Corporate prayer is a discipline instructed and expected by the early church.
This is a biblical truth.
Since it is true, why is it looked at by most in the Western church as an illness like the common flu. You feel bad for people who have (to do) it and you don’t want to be anywhere near it. A once beloved activity of the early church is avoided by most (pastors and church members) in the western church today.
Today, many professing followers of Christ know that corporate prayer should happen and better be happening but the average professor of Christ wants little to do with corporate prayer. Why? That’s a question I want to take up today and challenge you to reconsider your churches corporate prayer gathering.
First, is the discipline of corporate prayer treated with respect, and participation desired, among the saints? If not, why is it looked at and treated with little respect? Let’s be honest, helpfully honest. Corporate prayer is not treated as a sacred or holy activity of most professing Christians.
Corporate prayer is no forgotten discipline, it is an avoided discipline.
- There are at least four primary reasons the corporate prayer gathering at the local church is treated with such low esteem?
- First: I see a lack of importance on the part of pastors/elders. Over the decades there is so much emphasis given to other activities in church life that it is easier to gather children with high energy activity than to teach them the discipline of praying together as a church. It’s hard to argue with someone whose Wednesday night activity is flourishing with dozens and dozens of children and youth playing silly games. (No wonder the church has so few prayer warriors anymore.) We wouldn’t dare say that God is not attractive enough to keep our attention, but look and the kind of shenanigans many are willing to entertain in order to attract their people to attend. This has been true of me in years past and repented of as I strive to reform this activity biblically.
- Second: Where corporate prayer is an expected discipline of faithful followers of Christ and many would look for a way to fire their pastor if he didn’t provide a corporate prayer time, most will intentionally avoid and excuse away why they won’t be gathering to pray with their church. They will spend that time at home watching T.V., YouTube videos of cute puppies, browsing websites, and some honest enough to simply excuse themselves from a “boring, fruitless activity”, a great misunderstanding of what corporate prayer is and would honestly just not be willing to work at something so difficult.
- Third: Our children are great persuaders. When they complain about something being boring and too much for them in their busy schedules long enough they will eventually wear their parents down and win. Unknowingly, the parent is enabling the child’s flesh to win over the spirit.
- Fourth: Well meaning yet misplaced emphasis during the corporate prayer time of any local church has been on praying for runny noses and intentionally gathering and spreading of gossip manure. This must stop. It does not please God to use this intimate time where the saints gather together to seek His face for sinful activity. It must stop and must be repented of.
Why is it that something of such biblical importance is treated and considered so lowly on the weekly agenda of so many professing Christians?
The Spirit is willing but the flesh is week. The professing follower of Christ knows that corporate prayer is important. The problem is not the Spirit, the problem is that the flesh is too week to do what can only be done in Christ. When we submit to the work of the flesh to attract people to do things of the Spirit, the flesh will eventually give up and grow weary because it is not able to accomplish this heavenly work.
Second, What can be done to correct the present trajectory of the corporate prayer gathering?
- First: pastors/elders must lead the way. The neo-traditional way for some is so loved that some may threaten to stop attending all together if you lead in a way other than the way they so love that feeds their flesh. If there is any other activity offered while prayer is happening the other activity will seemingly prosper in comparison. I suggest you offer only prayer during the corporate prayer gathering. If Wednesday has too many other things happening that it would cause too much disruption then establish another day to do this.
- Second: Don’t let any ongoing temporal event (there are reasonable times when schedules conflict) keep you from gathering together with your church to pray. If a temporary/recreational activity is keeping you away from the discipline of corporate prayer, consider how you can adjust. Most entertainment can be done with a recording or streaming. If you are too exhausted, you might try getting extra sleep at other times. If that’s during your meal time, consider replacing that time with prayer (the discipline of fasting) or adjusting your meal time (after all, we adjust meal times for a lot of other reasons).
- Third: Discipleship is a discipline best taught by observation. If our children are seeing the corporate prayer time as too boring, what are they hearing from their parents and/or other adults? Superficial hype is as unhelpful as deliberate absence.
- Fourth: Resist your fleshly craving to gather and disperse gossip. What is spoken of and prayed for in the corporate prayer gathering is not permission for you to gossip about with others. It is an intimate and vulnerable time when the saints pray together. Respect this of each other and pray for and with one another. Do not reduce a sacred duty with such unholy behavior.
Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. is the scheduled corporate prayer gathering of Eastside Baptist Church. We live in the kind for day that it is nearly impossible to not participate with each other in prayer. Because of technology we are able to pray together from all over the valley, and the world for that matter.
If because of distance, schedule or illness you are unable to attend in person, consider joining us via live streaming. Visit our mid-week prayer gathering online HERE. You will need a password. You can request the password from me. When you log in please communicate via email, text, or message that you are logged in so we can know who we are praying with. Join us tonight for this sacred moment to bring our petitions to God the Father.