My friend Anthony recently commented that:
True churches are sustained by prayer meetings.I assume, since he’s recently begun preaching on the book of Acts, that his study of that book is what prompted these observations. And they are right on! For, when one reads the book of Acts, the importance of corporate prayer is an inescapable theme. Gathered prayer is vital to the health and strength of the local church! And so, allow me to make three pleas regarding the prayer meeting:
Churches are strengthened by prayer meetings.
1. Start a prayer meeting. Every church should have a prayer meeting. That may sound a little strong, me suggesting that every church should hold this particular kind of service (especially when many churches do not). But it seems an inevitable conclusion that we must draw if we believe that the book of Acts gives us a paradigm for church life. The church, as God designed it, includes regular gatherings for corporate prayer. Maybe in larger churches, that will mean having several smaller prayer meetings available throughout the week (or corporate prayer as a significant component of small group meetings). In smaller churches, church-wide prayer meetings are easily feasible, and greatly helpful (nor are they impossible in larger churches). God hears prayer! Christ is in our midst when even two or three of us are gathered! Fellowship is strengthened as we pray together! And on and on we could go, listing the benefits of a prayer meeting … such that, if you are in a position of influence in your local church, I plead with you to try and begin a prayer meeting. Not a Bible study with a little prayer tagged on somewhere, but a whole meeting (or a very significant portion of a meeting) dedicated entirely to prayer! Maybe only a few people will come at first. But all you need is “two or three”! So get going, and see what God does!
2. Attend the prayer meeting. Can I urge you to make use of the prayer meeting that your church (hopefully) provides every week? Prioritize it. Venture out to it. Give it a try! Even if you don’t say anything out loud for the first little while, you will benefit so much from hearing other saints pray; from learning on what is on your fellow believers’ hearts; and from discovering needs in their lives that you can both pray for, and sometimes that you can ask about or help meet throughout the remainder of the week. Iain Murray has said that no pastor has ever come to his death bed lamenting that he prayed too much. And no Christian, I think, will come to his dying day thinking he spent too much time praying with other believers. So prioritize the prayer meeting. You won’t be sorry!
3. Actively participate in the prayer meeting. I said, under the last heading, that you can benefit greatly from the prayer meeting even if you don’t pray aloud yourself. Just hearing the prayers is worthwhile! But let us not stay, forever, in hearing mode only. Let us also join in! We can do this in two different ways.
One is simply that, even without praying aloud, you can add your quiet agreement by praying along with brothers and sisters silently, and ‘amen-ing’ their praises and petitions quietly in your own mind and heart. Indeed, you should do this even if you do pray aloud! Let not your out-loud prayers be the only ones you offer when the saints are gathered before God’s throne of grace!
But then let me also urge you to participate, if you don’t already, by praying aloud, too! Bless the gathering by allowing others to hear you pray. Not for the sake of attention (Matthew 6:5-6), or because your prayers are so exemplary and awe-inspiring! But so that others can quietly ‘amen’ your humble and simple requests, and be encouraged by your heartbeat for God. Your vocal participation need not be long or eloquent – just Christ-reliant and sincere. At PRBC, it is a blessing, during the first (large-group) part of our prayer meeting, that we have a handful people who are always willing and able to participate in this way. But there are many others – who have something to contribute, and whose hearts we would all benefit from hearing – who remain almost perpetually silent during that time. If that is you, know that we want to hear you pray, and to join in quiet agreement with you! Indeed, it is to the group’s loss if we do not benefit from your prayers. So I urge you, those who often remain silent in the large group time – chime in! God delights when His people come to Him in prayer. And so do the rest of His people!