Prayer should not just be an optional add-on to church activities. Sadly, in many churches it often feels that way. Rather, prayer is a key aspect of the life of any church. When we pray we make a great statement; we are stating that we are depending on God and not ourselves. A prayerless church is a church which has lost contact with God and thereby it has really ceased to be a church. Let us look at the scriptures and see how vital prayer is to a church.
– What happened at the start? After our LORD returned to glory, the first thing that the people of God did was meet together to pray. We read,
“When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:13-14). Moreover, the first church at Jerusalem had prayers as a key part of church life. (see Acts 2:42). In a sense we can say, the church was birthed in prayer.
– Should we have formally arranged prayer meetings? This does seem to be an orderly way of arranging things so that people know when we are coming together to pray 1 Corinthians 14:40 reads, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
– Should we have spontaneous prayer meetings? When opportunity or need arises, there should be the desire to spontaneously turn to God. What do we read in Acts 4 when Peter and John were released from prison? “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4 23-24a). Also, when Peter was placed in prison we read “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (Acts 12:5).
Furthermore,when there were challenges as regards to the future direction of the work, the Word says “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3). They were in the presence of God worshipping the LORD and He revealed his future way for them.
– Should we expect the Lord to be responding to our prayers? From the three events mentioned above, it seems clear that we should expect the LORD moving His cause forward through prayer. In Acts 4 the place was shaken; in Acts 12 Peter was released from prison by an angel; and Acts 13 workers were set part for Christ’s service. Let us look for the Lord moving through our prayers and give thanks.
– When should we be praying? “Pray continually;” is the Word to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. This is in the context of the church being together in fellowship. Churches should be relentlessly giving themselves to prayer. There is no prescribed pattern as to the regularity of prayer. However, prayer must be built into the DNA of the church and prioritised. A non-praying church is a dying church. However, it does appear from looking at what happened in Acts, that there was a spontaneous nature to their praying. Accordingly, we should think about merging prayer into our lives when we are together. There can be times when a few are gathered in a home and they give themselves to prayer over an issue. There can be times when need arises and the whole church is called to prayer.
– What should we be praying for? Paul gives us the pattern in Colossians 1:9-14. If you read that passage, you will soon grasp that Paul’s emphasis is on the spiritual welfare of the Christians in Colossae. And it should be the same for us. This does not exclude other practical matters, but it does mean that the spiritual has priority. We are therefore longing for people to be saved and for progress in grace in the lives of God’s people. And our prayers should reflect this.
– What should our prayers contain? “Do not be anxious about anything,but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). A mixture of prayer, petition giving thanks and making requests is good. And don’t forget to worship (see Acts 13:1).
– Who is to pray in our prayer times? All are to pray; that is why we are there. It is a prayer meeting Some may pray silently; some verbally. Perhaps we divide into small groups, perhaps sometimes we pray aloud verbally together. In 1 Tim 2:8 we read Paul’s words, “I want the men everywhere to pray.” There seems to be something wrong when the men are not mainly taking a lead in the church prayer times.
– What about fasting? Fasting is very often set to accompany praying. By fasting we are telling the Lord that we want Him and his ways so much that we are prepared to give up our basic necessities to show this. There is a principle here though that extends beyond food. We can give up time, sleep, money, or pleasure to show that we want the LORD. This is one reason for seeking to have our “Revive” times into the night. We are saying LORD we want you so much that we will give up anything for you.
Taken From the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of November 2013