Extended Corporate Prayer

After years of planning church events, I’ve learned that no church event is more simple to prepare, more important to schedule and more difficult to encourage participation in than an extended prayer meeting. Perhaps we’re too busy, too worldly, too distracted, or too unconcerned. But aren’t these reasons to participate rather than stay away?

No church event is more simple to prepare, more important to schedule and more difficult to encourage participation in than an extended prayer meeting.

Promote an all-church softball or soccer match, and we will come. A family movie night? We’ll come. An exciting children’s event? We’ll come. An Easter drama or a pizza and ice-cream fellowship? We’ll come. But an extended prayer meeting? Well, not so much.

Apparently, the challenge of motivating Christ’s disciples to pray is nothing new. Our generation and our culture are not especially unique, because Jesus encountered the same problem.

And he came unto the disciples, and found them asleep, and said unto Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour? (Matthew 26:40)

As He wrestled through the most agonizing prayer of His earthly existence, His disciples fell sound asleep. But He had taught them differently.

And he [Jesus] spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint. (Luke 18:1)

Do churches lack good, biblical teaching about prayer? Perhaps. But the real problem is motivation, not information. A most hardened criminal will pray when he is desperate. A most antagonistic atheist will pray when she faces sudden death. Teaching people about prayer is important. But training people to pray transcends this.

And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. (Luke 11:1)

Paul underscores this priority to Timothy, his protege. In a letter focused on church administration (1 Tim. 3:15), he begins by emphasizing the importance of corporate prayer. Notice the “first of all,” which emphasizes the first-place priority Paul gives to corporate prayer in a local congregation.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. (1 Timothy 2:1)

Which priority did Paul say should be “first of all?” Corporate, church-wide prayer. Not preaching, not teaching, not counseling, not evangelism and not even personal prayer specifically, but corporate prayer.

Any church would be well advised to restore corporate prayer as a first-place priority: in Lord’s Day worship, in a weekly evening gathering, as extended seasons of church-wide prayer and as in-home prayer gatherings. The more corporate prayer, the better.

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