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Once again, the elders have tasked us with the ministry of prayer as we bring 2020 to an end. The church has ended the year this way since before I arrived here. Deborah and I came to Southern Hills in January of 2011, but we participated in 40 Days of Prayer in 2010 knowing that we were coming.
So, this is a tradition—a good tradition—in this body of believers. And for many good reasons. Let me list a few…
In the first century church, corporate prayer was as important as preaching and teaching. Today, healthy churches pray together.
Praying together is vital if we hope to unleash God's power, presence, and work among us.
Prioritizing prayer elevates it to a higher position in our minds. It’s no longer something to briefly “tack on” at the beginning of a service or meeting. It can be and should be the real business at hand.
God has sovereignly ordained the corporate praying of His church so that His mighty workings increase exponentially, and His purposes are accelerated. In no way does corporate prayer minimize the necessity of personal prayer. Both types of prayer, corporate and personal, are necessary if our lives and churches are to be truly transformed spiritually.
The Early Church Prayed Together Regularly
Acts 2:42 says that the first-century church was devoted to four things: apostolic teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread (eating meals and the Lord’s Supper together), and prayer. As restorationists, we should have a deep devotion to these things as well.
In Acts 4, after Peter and John are released from prison, the whole church prays for boldness to continue preaching Jesus in the face of adversity. We are told that at the final amen to that prayer, three things happened: “the place in which they were gathered was shaken, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the word of God with boldness!”
In Acts 6, the church faces a dilemma. The Grecian widows were being short-changed in the daily food distribution. In spiritual wisdom, the Twelve call the entire church together. “This ministry of service is important. But it should not fall to us who are involved in the ministry of teaching and the ministry of prayer. Decide among yourselves (we assume prayerfully) who should head up this ministry of foodservice.”
Prayer was not an afterthought in the early church. It was a ministry! A way to serve. A ministry of such high priority that it was primarily the responsibility of those who had walked with Jesus. But it was also something done by the whole church!
In fact, every instance of prayer leading up to Acts 6 pictures the Twelve leading others in prayer (1:14, 24; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31). Not one word about the personal prayers of the apostles! Surely, they did pray privately. But the emphasis was on public, corporate prayer.
The church prayed together often. It was a high priority!
Jesus Prioritized Group Prayer
Where did the apostles learn this? From Jesus, of course! There are 37 verses in the gospels in which Jesus either prays or references prayer. Thirty-three of those 37 instances are addressed to a plural rather than a singular audience. For example, in Matthew 7:7, all the you’s are plural. In the New Texas Translation (if it existed), the verse would read, “Ask and it will be given to y’all. Seek and y’all will find. Knock and the door will be opened to all y’all!”
In Matthew 18:19, Jesus deliberately emphasizes praying together. “Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.”
God intends for His people to pray together and to pray for each other! It’s a priority. So, let me ask you… If corporate prayer was a priority for Jesus and a priority for the first-century church, should it not also be a priority for us?
May we be devoted to prayer.
Therefore, click this link and sign up to spend at least one hour praying for the health and well-being of the Southern Hills Church.
“One hour! Are you kidding me? I can’t pray for a whole hour!”
Sure, you can. Open your Bible to the Psalms. Open your church directory. There’s enough material in those two sources alone to pray continuously for several hours. After you do it once, you may decide to sign up again. YOU ARE NEEDED!
Sign up! Let’s pray together that 2021 will be a banner year for the Southern Hills Church of Christ.
With God all things are possible. Six times in John’s gospel, Jesus encourages the Twelve, “Ask in my name and you will receive.” SIX TIMES!
Who knows what God will do among us … if we’ll only ask!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23).