10 If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble.11 Also, on a cold night, two under the same blanket gain warmth from each other, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.Ecclesiastes 4:10-12
At least once each month this year, I want to write about practical ways to develop our Pursuit of Prayer. Today, I want to focus on seeking out a partner or prayer group.
There are many benefits of adding corporate or communal prayer to our lives. Most of our prayers will take place between just ourselves and God. We may pray during our quiet time, early in the morning, or just before bedtime. Our prayers may be short or long; full of joy or sorrow; silent or even mumbled. But when we pray with at least one other person, the following should happen:
- We should be more focused. It may sound shallow or presumptuous, but praying aloud in front of a “human” audience has a tendency to keep us focused on the words we use and the thoughts we are sharing. And, while we can fall victim to the temptation to show off our eloquence, or say what we think others want to hear, we can also be sharpened by the reality that God AND others are listening! Have you ever “caught” yourself praying without really “hearing” your own thoughts? Sometimes, prayers can become rote or stale. We can pray on “automatic pilot”– repeating requests or phrases without really meaning them. Praying aloud in front of others won’t necessarily stop that from happening, but it should make us more focused.
- We should learn from the prayers of others. Listening to others pray gives us insight into THEIR thoughts and hearts. It can also give us insight into how others communicate with the Father. Sometimes others have knowledge of issues and requests of which I am unaware or unburdened. Sometimes, they have a different way of relating to the Father– not “better,” but different in perspective or experience. I have been startled, convicted, encouraged, and emboldened by listening to the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ. And there is a “flip-side” to this, namely
- We should allow others to learn from our prayers. I know many people who feel their prayers are somehow “inferior.” They use simple words, or their words don’t flow smoothly. They are ashamed to pray in public. And yet, thousands have been inspired and humbled by so-called “simple” prayers. They teach faith and humility; trust and caring; and even courage and strength. If everyone’s prayers were the same, or if everyone’s prayers were about their own abilities or eloquence, they would lose much of their power– because prayer is not about US; it is about God working THROUGH us.
- We can agree in prayer. As one of us prays aloud, the other(s) can pray along silently in agreement. This may seem like a simple truth, or a trivial point, but it is not. Prayer, like the rest of our life, is meant to be done in communion with others–we are not meant to be solitary and self-sufficient. There is exponential power in communal prayer, as we come together in agreement on various issues. It is one of the reasons that so many revival experiences begin with a small group of people who pray fervently. This isn’t just a metaphysical phenomenon. Hearing others pray about the things weighing on my heart encourages me to keep praying when I am alone again. Hearing others pray with the same heart encourages my faith and resolve. Hearing others agree in prayer may even plant a seed that wasn’t there before. Conversely, hearing others pray may cause me to reevaluate my own thinking, or help us better hear faulty thinking and disagreement over certain issues, causing us to seek resolution and truth over long-held but unquestioned beliefs. Praying aloud can help bring us closer toward unity!
- Our prayers become more powerful. “Where two or three are gathered…” Matthew 18:20 says that where two or three are gathered together in my (Jesus’) name, he will there in the midst of them. This verse is often taken out of context. It does NOT mean that Jesus will ONLY be with groups of two or more. Jesus promises never to leave or forsake ANYONE who puts their trust in Him. Others have taken this promise (along with its preceding verse) to mean that where two or three people pray together, Jesus is obligated to give them whatever they ask for. This is also misleading. Jesus is with us, not to give us a particular outcome or answer, but to guide us into truth and faith. It means that Jesus is with each person, AND with everyone who gathers together in HIS name. His presence is magnified; His power is magnified (if such a thing is possible…) Just as in the passage in Ecclesiastes, the power of a united group– even a small group of two or three PLUS JESUS– cannot be over-emphasized. Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Satan does not worry when Christians gather together to protest or complain. It warms his heart to see a small group of Christians come together to gossip, boast, or argue. But he shudders when Christians meet together in Faith to pray! It is much more difficult for him to distract, distort, and discourage us when we pray together–for each other, with each other, beside each other!
- We become more accountable. This happens best when we meet regularly for prayer with another/others. It doesn’t have to be daily or even weekly, but when we meet consistently, we challenge one another to be faithful, active, and accountable in our prayers and in our living. I pray more often alone when I pray more often with a friend or group! I pray with more focus and purpose. I pray more intentionally.
If you don’t have a regular prayer partner or prayer group, I encourage you to seek out a friend or a group of people who will meet regularly. Even if it is not a “Prayer” group– it may be a Bible Study group, a group of friends meeting for lunch once a month, or a neighbor who carpools or commutes with you. Make prayer part of your friendship or group on a regular basis.