The Power of Corporate Prayer
By Austin Donahoo
The Neglect of Prayer
In the past several decades, it appears as if society has increased its speed with fervor and does not intend on slowing down anytime soon. With this increase of business and a pull to be everywhere and do everything at once, prayer has gone by the wayside in many Christians’ lives. Prayer is placed into a repertoire of tools that are rarely used and is only taken out for church services, bible study groups, or when there is a great loss or need in someone’s life.
It is a despairing reality to know that one of the greatest gifts God gave us is rarely utilized by those who seek to follow him.
Prayer is one of the most powerful tools God has given us as a Christ follower to know his will and to gain clarity on what we are to do with our redeemed lives. It is the heartbeat of one’s relationship with the Lord. Just as with a human heart that controls whether an individual lives or dies, our spiritual lives are dependent on the centrality of prayer in our relationship with our God. Also, we must be reminded that prayer is one of the disciplines that connect us to the life that is in Christ through his Spirit. This is affirmed in Colossians where Paul says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3, ESV). Therefore, since prayer is one of the ways you connect to the life of Christ, you are essentially cutting yourself off from the power that is within him to renew us every day into his likeness.
The Need for Corporate Prayer
The discussion of prayer and its lack of use in our Christian communities is part of a broader conversation on the use of personal disciplines also including things like Bible reading and memorization. While these personal disciplines are important, there has also been a neglect of the use of corporate disciplines, or those used by the body of Christ as a whole. Prayer is one of those disciplines that can occur in both of these realms. This is why there is a need for corporate prayer. This issue makes me think back to the Lord’s Supper before Jesus’ death that is described in Matthew 26. It describes that before Jesus enacted the sacrament of remembering his sacrifice, he prayed. In one of the most intense times for Jesus on the earth before his sacrificial work for the world, Jesus prayed corporately with his disciples. This may be cliché, but if the Lord of the universe found it necessary to pray corporately during that intense time in his life, we should clearly see a mandate for us to live our lives accordingly. We must see that corporate prayer brings not only us closer to God himself, but it brings us closer to his children.
Corporate Prayer in the Local Church
While many may are persuaded of the need to have corporate prayer in the church, sometimes it is more of a practical unawareness as how to best work it within the culture and life of the local church. One way this could be enacted is focus your service on having much time for prayer. This could include prayer for specific individuals, pray for the church, prayer for missional needs. The list could keep going. Having a service where conversation with the Lord is center will encourage members to follow the example in seeking the Spirit through prayer. Another way to encourage corporate prayer is to encourage groups that study the Bible together within the church to meditate and pray through parts of the Scripture they are reading together. This can be a way to use the Word of the Lord to guide the congregation to pray together in ways that are pleasing to him and according to his will for our lives. There are many other helpful ways, but these ways could be bridges in building a culture in the local church that grows in its ability and consistency of corporate prayer.