Series Theme: Looking at Prayer Afresh
Phase Two : Thinking into the Issues
Title: 5. Corporate UNIFIED Praying
(Working together for a Consensus on God's Will)
In the previous page I have, several times, been negative about “shopping list” prayer meetings, times when people just list off as many petitions as possible in the prayer meeting. In the previous page, I presented an alternative approach that focused more on listening to God and then responding in faith to what he revealed. In this additional page I want to first of all look at the negatives of ‘shopping lists' as a way to preparing the ground to then go on an consider learning to flow in the Spirit together to harmonise God's will.
Our key verse will be Matt 18:19 “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.”
2. The Downside of Shopping Lists
The worst form of “Shopping List prayer” is the church prayer meeting that is simply unrestrained and everyone prays about anything that comes to mind. The hope is, of course, that God will have been putting things into our minds to pray, but the following are, I suggest, failures of this form of praying:
a) Private Prayer Topics
If someone prays about Aunt Mabel in Australia and I've never heard of her, then there is no way I can join in and also pray (unless the meeting is stopped and a long involved explanation is given!) Because of the limitations of time (and energy) some subjects are best left as private prayer at home (or maybe shared in House Groups). Corporate prayer builds consensus for God's will.
b) Faith doesn't build
Faith is built when the Holy Spirit leads and that happens when He reveals things, either as the way to pray generally, or with specific words or knowledge or wisdom. It is difficult to build faith when you have no idea about what someone is praying!
c) Impossible Accountability
One of the things we have commented about previously is our inability to watch and see what prayers get answers. The more things are prayed for (and shopping lists tend to be in large numbers) the more unlikely it is that we collectively will remember what is prayed for and therefore will be unable to observe answers. Thus faith is denied again.
d) Prayers are Shallow
In the illustration I gave on Page 1 the prayers were shallow and missed God's heart. If we pray for lots of things, we are unlikely to be spending time catching God's heart for them.
e) Prayers are Individualistic and Self-Centred
It's fine to pray for myself and my family, when I'm praying on my own at home but when we come to praying as the church, we hope to be able to move into more church-wide, community-wide, or nation-wide focus whereby the group gain a consensus in the Spirit about the heart of God, i.e. the things He wants prayed out, so He can release faith for deeper prayer and for action.
f) Individual prayer rarely moves into action prayer
I note from Page 14 of the Spiritual Warfare Course on this site, depending on the way the Holy Spirit leads us, we may:
- we declare on earth what has been decreed in heaven
In each of these cases we are led by the Spirit in power praying, and experience shows that this rarely happens when we are praying alone. Indeed it may be dangerous to thus pray like that on our own, for the backlash of the enemy when we stand alone can be very real!
For these reasons we do well to look for an alternative approach to praying together. We have previously considered ‘listening prayer', listening to God for specific revelation in pictures, words, prophecy etc. as we pray, so now we go on to consider another form of listening prayer that focuses more on the unity of the group praying.
3. Unified Praying
Unified prayer is simply two or more people praying together who move into a unity as they start praying and are led by the Holy Spirit. Remember what we said earlier, on one occasion Jesus said, “ 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." (Mt 18:19,20)
The implication was surely that where two Christians come together with the express aim of listening to God and praying, then Jesus will be there in them both by the presence of his Spirit in each of them, and his Spirit will bring about an agreement.
Note the criteria that I observed in that sentence:
Of course to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about this agreement we must
4. How it works
As we did in the main page on Corporate Prayer, let's imagine a group of people praying in this way.
a) The Prayer Meeting
Person A: Lord, we come to you with thanks for your love for us, and thanks that you are here, and thanks that your will is perfect, and we ask that as we pray you will show us the way ahead.
Person B: Indeed Father, we want your will in our individual lives and in our life as a local church. You see how we have come to a cross-roads point where we yearn to reach out in your name but, Lord, we aren't sure what to do or how to do it. We want your will for us as a church.
Person C: Yes, Father, we thank you that you have given us this building in the centre of town as our church building where we can all come together, and now we've been established here for three years we thank you for giving us this space, a building with land around it where we can worship you and be a witness for you.
Person B: Lord, yes, we want to be a witness for you here. People see us coming to meetings but we want to be more than that, we want to serve this community and be a blessing to them.
Person C: That's right, Father, we have lots of able people in this church and we want to know how to bless the community with the gifts you have given us.
Person A: And Lord, thinking of this building and we the people in it, I can't help feeling that you've given us this building with land that we could extend on or build something more on, and we need you to show us how we should use this land, and use our gifts to bless the community.
If you look at what was prayed at this start of the time of prayer (which went on for a much longer time than we've recorded) you will note the content of their prayers, that:
THROUGHOUT this flow of prayer, note the nature of their praying:
If we had continued with it we might have seen them grasping a sense of a type of ‘work' they could do there in the town centre that would bless the community, and which could be used as a primary tool of witness and blessing in the community, and from that how they could thus use the remaining land.
Now the cynic might say that they could have achieved the same thing by brainstorming the subject or by simply talking about it openly in a group, but the crucial difference to what took place is that this approach, more than any other, brings the participants into an awareness of the presence of God so that the Spirit leads them into a place of what is seen as revelation and, during the process, the faith level of people rises in the awareness of what is happening.
5. To Recap
The Purpose of Unified Praying is to:
We might note that the difference between this and the previous example given in the main page on corporate prayer is that:
In both cases the all important issue is God's will, i.e. what does God want, what does He want to say and share with us, so that we can follow Him?