Every Wednesday, our church gathers on Wednesday night for a prayer service. We begin our service with a short lesson from the Bible. When I started attending, we were in the Psalms, now we are in Proverbs. Following the Bible study, we would take prayer requests as well as sharing what we are praising God for. Then we break up into small groups and pray over the things that have been mention as well as what is on our church's prayer list.
Sadly, many churches do not have a weekly prayer service. People do pray, but not in a corporate setting. Should a church have a weekly prayer service? Brad Wheeler gives us 4 reasons why:
1. It reminds our people of the importance of prayer.
It’s not difficult to get our people to sign up for an event, or plugged-into a small group. Hundreds came to our recent women’s retreat. Scores came to the men’s breakfast and Secret Church. So why the reluctance of many to corporately gather to pray? Why has the prayer service in many churches gone the way of the rotary phone?
Simply put, prayer isn’t sexy. It’s not entertaining. It’s often not easy or convenient; it requires effort and work. It’s why Jesus gave us the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, so that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” We’re accustomed to being spoon-fed with music and media, podcasts and preaching. But prayer requires us to turn the world off while we turn our minds on.
And this is what we must do—not just individually, but corporately, together. In Matthew 21, Jesus chides the people for turning the temple into something like the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt 21:13). According to the New Testament, the church is the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Cor 3:16). Are our churches then the house of prayer God intends? Do we set aside the time? Do we prioritize the commitment to pray together? Or is our corporate prayer merely the filler between music sets?
Robert Murray M’Cheyne famously said, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” What if we applied that same measure to our churches? What would it say about us? Corporate prayer impresses upon our people prayer’s importance, indeed, its absolute necessity. For our fight is against spiritual forces, and thus requires spiritual weapons—and what greater weapon is there than the prayers of not just one, but dozens, hundreds, even thousands?
2. It models for our people how to pray.
I remember the first time I prayed publicly. I was a new believer, both paranoid and perplexed over what to say. So what did I do? I copied what I heard others do.
Apart from studying the prayers of Daniel or Paul or Hannah or Mary, nothing teaches our people how to pray more than the prayers they hear from the faithful at church. If we want our people to pray biblically and thoughtfully, if we want them to pray with reverent awe and personal affection, then we must model it for them corporately. As D. A. Carson aptly notes, “Choose models, but choose them well. Study their content, their breadth, their passion, their unction—but do not ape their idiom.”
3. It unites our people around God’s purposes.
We’re naturally narcissistic people. We have no problem praying for our individual needs, wants, and desires. And it’s not wrong to do such things. We ought to. Yet how deplorable when our prayer life, especially our corporate prayer life, is dominated by such concerns. After all, we aren’t the meaning of human history. Our health and happiness isn’t the meaning of human history. The church and her prosperity is the meaning of human history (Eph 3:1-13).
When we gather to emphasize the spiritual over the physical, the corporate over the individual, we unite our people around God’s purposes for his church. Corporate prayer builds concern for our corporate unity, and our corporate witness.
4. It prepares our people for God to act.
The church corporately praying marked many of the great movements in the book of Acts. It defined their life at Pentecost (2:42). It equipped the believers with the Spirit to speak the Word of God boldly (4:31). Prayer marked the commissioning of the first deacons (6:6), the spread of the gospel to the Samaritans (8:15), and even Peter’s vision to spread the gospel to the Gentiles (10:9). In fact, it was the church praying that led to Peter’s release from prison (12:5)!
Our church has seen many prayers answered. One prayer in particular was a restoration of a marriage. Prayer is where we, as the children of God, can come to our Father because we have been given that right. A church that refuses to prayis a church that does not seek God's will. A Church that refuses to pray is a church that does not acknowledge God's sovereignty.
Friends, prayer changes things! It’s why Paul assumes the church will be praying together, both men and women (1 Cor 11, 14). Prayer is God’s ordained means to accomplish his supernatural ends. It is both personal and powerful. As Jesus reminded his disciples, there are some obstacles that cannot be conquered by anything but prayer (Mk 9:29).
Friends, as Jamie Dunlop notes in The Compelling Community, “God loves to defend his reputation. When we pray together, our needs become public. When he answers, his glory becomes public. ” Praying prepares our people for God to act.