The Last Dance, a recent ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan, has been captivating the quarantined in recent weeks. Following the story of Jordan’s superhuman drive to success, we have been reminded why every kid on a court since 1984 has wanted to “be like Mike.” While our enchantment with champions...
We read in Acts 2 that Peter preached to crowds and “they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). Scriptures tells us that 3,000 were added to the church that day when Peter proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Thousands were compelled by the working of the Spirit through Peter’s words to understand and believe that Jesus, whom they crucified, was indeed both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
Immediately after they believed, we read that the new believers “devoted themselves” to the teaching of the Apostles, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. We see signs and wonders, belief, and generosity. We see worship, hospitality, praise, unity, and evangelistic growth (Acts 2:42-47).
Who doesn’t want their church to look like the body of Christians we see in Acts 2?
But the excitement of signs and wonders and favor and awe and new believers may cause us to race right past the first church’s commitment to prayer—their commitment to root their ministry in dependance on the Lord.
For the early church, prayer was not an afterthought, or the Christian way to start and end a meeting. Prayer was not an addendum to the “real work” of the apostles. Prayer was central then and it must be for us now.
In this age when activity and productivity are equated with spiritual fruit, the quiet act of prayer is easily forsaken. But here are six reasons the Church needs corporate prayer.
Six Reasons the Church Needs Corporate Prayer
1. Corporate prayer encourages.
Life is hard. On this side of heaven we face sickness, sin, death, and brokenness. As followers of Christ we can find ourselves at a loss for words—even at a loss for how to understand a calamity in light of God’s goodness and sovereignty. When we gather with other believers to pray we can “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
In corporate prayer we can remind our brothers and sisters that God will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39), and that we have a Savior who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
2. Corporate prayer disciples.
When believers of varying ages and stages gather together to pray, we learn from one another. I remember well being taught by example to pray for God’s glory and for his will to be done; and that this sort of prayer takes a biblical priority above that of praying for my own safety.
Just as Jesus taught the disciples to pray (Matthew 6:10), when young believers listen to the prayers of the mature and faithful, their faith grows. Corporate prayer moves us beyond simplistic requests for ease or health or blessing (though those are worthy requests too) and teaches us to ask instead that we might be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
3. Corporate prayer forms in us the habit of prayer.
Scheduling times to pray with others makes us more consistent in acknowledging that we are weak and God is strong.
When I dedicate specific days and times to pray with others—prayer partners, elders’ wives, ministry leaders, women’s Bible study attendees, my friends and neighbors—I simply pray more. Like any discipline, doing it with others motivates and grows me. Setting aside time to pray together spurs us on in ways we wouldn’t be if we chose to only pray alone (Hebrews 10:24-25). Corporate prayer teaches us that, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
4. Corporate prayer is needed for confession.
When we pray with others and confess our sin, we expose it to the light and Christ shines on us (Ephesians 5:11-14, 1 John 1:7-9). James exhorts us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Individual prayer only makes use of part of our weapon of prayer to battle sin. There is strength in gathering with others. If we are serious about battling sin, we must put corporate prayer in our arsenal.
5. Corporate prayer builds unity.
It is nearly impossible to hold a grudge against someone when you join him or her in prayer. Jesus instructs us, in fact, that we cannot offer him a gift if we have something against our brother (Matthew 5:23-24). He says we must first go and be reconciled. Indeed, Peter reminds us that the Lord’s ears are only open to the prayers of the righteous, and not those who are walking in unrepentant sin (1 Peter 3:12). As we regularly come together, we’re reminded to “maintain the the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
6. Corporate prayer invests in evangelism.
Lastly, but not exhaustively, praying with others invests in God’s work to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. We see in Acts that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). As we pray, the Lord works to draw others to himself.
John says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). And Peter tells us, that the Lord does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). We know that when we pray for the salvation of others, it is the Lord’s desire that all would repent, and his will that some should be saved. We can join him in his work of redemption as we pray for those who are lost.
May it not be said of the church today that, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
An Example to Follow
God graciously gave us the example of the early church, as seen in Acts 2, to spur us on 2,000 years later. May we not forget the power and priority of corporate prayer. May our small groups, Bible studies, churches, communities, and friends be known for prioritizing prayer together.