By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
COVID-19 is simply not going away. Most of us don't realize that the deadly SARS virus, which commenced in 2003, is still around. Fortunately, SARS is rather well-contained. Hopefully, the same can soon be said about COVID-19.
I’ve noticed that many of my friends and family members—many people I see on social media—have been frightened into praying like they’ve never prayed before. I think anything that brings us closer to God is a good thing! But I want our prayers to really be effective and meaningful.
Will you please share some guidelines for praying during the pandemic and thereafter?
I’d be happy to help! Let me introduce you to the “Concert of Prayer,” one of my very favorite ways to pray.
Concerts of Prayer, like musical concerts, involve the dynamics of a harmonious celebration—like a grand symphony—as people blend together their hearts, minds, souls, and voices in earnest and passionate prayer.
Imagine the participants submitting to the Holy Spirit who “orchestrates” each prayer meeting like a conductor with his/her orchestra.
Picture smaller groups, when we pray with solos, duets, trios, quartets, and as choirs over a variety of topics. Consider these musical groupings to be ensembles and symphonies of prayer.
In the 1740’s, the Puritan leader Jonathan Edwards defined “Concerts of Prayer” in the title of a book he circulated to equip Christians for the prayer movement that undergirded what historians often call “The First Great Awakening.”
Edwards used the term “Concert,” coming from the same root as “concerted.” He described people uniting in sustained commitment to the Lord, to one another, and to the answers they seek, until the kingdom of God comes on earth. Concerts of Prayer can be found throughout the Bible:
Read Zechariah 8:20-23 for a picture of an Old Testament Concert of Prayer —
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. …
… Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
My family religiously attended a church where “Concerts of Prayer” were practiced every Wednesday night. Mr. L.L Long could sustain a prayer longer than any person that I ever knew. As a child, I reasoned that his name was “Long” because he could pray longer prayers than anybody. His prayers seemed to go on and on and on forever.
At the conclusion of each “Concert,” our pastor called on someone to pray the closing prayer. I recall sitting in the pew and praying earnestly, “Dear Lord, please don’t let the pastor call on Mr. Long.” When you’re nine years old, you want to get out of church as quickly as possible! Now that I’m older, I remember his prayers of emotion and passion. I’ll never forget him, nor some of the prayers that he prayed.
Here’s a practical way to join with your congregation, neighbors, and friends in a Concert of Prayer:
1. Get Acquainted
Choose prayer partners. Visit for a few minutes about what’s going on in your lives. Groups of four seem to work best, giving each person time to pray for their own concerns and one another.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:1) by thanking God for specific things He’s done in your life. Small or big, He is intimately involved in our lives, and if we pay attention, we’ll see His hand at work!
Choose a song or two to praise God for all He has done and experience the joy that can only come from thanking Him. Some of my favorite celebration songs include “Our God” by Chris Tomlin, “Forever,” sung by Kari Jobe, or an older chorus I love, “This Is the Day.”
Take a time of silent prayer for personal dedication. Think about what you want to see God do in your life? Pray for full surrender to Jesus Christ. Ask Him to make you a spiritual mother or father no matter the cost!
Imagine yourself joining the multitudes on their knees dedicating their lives proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” In Philippians 2:9-11, Paul declares:
“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father!”
As you pray, imagine Jesus kneeling beside you. He’s putting his arms around you as he says: “Well done, you good and faithful servant. I am so proud of you.” Those are words of grace.
If you are not fully surrendered to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, now is a great time to consciously decide to follow Christ. Trust me; there’s nothing your prayer partners would rather pray for!
Then join your voices together and sing a worship song you love. Some of my current favorites are “Behold the Lamb” by Kristian Stanfill, “Revelation Song “ by Phillips, Craig, and Dean, and always, the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/arkira
4. Pray for Revival
Start with a solo by praying for revival in your personal life.
Is unconfessed sin or anything else hindering your relationship with Jesus? If so, pray 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive our sins, and to lead us into all righteousness.”
If your heart is not on fire for Jesus as it once was, then pray through Jesus’ directions in Revelation 2:1-5:
First, remember what it was like when you first fell in love with Jesus;
Second, repent that it’s not that way;
Third, repeat again the things you did when you first came to Jesus.
Next, in duets or ensembles, confess your sins one to another and pray for each other, asking God to bring about personal revival for each other.
Continue to pray in ensembles for revival and spiritual awakening in your church and in the Christian community.
As an orchestra, pray for revival in discipleship, evangelism, and the full manifestation of the anointing and filling of the Holy Spirit for yourself, your friends, and your church.
Then confess the sins of America. Pray for a return to godly, moral values, wisdom for our leaders, harmony among the races, and healing of division.
Finally, as a final crescendo pray for worldwide revival!
Sing songs like “Revive Us Again,” which is another of my favorite hymns, “Awakening” by Chris Tomlin, or “Forever Reign” sung by Shane & Shane.
5. Seek the Fulfillment of the Kingdom of Christ among the Nations
Come together again in your ensembles, and pray for world evangelism, including your community, country, and throughout the world.
Pray for the many missionaries and workers who are sharing the gospel around the world. Pray for their spiritual and physical protection and success in their ministries. Focus on the five billion people who are currently beyond the reach of the gospel, too.
Focus on worldwide issues of hunger, justice, poverty, war, disease, immorality, drugs, pornography, racism...all of which are part of the battle against the kingdom of darkness.
Perhaps you might invite everyone to pray at the same time—audibly—as they do in many parts of the world! It’s a thrilling experience to hear and join with a whole multitude praying simultaneously for the kingdom of God to come on earth.
In that moment, picture what prayer in heaven will be like; “Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come’” (Revelation 4:8).
6. Pause to Hear God Speak Personally
One of the most powerful moments in every concert is silence. After the music rings and the instruments play, silence almost has its own sound…you know what I mean.
In that moment of silence, turn your heart toward God and just listen. I think that’s what the psalmist meant when he said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It’s been my experience that God speaks to me most often in those precious moments of silence.
7. Share Testimonies
Did God speak to you during the Concert?
Share testimonies about what God spoke to you, anything you learned or experienced, or encouragement you received during the Concert itself. Testimonies might also include confession, repentance, exhortation, Scripture reading, or call for revival.
This is not a time for general sharing. Testimonies are to encourage the whole group. One or two sentences may suffice so that many have an opportunity to share.
Be excited for each other!
8. Grand Finale
Conclude the Concert of Prayer by singing several more songs of Worship and Praise to our Heavenly Father.
Sam, I hope this gives you a helpful framework to hold your own Concert of Prayer. God promises to respond when His people pray!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Design Pics
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.