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.”
In the class on the book of Psalms that I am currently teaching, my students and I spent some time discussing how we can best prepare ourselves for church services. Here are some of our thoughts.
- Do what you need to do to get to church on time.
- Make an effort to focus on God before you go to church (e.g., through singing or Scripture reading).
- Pray for peace and unity among God’s people.
- Do not exhaust yourself on Saturday.
- Prepare for the service by reading the Scripture related to Sunday School and/or the sermon, if possible.
- Pause and meditate before worship starts.
- Seek to release the stress of the past week or the next week so that you can focus on the Lord.
- Taking notes may help you stay focused during the service.
- Give proper consideration to your attire. Dress does impact your attitude (sloppy clothes = sloppy attitude). Dress in a way that shows proper respect to the Lord and does not draw attention to yourself.
- Your first priority in going to church is to worship God, not have your own needs met. As you focus on him he will meet your needs.
THE TRUE SIGNS BY WHICH THE CHURCH OF CHRIST MAY BE KNOWN
As Stated by Menno Simons
I. By an unadulterated, pure doctrine, Deut. 4:6; 5:12; Isaiah 8:5; Matt. 28:20; Mark 16:15; John 8:52; Gal. 1.
II. By a scriptural use of the sacramental signs, Matt. 28:19; Mark 16; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; 1 Cor. 12:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3; Matt. 26:25; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:22, 23.
III. By obedience to the word, Matt. 7; Luke 11:28; John 7:18; 15:10; Jas. 1:22.
IV. By unfeigned, brotherly love, John 13:34; Rom. 13:8; 1 Cor. 13:1; 1 John 3:18; 4:7, 8.
V. An unreserved confession of God and Christ, Matt. 10:32; Mark 8:29; Rom. 10:9; 1 Tim. 6:13.
VI. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s word, Matt. 5:10; 10:39; 16:24; 24:9; Luke 6:28; John 15:20; 2 Tim. 2:9; 3:12; 1 Pet. 1:6; 3:14; 4:13; 5:10; 1 John 3:13.
“Two distinguishing marks of the early church were 1) Poverty and 2) Power.”
“In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scriptures, not the Scriptures by the Church.”
“If there be anything in the church to which you belong which is contrary to the inspired Word, leave that church.”
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
“You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.
You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night.
But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.”
(Unknown church leader)