I was recently in a small church that for years has struggled to grow beyond sixty people. They are dear, sincere people who want to trust God to use them in greater ways in their community. I challenged them to focus more on Kingdom issues in their prayers (as opposed to just the needs of the congregation).
In a Facebook chat a few weeks later, the pastor’s wife commented that they had tweaked the way they were praying, and a neighbor had prayed to receive Christ that week. A month after this they saw six women pray to receive Christ at a women’s event. I will continue to pray for a renewed passion to seek the kingdom as they pray together.
Despite the fact that many churches do not have significant corporate prayer expressions, most prayer leaders and pastors believe praying together is important. But what are the benefits? There are many benefits, but here are three significant ones.
1. Praying together invites the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
In 2 Chronicles 6-7, we see the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. While “the whole assembly of Israel was standing there” (2 Chron. 6:3), Solomon prays a dedicatory prayer in which he invokes the presence of God. “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. Now arise, O Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may your saints rejoice in your goodness” (6:40-41). Of course the presence of God entered with dynamic power!
There is a different atmosphere in churches that pray together and who have praying people. Worship seems more powerful. There is a sense of connection with God that is not there in non-praying churches.
A few years ago, I held a conference at a church in Michigan. The church had invited many other churches to attend the conference and they had responded—more than 300 were in attendance. As these people (hungry people who wanted to grow closer to God through prayer) worshiped and prayed together, something happened. God showed up! There were multiple times where we so sensed His presence that we had to just be silent for seemingly long stretches of time (up to five minutes).
A number of years ago at our prayer leaders’ convention, Dr. Tommy Barnett, pastor of First Assembly of God Church in Phoenix, Arizona, said, “The presence of God in the midst of a church is directly proportional to the amount of prayer that takes place there.”
When the Spirit of God is manifestly present, other things happen. People hear Him speak, giving direction and encouragement. The church in Antioch saw this truth in action: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3). During a normal time of prayer and worship, the Holy Spirit gave crucial direction that forever changed the world—Saul (Paul) began his missionary work.
As you pray together as a congregation, God will begin to “show up” more and more.