I have been doing some reflection on the value of communal prayer, or praying as a community. We can note that the the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is meant to be prayed in community. It speaks of “us” rather than “me.” It says give us our daily bread, forgive our debts, and lead us not into temptation. In fact, it is even addressed to “our” Father rather than “my” Father. You get the point. The model prayer that Jesus gave us seems designed to be prayed in community.
Jesus said, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19, ESV). He seems to be saying that there is a certain strength found when like-minded people pray together.
For an example of the power of communal power we could consider Acts 12. Peter had been arrested by Herod. Verse 5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (ESV). The night before Peter’s trial, he escaped from prison with the help of an angel. Do you think there was a connection between the earnest prayers of the church and Peter’s subsequent escape?
Another relevant verse is found in Acts 1. A group of believers was waiting for the Holy Spirit. Verse 14 says of that group that “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (ESV). They were devoted to prayer, which sounds like more than a once-a-month event. That verse is a key to understanding the strength of the early church and the courage of the early Christians.
So why is communal prayer so important? R.A. Torrey got to the heart of the matter when he wrote: “If there is any real power in the church it is from God, and God has given it in answer to prayer. The prayer meeting is the real expression of the prayer life of the church. Of course all the living members of the church are praying in private, but it is in the prayer meeting that they come together and pray as a church. God delights to honor the prayers of the church as a whole (Acts 12:5, Acts 1:14). If the prayer meeting of a church runs down, it is practically certain that all the life of the church will run down, and its work prove a failure as far as accomplishing anything real and lasting for God is concerned.”