Grace Bible Church has always taken great pleasure to prioritize our corporate prayer meeting. Gathering together as a church for prayer is our way of declaring that we need the Lord’s blessings if we wish to enjoy any spiritual success. As Psalm 127:1 declares, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Corporate prayer is a collective expression of our dependence on the Lord.
In order to fully maximize this time together and edify those participating, it is essential that we understand how we can be most effective and strategic (Jas. 5:16). So let’s continue in part two with five additional guidelines that apply to our collective gatherings.
6. Pray for the Needs of Others! One mistake commonly committed by well-intended saints is the tendency to pray for their own personal needs. By all means there is a place for this in the private prayer closet, but in the corporate gathering we should be “other” focused. The beauty of the Christian life is the heart attitude that manifests itself in selflessness. As Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, “With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Instead of praying for your own needs, pray for the needs of others and others in turn should pray for your needs. Few things can appear more disheartening than to hear someone in a public prayer meeting only address his or her personal concerns (unless they are confessing their own sin!). Also, it is worth noting that (generally speaking) the words “I” or “my” should be banned from the gathering. Frequently your needs are also the needs of others. Get in the habit of expressing your prayers with the plural pronouns of “we” and “us.”
7. Pray for the Local Church! We’ve all experienced this one – the corporate prayer meeting where everyone is addressing personal concerns and peripheral situations. You know, “Aunt Erma’s sinus congestion” and “Billy’s peewee soccer tryouts” and “the Johnson’s family vacation.” Again, there’s a place for this in individual and family prayers (and I’m not saying these things should never be said corporately), it’s only that more pressings issues affecting the spiritual well-being of the church need to be prioritized. Deeply consider where the Lord wants His local church and then pray accordingly! Here are some examples: Spiritual growth of the flock, more conversions, passion for evangelism and prayer and Bible Study, wisdom, more servants and power for those presently serving, purity, commitment to the local church, our church leaders, our church ministries and upcoming events, our church missionaries, our marriages, our testimonies, our doctrine, those presently backsliding, those dealing with major trials, godly fellowship, the power of the Word proclaimed, doctrinal fidelity, spiritual and physical protection of the church and personal delight in the Lord. And once we pray for the local church, let’s then branch out to the needs of the universal church. Pray for persecuted Christians, local churches and missionaries all over the world, the progress of the gospel, the government and the end of abortion.
8. Call in Prayer Requests When Possible! As you are aware, we produce the VINE each Wednesday. Not only is it emailed to the church, but hard copies are also provided at the time of our corporate gathering. The VINE contains church families and ministries and missionaries to focus on each week. It lists all the upcoming events and has a place for the significant personal praises and petitions of the church. If you would like to have something prayed over on Wednesday evenings, please call or e-mail your personal requests in advance. Of course there will be exceptions in emergency-type situations, but the more we can guard our prayer meeting from long announcements, the more time we will have to devote to prayer itself in the prayer meeting.
9. Pray Earnestly! Always true, but especially pertinent for the prayer meeting. It’s easy to have our minds wandering off when others are praying. Oftentimes it’s because we’re tired and distracted after a long day or we’re just trying to think of what we are going to say when it becomes our turn to pray. Make every attempt to discipline yourself to stay focused! Keep alert (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2)! Our prayer meeting is most effective when everybody is praying – either audibly themselves or silently as they are led by another in their group. And when we speak, may our prayers be Spirit-led, strategic and passionate. Earnestness (Col. 4:12; 1 Thes. 3:10; Jas. 5:17)! As C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Oh, for warm hearts, burning with red hot desires which make a channel from the lips with glowing words; then indeed, this complaint would never be made – ‘What is the use in my going to the prayer meeting, when I know all that will be said if So-and-so is called on?’”
10. Keep the Prayers Going! A few seconds of silence after each prayer is good for the purpose of reflection, the Spirit’s prompting and the orderly submission of new prayers. However, in a desire to maximize our time, keep our minds engaged and demonstrate our eagerness to God, prayers should be in “rapid succession.” Give others with you the opportunity to participate, but if others fail to pray, pray again to avoid prolonged periods of silence. Let’s remember this is a corporate prayer meeting. Come prepared to participate corporately!
These brief guidelines are not intended to transform us all into uniformed and mindless robots. We should celebrate diverse personalities and the Spirit’s leading. Yet we can have these qualities and still observe some general guidelines that will ensure our prayer meetings are most effective. We’ve covered ten so far. In part three will present the final five.