By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
Throughout church history, God’s people have gathered for corporate prayer. In fact, many of the greatest revivals started as believers joined together in community prayer meetings. In the early church, believers met often – sometimes daily – for prayer and worship.
In our present culture of busyness, we have lost a bit of the urgency of corporate prayer meetings. Our ability to use the internet effectively has certainly grown our audiences and brought some remarkable benefits to the church. However, we must remember that gathering for corporate worship and prayer is essential to our spiritual journey.
What exactly is corporate prayer? Corporate prayer is simply praying as one. When we gather together and combine our prayers as one body of Christ the results are powerful.
The Psalmist wrote, “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3). The element of being together in prayer is what’s important.
Corporate prayer times may include common prayers such as “the Lord’s prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13). Everyone might recite the words together. Or, it might be as simple as believers gathering for prayer and praying in one accord around common themes. As the leader suggests various topics, the participants pray together for those suggested topics. Corporate prayer meetings can take place in a small group of friends gathering to pray together for the strengthening of their marriages or in a small group of parents who gather regularly to pray for their kids. The important element of corporate prayer is that it is praying together.
I remember for many years, my in-laws gathered with a small group of neighbors every Sunday evening for times of corporate prayer. Together, they prayed for all their kids and grandkids and any other concerns that surfaced in their group. Through the years they witnessed God’s faithfulness as He answered many of their cries.
What Does the Bible Teach about Corporate Prayer?
Jesus instructed, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Whether large groups or tiny, what Jesus taught here was profound. He was teaching us that as we gather for a time of prayer as communities, He would be right there with us, interceding for us. It’s not that He’s not with us when we pray alone it’s that He knew we needed the times of praying together and sensing His presence together.
In the book of Acts, we see the early church gathering regularly for the purpose of prayer (Acts 2:40-47). At times they gathered daily. As they faithfully prayed, God came among them and worked mighty miracles in response to their faithfulness. Corporate prayer was foundational and a core value of the early church.
As we consider life in the church today, both here in the United States as well as in the global church, we need to understand the importance of corporate prayer. Here are 6 reasons why corporate prayer is essential for the church:
What Does Corporate Prayer Do? - The Purpose of Corporate Prayer
1. Corporate Prayer Unifies the Body of Christ
At this time in the church’s history, it seems as though the church is more divided than ever. Especially here in the United States, we have seen the divisiveness of politics and racial prejudice ravish the church. Prayer is communing and conversing with God. As we converse with God and yield our hearts to Him, He brings our will into perfect alignment with His. As we pray together, our hearts are more deeply knit with God’s heart and with each other. We are given a glimpse of the unity we’ll enjoy in heaven.
Corporate prayer connects us around a common purpose; seeking God’s heart. As we seek Him together there is solidarity. We’re not all pulling in our own direction. Our prayers become less selfish and more focused on God’s will and purpose for our lives and the lives of others. As we pray as a unified group, with one heart and one mouth, we glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that is unparallel to any other method (Romans 15:6).
2. Corporate Prayer Edifies and Encourages Those Who Participate
When we gather together to pray and seek the heart of God, individual hearts are encouraged. Life is hard and our difficulties are many. Individuals within the group may be struggling with trials too personal to mention but as they pray in unity with other believers, their hearts are re-focused on almighty God. Their faith is strengthened by remembering His grace and goodness. The Holy Spirit brings them reassurance and comfort through the prayers of others. This is why the wise writer of Hebrews reminds us to not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).
As we pray together our hearts are opened towards the needs of others. During prayer times together the Holy Spirit will often speak to a person showing them how they can specifically encourage those with needs. In this way, we live out the instructions of the Apostle Paul when he calls us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 1:6).
3. Corporate Prayer Disciples Believers in Prayer
As believers gather together for prayer, those who are newbies to the faith are able to learn from those who are mature in their faith. As those who are new to the faith listen to others praying, they will learn prayer techniques such as praying Scripture, listening in silence for God’s response, interceding on behalf of others, and methods of praising and worshipping God. In essence, they will be discipled in prayer.
Years ago, when I was being mentored, I listened to those who were mature in the faith pray and praise God. As I listened and observed, my prayer life grew and expanded. The same can happen for every young believer, as they participate in corporate prayer.
4. Corporate Prayer Strengthens Weakened Faith
When our faith is fragile and doubt is creeping in, corporate prayer and worship can strengthen us as we lean into the faith of others. The Apostle John wrote that we can have the confidence that if we ask in prayer, God hears us and answers (1 John 5:14-15). However, often when prayers go seemingly unanswered for a long time, doubt creeps in. When we pray with other believers and experience God moving it strengthens our hearts to wait on Him for our own answers.
The Apostle James instructed us that when we are sick, we are to call the elders and have them pray as a united front over us (James 5:14-15). Surrounding ourselves with strong prayer warriors strengthens our faith and even brings healing.
5. Corporate Prayer Can Facilitate Corporate Repentance
Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel all modeled repentance as part of corporate prayer (Ezra 7:10, Nehemiah 9:2, Daniel 9:11). As we stand together united in prayer the Holy Spirit can bring an awakening in our hearts to our need to confess our sins. In humility, we recognize and renounce sin as disobedience to a holy God. No sin is committed in isolation. All wrongdoing affects others within the body of Christ. When we engage in corporate confession, each of us as individuals are cleansed and forgiven for our sins and there is a fresh awakening to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. As a result, often revival is unleashed.
As we look at our current culture – the divisiveness and polarization of different groups – the call to corporate confession has perhaps never been more needed. As we come together and confess our sins, the temptation to judge each other will lessen. Instead, we’ll realize we are all sinners in desperate need of grace. As we receive His grace, a fresh awakening to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit will result.
6. Corporate Prayer Creates a Sense of Expectancy
As believers continue to regularly gather for intentional times of corporate prayer a sense of anticipation arises. People become excited to have these prayer meetings, expecting to see God show up and answer. As folks witness God answering the prayers of others, their sense of hope builds and they wait with expectation for God to answer their own requests. A unified Biblical mindset of faith develops. We need this mindset now more than ever. Many have lost their sense of hope... is it possible that hope will be rekindled as we gather in groups both small and large to corporately pray and seek the face of God? I believe it is!
Virtual events are great, but let’s not forget how important it is to gather for times of corporate prayer. Whether in tiny cell groups or large massive prayer meetings, as we seek the face of God together we will see unity grow, experience encouragement first hand, strengthen our collective faith, facilitate repentance, and create a sense of expectant hope.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Cecilie Arcurs
Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books including, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, Psalms for the Anxious Heart, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise, releasing June 2021. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling