Traditional church prayer meetings can be great, or just grating. God knows. The agenda can become Bible Studies with prayer tacked on, with plenty of time for G.T. (Gossipy Tidbits). Some have become the occasion for impressing others with the rehearsals of correct theology. Wow! Impressive.
Some have become elitist gatherings of church insiders, attracting less and less people with urgent needs. Some have induced fear in those who might be called on to pray out loud. Many churches have just given up on their midweek prayer meetings.
Boy howdy! That was a negative way to start this posting about prayer gatherings.
Let’s move to the positive. Let’s envision the revival of corporate prayer informed by our study of “Listening Prayer.” Not the dysfunctional form described above, but an entirely new spiritual culture of intercession.
Last week, a woman came to me with a question. She struggles when asked to pray out loud in a group. Exploring her humble heart, I discovered the wonderful way in which she experienced conversations with her Lord privately within. So, I offered her gracious words by which she could defer requests by others to pray out loud in the group. Awe, relief! The pastor’s permission not to pray! Out loud, that is, in a group.
Two Scriptures come to mind. Both come from Jesus. Yet they open the discussion about private praying verses public praying. Take a look:
Matthew 6:5-6. 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 18:19-20. 19 “Again, I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
So, Jesus validates both private and corporate prayer, done in the right way, in the right spirit.
Let group prayer be a partnership of listening. Listen together to find agreement. Wait to see how God brings hearts into alignment on a request. Allow time for the Spirit to confirm the request in each heart. And Jesus promised that His Father would answer when humble saints listen to God together in prayer.
But here is a caution from King Solomon that is a corrective to today’s casual corporate prayer:
Ecclesiastes 5:1-2. 1 Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. 2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore, let your words be few.
For some time, a group of people partnered together in listening prayer on Thursday nights. We called it “Worship and Wait.” It was simple structure, but profound impact. A keyboardist played gentle praise music, sometimes with words. A listening team stood by to shepherd and safeguard the moments. People came as they could and left when they must. They silently waited. Now a Scripture came. Now a confirming word came. Tears were common and natural. Something was building, moving, healing, and thrilling those who gathered. God was present. And He was speaking because they were listening together.
Be encouraged. Renewal of the church can begin with the renewal of listening prayer gatherings.
Click here for a one-page summary of the “Listening Prayer” plan on our Website: http://bit.ly/2ubAuxg