Corporate Prayer: What Does the Bible Say?

Today’s post first appeared on the blog on 9-1-16.  Originally entitled, Corporate Prayer: Believers Joining Together in Prayer, it has been reworked in recognition of The National Day of Prayer (May 4, 2017).

Prayer — a valuable gift from our Heavenly Father — a means for direct and authentic communication with Him and a powerful weapon in Spiritual warfare.

Wow, prayer is all of that and so much more.  Yet, many of us, His children, struggle when it comes to engaging in prayer.  We allow so many things to get in our way.  “I just never seem to have the time.”  “I’m not sure what to pray.”  “Is there is ‘right’ way to pray?”
And, heaven help us if we are asked to pray aloud — whether there’s one other person in the room or thirty!
“I’m not sure I’ll do it right.”  “It might not sound like someone else’s.” “What will they think?”

Deeming it safer to pray alone, we allow fearful self-talk to keep us from entering into and experiencing corporate prayer.

Does it really matter if we participate in corporate prayer or not?  What do we find in the Bible?

First, we find that Jesus valued corporate prayer.

Yes, Jesus valued private prayer.

He modeled private prayer.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  (Mark 1:35)

He taught private prayer.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  (Matthew 6:6)

But He also valued corporate prayer.

In the book of Matthew, we see that Jesus also modeled and taught corporate prayer.

9Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.    (Matthew 6:9-13)

As you read these verses, notice Jesus’ expectation of corporate prayer.  His instruction begins with, “Pray then like this….” In other words, “Pray as I am instructing you.”
Also, carefully observe the wording of His instruction, specifically His use of corporate languageour, us, we.  We are to pray using this language – together language.

Secondly, in the book of Acts we see corporate prayer being practiced by those of the early church.

  • All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.  (Acts 1:14)
  •  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  (Acts 2:46)
  • Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.  (Acts 3:1)
Members of the early church prayed together.
In other passages from the book of Acts, we learn that these early saints also prayed together when they were persecuted (4:23-31), when they sent out gospel workers (13:1-3), and when church leaders were appointed (14:23).
Note that their corporate prayers were not bound by location.  Their “together” prayers were not something only for church prayer meeting time.  The saints of Acts prayed together in their homes (2:42-47), beside rivers (16:13), on beaches (21:5-6), and aboard ships (27:35-38).
For the saints in Acts, praying together was the most normal thing in the world.  They prayed because they had a promise and a mission — from Christ.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  (Acts 1:8)

The promise:  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
The mission:  “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and the to end of the earth.”
A promise and a mission — far beyond human capacity.
Prayer was their means — the vehicle through which they petitioned God to fulfill His promise and to equip them for His work.

So…does it matter if we are engaging in opportunities of corporate prayer?

Like the Christians of the early church, our mission today is demanding and urgent. Like the Christians of the early church, we have much to pray about TOGETHER.
Praying together is important. No matter your age, your gender, your knowledge of the Bible, or your comfort level with praying in public, you have an important place in corporate prayer.
Prayer is a work for everyone who belongs to Christ.
Finally, take one last look at Acts 1:14.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women
and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In this verse we see the foundation of their faithful practice of prayer.  Scripture tells us that Christ’s followers DEVOTED themselves to praying together.  On a casual read-through, it may appear that many of the prayer meetings of the early church happened spontaneously.  However, the early Christian’s tendency to bow together in prayer was fueled by their INTENTIONAL devotion to the practice.  They prayed together at every opportunity because they were already convinced that it was crucial. Prayer was a priority.

Scary as it may be.  Yes, it matters.

You have an important place in corporate prayer.

4 comments on “Corporate Prayer: What Does the Bible Say?

  1. Wonderful post! This is so on target! Sharing on Facebook an twitter.

  2. Horace Williams Jr.

    May 4, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Prayer is something that is close to my heart Deborah. What a privilege to have access to God’s throne of grace via prayer. Praying together as a church family is vital especially in today’s world. May we always seek god’s face and come together in prayer. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking post. What a poignant reminder of the power we have in prayer. Blessings.

    • Oh, yes, Horace. Prayer is SO powerful perhaps that is why Satan tries to scare us away from it with thoughts of “I might not be doing it right” or “What will they think when they hear me pray.” Thank you for your encouraging words today.

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