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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Praying Together

Praying Together

Something new and strange was beginning to happen.   The year was 1744 and   some of the members of the churches around Scotland along with their pastors began feeling a burden for people they had only heard about in far away countries!  People they had never met - who were trapped in cycles of hopelessness, poverty and immorality. There was so much evil and injustice in the world and so many people in distant lands who had never heard the gospel!  Why were so many Christians in Scotland beginning to care about these things?  Was this their own doings or was God putting these burdens on their hearts?  

And then their own Scottish churches were not doing well either.  The preaching seemed dry and church members argued and lacked love for one another.  Did they need a revival?  Was God leading them to pray for the outpouring of the life of the Holy Spirit into the world around them and into their dead churches?

So many of the pastors in Scotland got together and decided to call their people to set aside time on Saturday evening or Sunday morning every week for prayer in private groups or public meetings or individually.  The proposal also invited church members to set aside a whole day the first Tuesday of each quarter for prayer.  If urgent circumstances prevented a person’s attendance at one of these prayer meetings, then the individual was encouraged to devote the next available day to private prayer. 

For two years many of the Christians in Scotland got together in prayer groups in their churches and prayed each week as their pastors had asked them to do.  And their dead churches seemed to come alive as church members who had criticized one another, now learned to love each other as they continued praying together.

Things went so well in Scotland that after two years the Scottish pastors sent a proposal to fellow ministers abroad to join them in prayer.  As a result, prayer concerts began to spread to England, Wales, Ireland and North America as well.  Christians everywhere were praying in unison that the Holy Spirit would be poured down upon them and their churches and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be spread around the world.

By 1792 the “Second Great Awakening” began to break out in England.  Word of this revival spread across the Atlantic Ocean and by 1797 revival fires began to break out in the United States.  A strong spirit of love and sharing spread throughout the churches.  Everywhere Christian outreaches were being established to help the poor and sick and needy.  The hope was contagious and millions of people came to Christ.

 One of the lasting benefits of this united prayer movement was the development of the modern missions’ movement.  Christians had been praying for “the spread of the Gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe,” and in 1784 the English Baptist Missionary Society was organized and the first missionaries were sent to India.  And other mission organizations soon followed.  Actually throughout history every major mission’s movement has been preceded by a corresponding major prayer movement. It seemed as though that was how God got things done!

The very first Christian church in Jerusalem (made up of the followers of Jesus and new converts after Jesus ascended to heaven) spent much of their time together in prayer.  “All these were continually united in prayer.”  (Acts 1:14)   and “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers,” (Acts 2:42) 

And there was great power in the prayers of the Christians in that very first church.  Scripture tells of many healings and miracles that occurred through the fervent prayers of these first Christians as they prayed together. Thousands of people came to Christ and were converted through the prayers and witness of those early Christians. 

When Peter was thrown into prison in Jerusalem, those same Christians got together and prayed day and night begging God for his release.  “Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church.”  (Acts 12:5)  And because of their prayers, an angel appeared to Peter in the prison.  When Peter saw the angel his chains fell off and the angel led him past the barred gates (the gates opened) and the prison guards (dazed guards) and out to safety.  Peter was freed from prison miraculously because a group of Christians earnestly prayed together. 

As you can see, there is great power in the prayers of Christians when they come together to pray.  Jesus promises us Christians a special presence when we gather together to pray. Matthew 18:19-20 reads: “I assure you; If two of you on earth agree about any matter that pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among you.” 

Of course there is power in just one Christian praying in faith. “…the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous person avails much” (James 5:16) But we shouldn’t neglect the habit of praying together.  Nearly all of Jesus’ teachings on prayer focus on corporate or group prayer.  Once when Jesus went to the temple He saw people buying and selling animals right there in the temple.  Jesus was so upset that He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove these people out.  He reprimanded them with these words: “It is written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”  (Luke 19:46)

Scripture tells us that our Christian fellowships – our churches- should be houses of prayer.  (Isaiah 56:7)  And yet many churches today do not even have prayer meetings or schedule times when church members can gather to pray. A church must be a house of prayer, or it may begin to oppose God and what He wants to accomplish.  (Taken from “Pray in Faith,” p.30 by T.W. Hunt and Claude King )

Is your church a “house of prayer”?  If it isn’t, perhaps God is calling you to pray for your church that the Holy Spirit will be poured out into your church.  And that God will open doors and lead your church members into learning how to pray together.  Do you have another person or a group that you can pray with often?  If you don’t, can you ask God to help you find such a person or group – or start a prayer group yourself? 

Today our world is in desperate straits.  There are so many people and situations around us that need our prayers.  And we are not helpless.  Our Christian faith is not a fatalistic faith.  We never need to say:” Whatever will be, will be!”  God wants us to be active – not passive. He has given us an invitation to to work with Him and make a difference in our world.  He has placed a powerful weapon in our hands to do the job – the weapon of prayer. I believe God is looking for Christians that will pray together for the needs that are all around them- for Christians that will stand in the gap. Will you be one of them?  Will you answer the call?       



1 comment:

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