunday for prayer and praise at 7 pm.
The Evening of Worship which we have held quarterly has been a blessed time of testimony and prayer in addition to praise led by Remedy. Those who have attend-ed have gotten to know one another better through the sharing of prayer requests face to face. And the Hymn Sing last Fall was another sweet time of singing and fellowship. So here is a wonderful opportunity once a month to gather together in prayer and praise to our Heavenly Father, to share our joys and concerns and testify to the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. Remedy will lead the music quarterly, as in the past (Feb., May, Aug., Nov.), and we plan to have the Hymn Sing four times as well (April, June, July, and September). Please plan to join your brothers and sisters in Christ as we pray together every 4th Sunday evening at 7:00.
Spurgeon was one of the most popular and successful preachers of Victorian England. His Metropolitan Tabernacle drew thousands each Sunday. Often hundreds would stand outside in the street hoping to catch a bit of the Baptist preacher’s message. One day a group of young seminary students came to visit the church they had heard so much about. When they entered the huge building, they were met by a gray bearded gentleman they took to be the janitor. He offered to lead them on a tour through the facilities and answer any questions they had.
They walked through the sanctuary, stood in the pulpit, and looked down from the balcony. When they had seen just about everything and asked every conceivable question they could come up with, the old gentleman asked a strange question, “Would you like to see what heats this church?” They weren’t really that interested in touring the coal cellar and furnace room. But just to humor their host, they followed. They went down a narrow stairway to an area beneath the pulpit. As the gentleman opened the door, he said, “Behind this door is the secret of this great church. Everything that happens upstairs starts down here. This is where the fire in the pulpit begins.”
The old man, actually Spurgeon himself, opened the door to reveal several dozen people on their knees in fervent prayer. The great preacher would always insist that the secret of any church, big or small, was the prayers of the people. It was Spurgeon who said, “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
An illustration of the importance and blessing of prayer
“Mr. Moody [the American evangelist D. L. Moody] tells us a remarkable incident in connection with an early visit to London. He had gone there for a visit. He was unknown in London, hence he did not expect to preach; but a little while after arriving there he was invited to preach for a certain church, which he did. He described the ceremony as a very cold and uninteresting service to him, but he announced that he would preach again that night.
“Upon reaching the church, he noticed that the atmosphere had changed, he did not know just why. At the close of the meeting he was led to give an invitation for those who wanted to be saved to stand. A great crowd of people stood. He left the next day for Dublin, Ireland. Shortly after arriving there he received a telegram from the church to return, stating that the whole community was in an upstir and clamor for a series of meetings. He went back and found that a great revival was beginning, and hundreds of people were being converted.
“Not long after he learned the secret. An invalid lady, who could not attend the church, was praying for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit upon the church. She prayed for months. Once she saw in the papers’ accounts of some of the Moody meetings in America, and, although she had never heard of Mr. Moody before, she began to pray that God would send him to her church in London for a revival. One Sunday morning her sister, upon her return from the service, informed her of Moody’s presence and his preaching, whereupon she spent the whole afternoon in prayer that God would make that night a night of pow-er. That explains the difference between morning and evening services!
“Oh, I tell you what we need in the churches is praying members! Oh, if we could find even one who would thus resolve to pray to God for salvation and power to come upon the church. This is the need of today–importunate prayer, like the Syro-Phoenician woman’s “Lord, help! Lord, help!” (Matt. 15:22-28).”*
*Heartwarming Bible Illustrations, Compiled and Edited by Richard A. Steele, Jr. And Evelyn Stoner, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1998), 246-247.