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For any that have interest, I have attached a pdf version of the dissertation I submitted in April 2013 to Asbury Theological Seminary on the topic of corporate prayer.  I hope it proves helpful.

Blessings,

John Whitsett

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Hi Robert - a quick suggestion (to pray about!) ...

It is easy for pastors and leaders to feel defensive when we identify alack of prayer in the congregation. Consider asking your pastor and the leaders how you can pray for them. Possibly over a period of time they will become more open to you sharing your prayer concerns.

What do you think?

Phil

Thanks Phil, I think it' a great idea. (I deleted my original post and will post an edited version next).

John, I hope to read you dissertation and get back with you. Several weeks ago, I started to send an email to my pastor, in which I attempted to articulate my grief over what I feel is among the most neglected commands in the New Testament: 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Paul's call to pray for those in authority.

In verse 1, when he begins with "First of all", it seems to me that Paul is saying that corporate prayer should be a top priority practice in the churches. This exhortation is no more an option for the church than Romans 12:1 is for the believer. Corporate prayer is a commandment, correct?

It also seems to me (from verse 8 and 9) that although every believer is called to pray, Paul is putting the responsibility for verses 1-8 particularly upon the *men* of the local church (because verse 8 is directed to men, and is followed immediately by verse 9 which begins with, "Likewise, I want women ..."). Now I am not a student of Greek, but to me the implication is that Paul is using gender-specific language for men to join together and pray for political leaders, "without wrath and dissention", in addition to comprehensive prayer for the progress of the gospel for all men.

Imagine how different our nation would be if the men actually obeyed this command! Most of the "prayer breakfasts" I have attended consist of friendship, food, teaching, and prayer for local and personal needs. I count it a privilege to be with men who actually pray for our national, state, and local leaders!

As I see our nation continue to decline, I am continually grieved at the lack of leadership emphasis I see on practical corporate prayer. In addition for the burden to pray for our own nation (along with all the nations), I also see other significant prayer priorities that are neglected and need to be revived: the importance of the family altar being upheld by both the husband and wife, and corporate prayer for the persecuted church.

The prayers of the saints have changed history in the past. We should be praying this way today.

In my own fellowship with true believers, I usually find there is total agreement on the authority of Scripture, the essentials of the Gospel, and core doctrines, despite our denomination. On a personal level, we (evangelical lay people) may be able to do something that many pastors find difficult. That is, we can lay aside denominational differences and just get down to the business of prayer for our nation's leaders, for all the nations, and for our own homes. In this sense we can experience real fellowship with genuine believers, because we understand the difference between what is essential ("approve the things that are excellent", Phil 1:10 NKJV) and non-essential (such as our particular views on eschatology). I believe this pleases the Lord, and goes a long way in spreading the Gospel (John 17:21,23).

I decided not to send my message to the pastor, though I did meet with him. I don't feel the meeting accomplished what I intended. I started to research this entire subject of revival and prayer, and essential unity among true believers at large, which seems broad in scope, but have not been able to devote time to finish my research.

Whether I finish my research objectives or not, one thing is for sure: I must *practice* what I know to be correct. When I read missionary biographies and stories of martyrs old and new, and the acts of modern missionaries, I realize that God primarily calls us all to obedience. Not many are called to get a PhD. This idea that everything needs to be thoroughly studied before taking action can be an excuse for inaction (the "paralysis of analysis"). I don't want to be like the scribes Jesus railed against, who diligently recorded the teachings of scripture, but studiously avoided the application of it!

Your Brother In Christ,

Robert J Eustace

Thanks John for sharing your heart in your Dissertation.  I like others am reading it--will take some time, but I hope this discussion thread does not just stop, but will grow as several of us are reading your dissertation.  --Looking forward to that discussion.

I'm reading (drinking) it as well. Thank you for such a thorough study and your obviously passionate motivation for corporate prayer behind it. I know the Lord helped me find it because he has put a pressing burden on my heart to help mobilize corporate prayer in my local church. This will give me the understanding and context I need as I seek to persuade and influence others to pray. Thank you! God bless!

Hi Lynne--

I'm so glad you stumbled onto this and that it's proving helpful to you.  My hope was that it wouldn't just meet a requirement for my degree, but that it would be of assistance in helping to mobilize corporate prayer in the North American church.  My prayer is that it will be so in your setting as well.

Blessings,

John Whitsett

John--I have finally gotten through your dissertation--You have made some interesting observations.  One area that was not touched on, is the role of an intercessor in encouraging corporate prayer--which would include encouraging the pastor, and others in leadership,  Did you find any of the churches you interviewed sharing about the role of intercessors  and corporate prayer?

The work of intercessors is often behind the scenes, but when they join together and pray in agreement with God's Word, much wonderful change that can encourage corporate prayer can occur.

---

I would like to share that I appreciated your sharing how brokenness was a major factor in moving leaders to consider corporate prayer.

Question--did you observe in your research, when brokenness occurred on the part of a leader--how did the leader encourage a cultural change in the church?

Hi Lewis--

Let me try to speak to the questions you raised in your most recent message:

1.  I really didn't raise the topic of the roles of individual intercessors in my interviews.  One of the things the my dissertation committee looked at was whether my research actually addressed the stated research questions I spelled out in Chapter One.  Because my research was confined to trying to understand the beliefs and values that contributed to the implementation of corporate prayer,  I really couldn't ask that question.  The only way the topic could have been addressed is if one the individuals I interviewed had brought it up.  But it really didn't "emerge naturally" from the conversations.

2.  Regarding the implementation of cultural change in the wake of a leader's brokenness, the two key factors that jumped out were perseverance and longevity of tenure.  The sense I got, from the interviews I conducted, is that there are no shortcuts to facilitating significant cultural change apart from being persistent in a certain direction over the course of years and years.  It was also significant that most of the churches were either churches that were started by the pastor (where the value of corporate prayer could be embedded into the ministry DNA from the foundation) or churches that were "functional church starts" (i.e., down to a handful of members to where it was as if they were launching a new work).  The challenge I think you're dealing with--and this is for somebody else to do some research on--is how do you embed this type of cultural change into an established church where corporate prayer is perceived as an "add-on" and not a "foundational" value.  I know this much from my own personal experience--it ain't easy!

I hope this helps,

John

Thanks John, for your response.

Concerning your answer to my first question I appreciate your answer-I am not surprised that the work of  intercessors did not emerge naturally—the work of intercessors in the churches is now only being understood by a few.  It will take some more digging to learn about intercessors who have prayed for and seen a change in their churches toward corporate prayer. 

Concerning the 2nd answer--I agree—drawing from times when much prayer—over much time has sometimes brought only limited results.  In a way, intercessors are like gardeners, whom our Lord gave a parable about.  The Lord happened on a tree with out fruit—the gardener pleaded for time for him to tend the tree so it would bear fruit. It takes time--sometimes much time.  Our prayers are like that tending–Again-to find cases where intercessory prayer has made a difference, would take some digging to find cases where such prayer has brought the fruit of corporate praying and a change in church culture.

Perhaps some others can share their experiences related to my observations that I just wrote.

I do know from your dissertation, that I have learned some ways to incorporate in my work as an intercessor, and I appreciate what you have shared very much.

Thank you

Thanks for sharing. I plan to read it... and hopefully be transformed by it!

Hi Chuck--

I hope you can work through some of the academic minutiae and extract some insights that are helpful.  If it proves beneficial in any way, it helps to redeem the investment of energy and effort.

Blessings,

John

John, 

What a comprehensive study on corporate prayer! I read your dissertation with great interest tonight and really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing. I agree that corporate prayer is a measure of church health just as individual prayer is an indicator of personal spiritual health. It makes sense that in a highly individualized and secularized society, we would see a decline in both corporate prayer and its fruit: the Presence of God. 

I am a Massachusetts resident and have recently been studying the writings of Jonathan Edwards from the 1st Great Awakening, which you covered here. Your research creates an extremely valuable overview of church prayer history, especially with regard to praying for revival.

I write almost exclusively about prayer and knowing God at HisInscriptions.com, (also posting the blogs here), and would be very interested in interviewing you for an article on corporate prayer to include on my site, if you are interested. I'd love to work with you to create a shorter, interview-style Q & A that would highlight some of the key thoughts you have concerning corporate prayer. Please let me know if you might have time to do this by phone, perhaps in January when the holiday busyness is past! :-) 

Blessings, 

Deborah Perkins

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