Effective corporate prayer

Mike Betts on Lowestoft Beach

For some time I have felt a nagging feeling that something is just not quite right with prayer in church life.

Not just the church I am privileged to be part of, but most church leaders I speak to express something of a lament that the prayer life of their churches are not quite what they should be. It is not that people do not see the value of prayer or want to pray, it is often life just seems to squeeze it out of the mainstream.

When reading biographies of great men and women of God we find often these were people who gave hours to prayer. Wesley for instance saying he was so busy he would have to pray more to fit it all in! Praying Hyde prayed so much his knees were calloused!
Great moves of God are recorded as sweeping through churches and nations. A feature of these many of these moves was inevitably people praying either before the events and producing them, or in them to sustain them.

For some strange reason for many years I always seemed to hear prayer spoken and preached about as being a hard thing to do. Due to this, the prayer meeting or indeed personal prayer was seen as like training for the London Marathon: “expect it to take a lot out of you and you may not make it to the end!” Even if you do, the temptation to see how long you lasted is there.

This cannot be right. It is not right. I have found a surprising thing in recent years; prayer is not hard. In fact it is the most natural and easy thing to do for the Christian. Agreed our flesh often finds trouble concentrating etc. As Jesus observed in a prayer meeting of sleeping disciples; ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’.

We have begun to experiment in church life this year. For a start we cancelled all prayer meetings! Why?, because I do not want a church with a prayer meeting but rather I want us to be a praying church. Prayer meetings in most churches have the reputation as being for the ‘keen ones’. This should not be.
I had a hunch that for most people even being in the atmosphere of a prayer meeting was foreign to them and the thought of praying out loud in such a setting, quite scary!
So we moved the prayer meeting to the people. For a number of months now we schedule into a Sunday morning main meeting a 5-10 minutes prayer slot called ‘Touching heaven / changing Earth’.

As encouraged to do in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, we pick items of local, national or international news or concern and pray about one such item each week, all together. We use various structures for prayer for example asking different folk before the meeting to lead us from the front.

Having done it for some time now, I am convinced the atmosphere and connection with prayer through the whole church is growing and becoming more familiar and comfortable. Additionally we have seen numbers of prayers answered.

We also now run weeks of prayer quarterly which are a mixture of hourly prayer slots that people sign up for and corporate evenings of prayer. These have been growing in numbers and participation.
Our latest addition into the adventure of prayer discovery corporately started this Friday past. From 6-45 to 8-00am we pray together, and then from 8-9am we have breakfast. I decided that this setting gave us as elders a chance to share our hearts for what we see God doing and hear him saying at present and pray into it. 25 came to the first one and we had an excellent time.

What does all this mean? Well, we have not arrived to the level of prayer mountain in South Korea just yet, but to lead God’s people into greater confidence and participation in prayer can surely be one of a local church leaders highest callings and objectives. Prayer is like a businessman finding a line that always sells; he then invests all his cash and energy into promoting this one great line of business. I want to keep up the investment!!

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