In my early years as a Christian, I read many books on prayer by such spiritual giants as Arthur Mathews (“Born for Battle”) and E.M.Bounds (“Power Through Prayer”). I think I was naive to think that I could become an effective prayer warrior on my own by simply reading these kinds of books and just becoming more disciplined in my life.
These things are obviously helpful. But they also reveal a very individualistic way of looking at prayer, spirituality and discipleship. In the Christian Scriptures, learning to pray and practising prayer in a corporate context is also very important.
Note that when Jesus taught His disciples to pay He encouraged them to pray “Our Father who art in heaven” and “Give us our daily bread” (Mt.6:9,11)……….We are to pray in community and as part of a community.
When Jesus ascended to the right hand of His heavenly Father (Acts1:9-11), all of His disciples (about 120 people) went back to Jerusalem and “they all joined together constantly in prayer”(Acts 1:14a). The Holy Spirit fell on them in power, 10 days later, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) . Through corporate and united prayer, the church was birthed in power and grace.
Many people learned to pray and were imparted with grace to pray in this communal context. The practise and spirit of prayer is both taught and caught in such a setting.
In our very individualistic North American culture we often carry this kind of mindset into the Church. We tend to underestimate the role of our faith community in our discipleship. We inadvertently become “lone rangers” in following Jesus.
I remember memorizing Phil 1:6 as a young Christian. It is a wonderful promise: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ.” This promise can be appropriated by the individual Christian but its primary application is for the Philippian Church as a whole. The “you” in verse 6 is plural. Paul is first of all confident that God will be able to fulfill His purposes for the church as a whole. It is only as we actively draw on the grace of such a community that we can be confident that God will fulfill His purposes in our individual lives.
The Lord gives us Christian brothers and sisters to help us become more effective prayer warriors and followers of Jesus Christ. We need all the grace that God offers us. And this only comes in close Christian fellowship. This is Good News for us today.
In Christ’s love & service, Pastor John