I started attending mid-week prayer meetings when I was still a teenager. I was shocked at how few Christians attended. Even of the adults, as I'd always thought this was for adults only. When I moved to another place, and attended prayer meetings in the church there, I found the same thing. But if I wanted to find the most devoted believers, who truly walked with God, and believed their prayers would be answered, I found that I could narrow down my search in any church by going to their prayer meetings. Those were the people I wanted for my friends!
That must be true around the world. Have you experienced this too?
One pastor said that our prayer meetings were like the spiritual furnace of the church. He could always tell if there was any spiritual life in a congregation by what happened in the prayer meetings.
The newly birthed Church in Acts understood the importance of prayer meetings. We read, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42).
"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him... many people had gathered and were praying." (Acts 12:5,12b).
If we really want to see God act in this world, it will only happen when Believers gather together to pray in prayer meetings, as these quotes will show;
No great spiritual awakening has begun anywhere in the world apart from united prayer - Christians persistently praying for revival. (J. Ediwn Orr)
Watchman Nee wrote in his book, The Prayer Ministry of the Church;
"Here lies a most important principle: God works through the Church today: He cannot do whatever He desires to do unless He does it through the Church. . . . God has put Himself in the Church. . . . What then, is the prayer ministry of the Church? It is God telling the Church what He wishes to do so that the Church on earth can then pray it out. . . . The Church is to pronounce on earth that this will of God is what she wants. . . . The highest use of the Church to God is to allow His will to be done on earth."
I have come across this idea expressed in several other books on prayer, including Paul Bilheimer's Destined for the Throne, and it always stops me in my tracks to realize that God is limiting His power to what the Church will pray for. If we don't pray for it, God's will won't get done! Oh-veh! We are holding back God's wonderful Will! Let's find out God's will and pray for it with all our might!
Jesus Himself taught this; "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:18-20 NIV)
Obviously, it doesn't have to be a very big prayer meeting to accomplish these things, but at least two or three people need to meet together and agree on what they will pray for, and then pray earnestly and in faith for these items of God's will to be done.
What's more, Jesus Himself promised to be present in even such small prayer meetings! He prays along with us!
A lot of Christians don't go to prayer meetings because they are afraid that those who hear them pray aloud may find fault with their praying. Maybe they have heard some Christians praying for the benefit of their human hearers instead of God. That part is too bad. But Jesus prayed for the benefit of His hearers when He prayed for Lazarus to come out of his grave. He said so.
The truth of the matter is that I am always encouraged when I hear someone else pray. Not because they may be so eloquent, but when they pour their hearts out honestly, humbly and with faith before God, even if their language is broken and halting, I am encouraged and blessed. Most everyone is thrilled when they hear someone else praying for them. So there are many benefits to hearing someone else pray. The problem is to get over our self-consciousness about others hearing us pray.
I got over it because I wanted to learn to pray better, and I felt that by attending a prayer meeting, I might actually learn to do better praying by taking part and listening to others pray. Mostly, I learned to be real, speak to God as He were truly listening, and praying with as much faith and transparency as I had. With time I grew in faith - because the faith expressed in others' prayer stimulated mine.
I've often wished I could convince other Christians of this. By insisting on only praying alone they are stunting their faith and perhaps their spiritual growth. To insist on going solo in prayer when we have an opportunity to pray with other believers is perhaps - in God's eyes - a back-handed pride, which makes it a sin.
In What Happens When Women Pray, Evelyn Christenson offers a guide, she calls Six S's, for praying in a group.
1. Subject by subject (one accord about one subject at a time).
5. Silent periods (two-way conversation with God)
6. Small groups (best for shy and untrained newcomers).
If the leader explains beforehand, and everyone in the small group agrees, this can be a wonderful way of keeping a prayer meeting focused and productive. Just name one prayer request at a time. Each person who wants to prays a short simple sentence or two expressing their desire and faith for God to do this. No one should be afraid of silent periods. God may be answering and speaking to some hearts. Listen. When you find a new prayer welling up in you, then pray again, but listen for God's Spirit first. If your prayer meeting has a lot of people attending, break them up into smaller groups or huddles of three to six people, let them move off a few feet from the others, and then all the groups can pray at the same time. That's better than waiting for dozens or hundreds of people to take turns. (Oh to have such a problem!)
Sometimes for some special church services, you do want to keep everyone together and have just a few people pray aloud on behalf of the whole group. Right now we are discussing Prayer Meetings.
Why should we attend and pray in prayer meetings? Because that's how God wants to do His Will on earth! Because we are truly working as part of Jesus' Body when we pray together, and we will grow in faith and in prayer skills as we do.
Please, seek out and be part of a prayer meeting whenever you can.