Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
I was recently in a small church that for years has struggled to grow beyond 60 people. They are dear, sincere people who want to trust God to use them in greater ways in their community. I challenged them to focus more on kingdom issues in their prayers (as opposed to just the needs of the congregation).
In a Facebook chat a few weeks later, the pastor’s wife commented that they had tweaked some of the way they were praying. And a neighbor had prayed to receive Christ that week. I will continue to pray for a renewed passion to seek the kingdom as they pray together.
Despite the fact that many churches do not have significant corporate prayer expressions, most prayer leaders and pastors believe praying together is important. But what are the benefits? There are many benefits, but I want to share three significant ones with you.
1. Praying together invites the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
In 2 Chronicles 6-7 we see the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. While “the whole assembly of Israel was standing there” (2 Chron. 6:3) Solomon prays a dedicatory prayer in which he invokes the presence of God. “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. Now arise, O LORD God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” (6:41-42). Of course the presence of God entered with dynamic power.
There is a different atmosphere in churches that pray together and who have praying people. Worship seems more powerful. There is a sense of connection with God that is not there in non-praying churches.
A number of years ago at our prayer leader’s convention, Dr. Tommy Barnett, pastor of First Assembly of God Church in Phoenix, Arizona, said, “The presence of God in the midst of a church is directly proportional to the amount of prayer that takes place there.”
When the Spirit of God is manifestly present, other things happen. People hear Him speak, giving direction and encouragement (Acts 13:2-3). He will do that as you pray together as a congregation.
2. Praying together increases the faith of a congregation to believe God for the miraculous.
In Matthew 17 and Mark 9 there is the story of the father who brought his demon possessed son to the disciples. They could not cast it out. The boy was taken to Jesus, who spoke a word and the demon left. Later the disciples come to Jesus and they were baffled. Why? Because they knew how to cast out demons. (The story takes place after they had been sent two-by-two into villages casting out demons and healing the sick.) They asked Jesus why they couldn’t do it.
Jesus said two things: “because you have so little faith” (Mt. 17:20), and “this kind can come out only by prayer” (Mk. 9:29).
I wonder if the disciples attacked this demon issue cavalierly or routinely. They knew the words to say, the steps to take. But nothing worked because they were not prayed up enough. Their faith was not there as a result.
There is a clear connection between prayer and faith (beyond the fact that we are supposed to pray in faith).
I believe the most significant thing that is lost in a church that does not have corporate prayer is faith. The main reason most churches are stagnant and do not see God at work in miraculous ways in their midst? Most churches and individuals do not know what it is to pray in faith anymore.
But faith grows as we pray together. Here’s how it works. Maybe I personally am going through a tough time. In the midst of it, I try to pray with trust and faith, but it is difficult because I only see the issue. If I go and pray with others, however, what happens? As I listen to others pray with more faith than I have, my faith grows.
Here’s how it works in a corporate situation. Let’s say our church is planning to build. I’m an elder who is skeptical of the plans because they are beyond what we can afford to do. I go and begin to pray with others regarding this. God can now put a heart of trust in me, He can bring me to unity with others, He can give me the faith to believe Him for the miraculous—His vision and plan for my church. When I only pray by myself, that is less likely to happen.
3. Praying together moves people from seeking their purposes to desiring God’s purposes.
Most people’s prayers seek the best fix for a situation. We typically pray whatever we are told to pray for a situation, with no real thought of “What does God want to do here?” Something happens to that dynamic, however, when people pray together. They start to let go of their desires to see their purposes fulfilled and start to open themselves up to what God wants.
The value of this to a church is huge when it comes to ministry and decision making. If people pray together over an issue, even if people come to prayer thinking they know what the church should do, praying together opens them up to God’s desire.
People who are disgruntled with decisions a church has made usually have not prayed with the body over that issue. Pray together and watch unity grow.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 is a powerful promise written to a corporate body of people. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’”
The “all” there is numeric—God is saying if all of you would seek me, you will find the plans I have for you. If we want to see God’s blessing in our churches, if we want to see Jesus’ transforming power, the dynamic ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst, then we need to pray together.
Let these benefits encourage us to continue to rally for more times of praying together. For an expanded version of this article click here.
--Jonathan Graf is the president of the Church Prayer Leaders Network and the founding editor of Pray! Magazine. He is available for prayer weekends in your church; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.