Corporate Prayer – The Positives
Corporate prayer is the term used to describe praying together with other people—in small groups or in larger bodies of people. It is an important part of the church and in Acts 2:42, we learn that the early church prayed together: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Corporate prayer can be a positive experience in many ways.
Encouragement – praying with others can bring encouragement to the members of the group. There may be those in the group who are struggling with trials and temptations. As they are upheld in prayer, the Holy Spirit brings them encouragement and reassurance of His promises.
Unity of purpose – Corporate prayer has the ability to knit a group together in a bond of fellowship and praise. People are edified and unified in common faith. As people pray together, they build love and concern for others and display their dependence on God.
Worship – Corporate prayer brings intimate communion with the Savior.
Repentance – As people pray, the Holy Spirit brings conviction and draws His children to repentance.
Corporate Prayer – Is it more powerful?
Are corporate prayers somehow more powerful than prayers that are said in private? The Bible does not indicate that they are. Perhaps the misconception that some Christians have about the increased power corporate prayer is based on Matthew 18:19-20, “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.” It is important to read these verses in the context of the passage. The context addresses church discipline of a sinning member. When Christians think that these verses give them a “blank check” to be able to ask God for anything, it is a deep misinterpretation of the passage. Just because two or three people are gathered together in Jesus’ name, they don’t acquire some magical power that assures God will answer their prayer according to their wishes. Yes, Jesus is present when people pray together, but He is equally present when a believer prays individually.
Corporate prayer isn’t about getting enough people together to pray until God bends His will to our will. Instead, prayer (corporate and private) is about cooperating with God and abandoning our desires and submitting to God’s will. In fact, Matthew 6:8 says, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Corporate Prayer – Reminders
Whether we are participating in corporate prayer or praying in private, the Bible gives us guidance on how to pray.
We are to pray in humility – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).
We are to call on God in Truth – “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
We are to be obedient – “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:21-22).
We are to be thankful and not anxious – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
We are to pray in confidence – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
We are warned against praying prayers to be showy, long-winded, or hypocritical: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
It is important to remember that some people aren’t comfortable praying aloud in a group. Encourage everyone to pray silently while others pray aloud. To encourage participation, have each person write a single request or a simple prayer on a note card. Swap the requests and have the group read them aloud. This can also be done with simple prayers of thanksgiving. Or the group can read a psalm together with each person reading a verse or section. Be creative and think of simple ways to help those in your group gain confidence.