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Monday, 26 March 2012

Why should Christians pray TOGETHER?

Prayer Spike - Fabrice Muamba
In the wake of Fabrice Muamba's heart attack, the footballing world has been alive with requests for prayer that he would recover. Wayne Rooney tweeted, "Hope Muamba is OK. Praying for him and his family."

What was unusual about this outpouring of prayer was that it was, well, unusual - it was a 'prayer spike': I don't suspect Wayne Rooney's tweets are normally filled with prayer requests.

The world prays in crisis - and then tends to forget God altogether when times are good.

The continual prayers of God's people
In contrast to spike prayers are the prayers of God's people. Prayer is a believer's native air because he or she has, through Jesus Christ, come to know God as their Father in Heaven and wants to talk to Him constantly, as a child speaks freely to a parent. In fact this is one way we know we are true children of God - the Spirit of sonship has entered our hearts.

The powerful collective prayers of God's people: Seven Mighty Motives
Another kind of prayer that rises to heaven is the collective prayer of Christians who gather to pray. There is something powerful about collective prayer, about devoting ourselves to prayer (Acts 2:42), and below I list seven New Testament motives for it.

Here goes:

Motive 1 - Because praying with others demonstrates my unity with them (Acts 1:14)
The 120 pre-pentecost believers "joined together constantly in prayer". In an individualistic age, where we find it hard to choose 'group' and easy to choose 'self', we need a reminder that rather than islands, we are members of the one Body of Christ. Merely praying together reminds us of this precious truth.

Motive 2 - Because I love my brothers and sisters (Acts 4:24)
When Peter and John found themselves in trouble with the religious leaders (Acts 4), the church met to pray for them. Praying for one another is a deep expression of mutual love.

Motive 3 - Because I am concerned about the Kingdom of Christ (Acts 4:24, Matthew 6:1)
Peter and John's imprisonment risked the progress of the Gospel, for if the authorities managed to shut them up, the Gospel would not spread. And so they prayed for courage and God gave it to them in abundance. Gathering to pray expresses concern for the work of the Gospel.

Motive 4 - Because I have made corporate prayer a spiritual discipline (Acts 3:1)
Peter and John go to the temple to pray at 3.00pm. Why? Because that was the time of the daily prayer meeting. Like Jesus who habitually went to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16), Peter and John made the place of prayer a spiritual habit, discipline or custom. Much of spiritual life requires discipline, and churches who discipline themselves to pray, will enjoy the blessings of God that come through prayer.

Motive 5 - Because I know that we are in a spiritual battle - an prayer is part of our defence (Ephesians 6)
The 'prayer meeting' is the poorest attended, most despised and least loved meeting of the church, because it is a battle ground; it is here that battles are fought and won. We have an enemy, a defeated one, it is true. Praying in the Spirit at all times, is a weapon in our armoury against him (6:18).

Motive 6 - Because prayer is the way we demonstrate our trust in God (Acts 1:24-25)
The 120 did not know who to choose as a replacement to Judas - so in their confessed ignorance, they prayed. John Calvin surely got it right when he said that "prayer is the chief exercise of faith" - he meant that prayer is the number 1 way we demonstrate our trust in God. For in prayer we humble ourselves ("we can't do this") and in prayer we acknowledge the power and wisdom and sovereignty of God ("so please you do it"). Humble Christians pray, proud churches don't need to.

Motive 7 - Because God is pleased to answer the prayers of his gathered people (Acts 1,4,12)
The book of Acts is filled with answers to corporate prayer. Wisdom is given, so that Matthias is chosen to replace Judas (chapter 1); courage is given in response to prayer (chapter 4); a miraculous escape happens (Acts chapter 12). And so it has been down history to today. God is pleased to accomplish his mighty purposes through the prayers of his humble people.

What great motives! Let us give ourselves afresh to corporate, all-together, prayer.

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