Corporate Prayer
The Bible encourages all types of praying; the silent type is only one.

Doreen asks: I want to teach my adult Sunday school class members to be more comfortable praying out loud in class. What scripture or tips can you give me? United Methodist
Question about A General Question: Worship
Motivation - Student: Doing research; Student: Class discussion
Bible view - The Word of God - [question 107, Monday, 21-May-2012]

Thanks for your question Doreen. We hope your Sunday school classes go well. I will first relate an experience that happened to me personally, then back it up with biblical references.

My Lunchtime Prayer Fellowship

Years ago, when I was young, a friend at work invited me to a lunchtime men's Bible study. 'We start around noon.' Bob said. 'It is in conference room 34C.'

Although I was secretly eager to attend, I wanted to hide my enthusiasm and held back a few days. Showing up immediately would surely signal personal weakness, so I was surprised that no one made a fuss when I arrived a few days later. At church, people always made a fuss over a newcomer. 'Come in and sit down, Paul,' someone said. 'Did you bring your lunch?'

I was no stranger to church. I had attended a small Methodist church for years, singing in the choir and participating in various activities. Now I was an engaged member of a Lutheran church, on the board of directors. I knew the ropes. As such, before eating, I bowed my head and pretended to thank God for the sandwich my wife had prepared that morning. The other people appeared to be doing the same thing, but I found out later they were not pretending!

This was different than normal church. Some of the guys seemed genuinely happy to be alive. It was a diverse mixture from the company. I was an engineer. Harold was a janitor, Larry was an aircraft mechanic, and even Joe the test pilot was there. I found out later that they had various church backgrounds, from Baptist to Roman Catholic to Methodist to Charismatic and many others. Position and background meant nothing to these men. The only thing that mattered was their relationship with God, which was certainly deeper than mine!

I was glad to see Alvin come in. 'Hi Alvin, how are you doing?' I asked. 'I am blessed and nothing less!' That was his standard reply, but Alvin never seemed normal to me. After all, normal people do not talk like that. More men came in and, one-by-one, sat around the conference room table eating their lunch and chatting about what God was doing in their lives. I sat quietly and listened.

With about a dozen men assembled, Bob said 'Let's get started.' and added for my benefit, 'We usually begin with prayer.' Somehow I thought we had already prayed because each man had bowed his head before eating. But I was wrong. I got the shock of my life.

On Bob's cue of 'Let's pray', everyone bowed their heads and started talking out loud to God. It was as if Jesus Christ Himself came in to the conference room, sat down, smiled at everyone, and said 'Hi guys, what's up?' They were telling Him! And they meant what they said. There was nothing formal about it. There was no set pattern. These people were simply talking to God as they would talk to a friend. It was as if Jesus were in earshot and, of course, He was!

Pete piped up a little louder, and everyone else lowered their voice a notch. Pete said 'I love you Jesus! Thanks so much for all Your blessings poured out on me. Thanks for being with me every day, and thanks for loving me so much You gave up Your life for me on the cross. I love you! And also, Jesus, my sister Natalie got a bad rash on her arm. It has been there a month and does not go away. Can you please heal it? I know you are a healer. The doctor doesn't know what it is, but You know!'

When Pete mentioned his sister's need for healing, all the prayers in the room focused on this one thing. 'Amen, Lord.' Steve said. 'Fix up Natalie's arm as good as new. We praise your holy Name as our God and our Provider. You are good to us!'

That was my first exposure to out-loud corporate prayer. it changed my life for the better. The only types of prayer I had encountered were the personal silent type and the formal, speaker-lead type of Methodist and Lutheran services. What I experienced at the men's lunch group was more along the lines of the old Gospel song:

  1. Have a little talk with Jesus
  2. Tell Him all about your troubles
  3. He will hear your faintest cry
  4. And He will answer, by and by

Prayer in the Old Testament

In Old Testament times prayers offered to God tended to be formal and rigid, acknowledging God as the King of the Universe and celebrating His majesty and wonderful acts. This prayer from Exodus is a good example:

So Jethro said, 'Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
- Exodus 18:10 [NASB]

From the book of Psalms we read this prayer that lifts praises to God for His greatness:

Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us from among the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name And glory in Your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, 'Amen.' Praise the LORD!
- Psalms 106:47ff [NASB]

These are not silent prayers, but spoken out loud. At the end of the prayer from Psalms it says let all the people say. This does not leave much room for solitary and silent prayer. Instead it requires (i.e., commands) people to speak out loud as a group. Nevertheless, we also find solitary prayer in the Old Testament, such as Daniel praying three times a day in his window (Daniel 6:10) and Hezekiah pleading for healing:

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, 'Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'' Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 'Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.' And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
- II Kings 20:1ff [NASB]

Prayer in the New Testament

In the New Testament, prayer is different. We do not hear 'King of the Universe' so much. Instead we hear 'Heavenly Father.' Prayer is more personal now. After the cross of Jesus Christ, which provides forgiveness of sins, and after the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), which provides the loving, in-dwelling Holy Spirit, prayer has moved from words of majesty to words of intimacy.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
- Matthew 6:9 [KJV]

The Lord's prayer (verse above) comes as a culmination of Jesus' teaching on prayer in Matthew chapter 6. In that passage Jesus is most concerned with people showing off during prayer to get attention from others. Many people did this is Bible times, and many people are still doing it today. Prayer is meant to be intimate, personal communication between God and His people. It is not to be a matter of pride. To stress this point, Jesus says:

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
- Matthew 6:6 [NASB]

Try keeping your eyes open when you pray.
Try keeping your eyes open when you pray.

Matthew 6:6 (verse above) identifies one type of New Testament prayer: silent, individual praying. It does not rule out corporate prayer or out-loud (spoken) prayer. In fact, the corporate aspect of many people praying together is seen explicitly in the Lord's prayer. It says:

Give us this day our daily bread

It does not say:

Give me this day my daily bread

so praying in a group is to be normal, not a special occurrence.

Likewise, spoken, out-loud praying is seen especially in the book of Acts, where believers were assembled together with one accord and one purpose: the furtherance of the Gospel of God. Acts 4:24 and the verses before and after it give a wonderful example:

(3:6) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength ... (4:24) And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is ... (4:31) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
- Acts 3:6ff [KJV]

A Final Word

Sometimes things can get out of hand, and church meetings are no exception. Some people can be earnestly praying and praising God during loud group meetings, while others are cutting up and dis-respecting Him. This is not a rock concert! On godly leaders falls the responsibility of making sure that all things are done decently and in order. If you find yourself in a place that is indecent and out of order, leave.

Let all things be done decently and in order.
- 1 Corinthians 14:40 [KJV]

by Paul Richards

Mon, 24-Nov-2014 11:59:23 GMT, unknown: 309525 ABYqa1OV2UAtY
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