Every Sunday night at 6:00 PM, our church family gathers for corporate prayer. It is something we began on Sunday nights before anything else and it continues to be the power source for our ministry to this day. I wish I could say that it is very well attended, but it is, in fact, the lowest attended ministry at our church. There are many reasons for this and I have written about some of those reasons elsewhere, but among those reasons is an under-appreciation for the benefits of praying together.
Just as a reminder, here are four reasons for our commitment to the regular corporate prayer gathering.
#1 Because God Answers Prayer
Over the years, we have prayed together for salvations, for the Gospel to spread into surrounding neighborhoods, for God to provide financially for our new church plant, for the spiritual health of our church membership, for the healing of the sick, and for so much more. As I look back at all God has done through these years of praying, I am astounded at his faithfulness. We often forget the prayers that we prayed in the past and when God answers them we fail to recognize that he in fact answered. God answers old prayers. They don’t expire just because they didn’t meet our timeline. Our prayers do not go up to a forgetful God or to a distracted God. They are heard by an eternally sovereign God who acts in accordance with the prayers of his people. We gather every Sunday night to pray corporately because we truly believe the Bible when it says that there is great power in prayer (James 5:16). We pray because we believe that the infinitely powerful and benevolent God of the Bible answers our prayers.
#2 Because Believers Need It
The greatest and most pressing lack in my life is not productivity, but rather it is a lack of quiet communion with God. I would venture to say that this is true of most of us. New iPhones have this wonderful form of condemnation for all iPhone users. You can actually check to see what your average screen time is per week or per day. Many are shocked and appalled to discover the number of hours spent on their phones per day compared to how many minutes a day is spent in quiet, focused, communication with God.
We need corporate prayer gatherings with the local church because we need accountability in this area of our lives. We need scheduled meetings with God where we put away all other distractions and lift up our voices to him alone. We need it for the sake of our relationship with God and we need it for the sake of relationship with others. As we pray for one another, we grow in love for one another. It is through the sharing of prayer requests and confessing shortcomings that we truly come to know one another and share one another’s burdens. It is in the prayer meeting where the church family carries out functions that cannot be carried out in other forms of gathering. We gather to pray for one another because we need it.
#3 Because Unbelievers Need It
We have already said that we pray because God answers our prayers. Some of those prayers are of course for God to save the unbeliever, but there is another way in which unbelievers need the prayer meeting. For the unbelievers who visit our prayer gathering, they hear and see the gospel in ways totally unique to any other experience. They hear the gospel prayed. They see the powerful effects of the gospel in the lives of those who have been reconciled to God and who have an active relationship with God. They have the opportunity to then share their own needs in groups of loving Christians who will pray for them on the spot.
I will never forget one evening in the early days of our church plant when a young lady approached me obviously impacted by the prayer meeting. She was a non-Christian from the community who had been invited by a friend. Following our time of prayer, she approached me and said, “I have never before heard people talk to God like they know him.” That evening began a process that would lead to her salvation, her discipleship, and her now passion for the nations. Our corporate praying led to not only the salvation of this young lady but to the eventual spread of the gospel among the unreached through her missionary work in Asia.
#4 Because God is Glorified Through It
Have you ever wondered why God would arrange the world in such a way that his people would pray? Why doesn’t God just go ahead and act apart from our praying? Why does he desire our prayers? Several answers could be pointed to, but perhaps the most essential purpose of prayer relates to the most essential purpose of the universe. God has created the world as we know it for the purpose of his eternal praise. He has worked throughout history, carried out his plan for redemption, and is presently active in our world for the sake of his great glory.
Praying is designed that we might give glory where glory is due. In prayer, we confess our own inability and we put faith in God’s ultimate ability. In prayer, we express both our dependence and God’s dependability. As we pray and we see those prayers answered, we are made aware that it is only God who could have accomplished such great acts of salvation, provision, and protection. In prayer, we glorify God as the only one who is, “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think… to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).
It is true that God is glorified in your private prayer life, but it is all the more glorious when you come together for corporate praying. Not only do you see God’s sovereign hand in your own life, but you get to see God’s simultaneous work in the lives of others. Corporate prayer provides the opportunity to praise the Lord for his Kingdom work through countless situations you would have remained totally unaware of had you neglected to pray together. We come together in corporate prayer because God hears us, we need it, they need it, and God is uniquely glorified in it.
For another article on corporate prayer, gatherings click here.
I also recommend John Onwuchekwa’s book on corporate prayer
Where prayer is sparse and sporadic, when it’s done just enough to ease the conscience and not much more, we’ve got a problem…Where prayer is present, it’s saying something – it’s speaking, shouting. It teaches the church that we really need the Lord. Where prayer is absent, it reinforces the assumption that we are ok without him. Infrequent prayer teaches a church that God is needed only in special situations – under certain circumstances but not all. It teaches a church that God’s help is intermittenly necessary, not consistently so. It leads a church to believe that there are plenty of things we can do without God’s help, and we need to bother him only when we run into especially difficult situations. (John Onwuchekwa, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church, 19)
By His Grace & For His Glory,