Praying Together In A Year Of Prayer
18 | Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19 | 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.
20 | For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. - Matthew 18:18-20
Jesus said that there is power in prayer agreement (v19). It takes at least two to agree. This sharing of purpose is an expression of a community. To be able to “agree” is to be able to respond with “Amen” when another prays (which means, and so shall it be” - a statement of agreement).
Where two or three are gathered in prayer (reading verse 20 in context), there is a promise of the Lord’s comforting and authoritative presence. Biblically, the “presence of the Lord” conveys the promise that God is authoritatively at work. When tasked to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, Moses prayed, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). God’s presence is a mark of His favour, blessing and authority. Every church or small group should seek after His presence. Jesus promised us that if we gather to pray, His presence will be with us.
In leading or serving in the work of the Church, we may meet, discuss, plan and strategise together. If we fail to pray together and acknowledge our need of His authoritative presence, we may end up doing church work in a “godless” way. We will do well to heed the warnings given to the seven churches in the book of Revelation in chapters 2 and 3. Prayer agreement and His presence are inseparable. Without a communal prayer life, we may end up doing atheistic work while imagining we are serving Him. We end up doing the work in our name, not His. This is one reason why we go by the dictum that “those who serve together must pray together.”
This will be especially true for those in leadership. Co-leadership over both temporal and spiritual issues in the life of the Church can be complex. Spiritual authority can be intoxicating. Praying together helps us to keep the right perspective towards each other and the Lord.
However, we need to think deeper about what praying together means. It is more than just two persons mouthing some words that ends with “Amen.” Prayer is more than just an opener and end for a committee meeting to bookmark the writing of the minutes. Praying together is about sharing spiritually (koinonia) and having a relationship and communal life that is mindful of the lordship of Christ. It is about two Christians who relate to each other with the Lord at the heart of it, and where even the discussions and thoughts; mutually expressed; naturally become prayers. A community that can “amen” together reflects mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), a shared life and a Christ-filled purpose.
On occasions after I have shared with a brother, I sensed we have prayed even through we had not formally done so. It was conversations where the Lord was an active participant. This attitude of humble dependence on the Lord and another person is in itself, a prayerful attitude. Praying together is not an activity. It is a heart attitude. If parish committees or teams have these deep spiritual marks of dependence on the Lord and one another, the fruits will show.
I also believe that praying together saves us from pride and spiritual deception. On our own, we can easily imagine that the Lord has endorsed this or that. There is discernment when we are in prayer agreement and mutually accountable to another. Alone, we often think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3). Alone, we think we are right in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). When we pray together, we open our hearts to the Lord and another person.
Jesus Himself underlined the Old Testament teaching that the temple of the Lord is a “house of prayer.” The gathered Christian community, described as the new “temple” is also where prayer is to take place. Of course the church gathers for many reasons and there are different activities. But prayer is one central mark of her identity as a gathered community.
In the early Church, the Christians continued their Jewish customs of meeting regularly in prayer (as recorded in the Book of Acts). The Church in her chequered history, even when under persecution, gave priority to worship and prayer whenever they came together.
Praying together defines the very purpose of why the Church gathers together. Prayer is for every Christian and not meant for only those who are more spiritually committed. We do this in every weekend Service. If you care to notice, we pray a lot in our Services. We may be praying through our liturgy, hymns and songs. Many of our hymns and songs are actually prayers. Then of course, we have the intercession time where we are more specific in praying for needs. The Communion liturgy involves praying. If there is ministry time, we pray for one another.
When we gather in our Connect Groups and other types of small gatherings, we pray. We also gather to pray in a very focused way in our monthly Church Prayer Meetings.
I do not think I can say enough about this call to pray together. We do intuitively know that we need to. It is basic to the Christian life. It is the basis for teams to lead or serve. It is how the Church breathes.