Five years ago I began my doctoral program in New Testament and wondered how I would be able to balance ministry and academic study together with a family. In September, by God’s grace I successfully defended my dissertation.
As I look back, I credit this to God’s grace working through united prayer. Every Wednesday, I would gather with a group at church, and we would share needs and pray together. Nearly every day, I would gather with my wife, children and in-laws, and we would pray together for the challenges of that day. Frequently we would sing, “And now let the weak say I am strong; let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us. Give thanks.” This was my daily confession as I prayed together with others. I am weak. But the Lord is strong!
As I look at the early church in the book of Acts, I am struck by how they pray together. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples gathered in the upper room, and “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).
Notice that they prayed “with one accord.” They did not pray individually. Today, we like to pray individually. By ourselves. In our rooms. While individual prayer is important (Matt 6:6), so is corporate prayer.
The effort that it takes to join with other brothers and sisters in prayer is so rewarding. On Sunday evening, we had a home group meeting with a few other couples. After great food, ping pong, and alot of laughter, we sat around the dining room table and shared prayer requests. As each person shared their heart, the whole group listened with open hearts and loved them. We laughed, we cried, we loved one another and we prayed. Such prayer is powerful. It is supernatural. And it is, above all, biblical.
Second, we see that they were “devoting themselves to prayer.” We don’t pray on accident, anymore than we get into shape on accident. Prayer demands focus and commitment. As we gather at church for these forty days, this takes great sacrifice and commitment. In Acts 2:1, the disciples are still gathering together. Even after the massive church growth of 3000 people in Acts 2:41, they still are devoting themselves to prayer (2:42). Prayer must be the priority. Prayer does not prepare ourselves for the greater work of God; it is the greater work (Oswald Chambers).
Why should we join together and pray in these ways? Because when we pray together, the Holy Spirit comes down (Acts 2:1–11). When Paul tells the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit,” he immediately describes the means by which they would be filled: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:18–20). This could be very awkward. Imagine sitting down at Denny’s and singing Psalm 23 to your friend; your waitress would think that you’re crazy! But this pictures a community gathered in worship and prayer.
In this new year, let us dedicate and focus our lives in praying together.