Lessons upon lessons have been given over the importance of personal prayer; and rightly so. For one, the New Testament places a great emphasis upon the importance of it (Luke 11:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 & James 5:16-18). For another, despite the clear teaching, we often neglect it because of various reasons which sadly, more often than not, are really just excuses or doubt (Matthew 26:26-43 & James 1:5-8). We cannot say enough good things about the importance of prayer in our personal life, but one lesson concerning prayer that is often overlooked is the importance of praying as a body (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 & Colossians 1:18,24).
Early in the book of Acts we find that the church made a habit of praying together! After Jesus returned to Heaven the Bible records concerning the apostles, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14) When the church exploded after Pentecost, so did the habit of church prayer (Acts 2:42). They prayed together for boldness (Acts 4:23-31). They prayed together in the face of persecution (Acts 12:5,12). The point is simply that the church had a desire to pray together (Acts 20:36).
Today, when the church gathers together for worship, Bible study, times of sickness, fellowship meals, etc. our prayer as a body should not be neglected, ignored or underestimated! Gatherings are a prime opportunity for powerful body prayer. But for this to be true we must actually pray as a body. Please keep the following suggestions in mind:
(1) Gatherings are an opportunity to make our concerns and anxieties known to each other and God. Do not be afraid to speak up.
(2) The prayer leader must not forget about himself, but he must also keep in mind that for that moment he is representing a congregation sized prayer. A prayer of the body must be for the body. Leading prayer is not a time to preach – it is a time to pray.
(3) Body prayer is meant to be done with respect and order just as any other form of worship found in the New Testament is meant to be. A chaotic group prayer is just that – chaotic! (1 Corinthians 14:14-19) Listen to the prayer leader as carefully as possible. Our “amen” must be said truthfully. If we do not listen to it then how can we say “amen” with it?
(4) Remember who we are praying to! The Creator and Sustainer of our life and the church cares for us (1 Peter 5:7 & Matthew 18:18-20). We would not be taught to pray together if it did not work (1 Thessalonians 5:25). God was there for His church in the past and He is here for us today.
A praying body is a strong body, a listening body, a loving body and a closer body. Powerful prayerful can come from a body that prays like a body should – together!