We begin the new year with four messages on “Trellis and the Vine”, one of which is, “Prayerful Dependence on the Holy Spirit”. Following that, we will begin our journey through the book of Acts for the most part of the year.
The book of Acts is, in many ways, a blueprint of how to “do church”. We will discover that in almost every chapter in Acts, there is a reference to prayer. Compared to the Gospels, Acts has a greater number of references to prayer. It is estimated that prayer is mentioned 10 times in Matthew, 12 times in Mark, five times in John, and 19 times in Luke. However, references to prayer are made up to 32 times in Acts! In essence, we will be taught and frequently reminded about prayer for a good one year. From the significant events surrounding prayer, we will learn that our God always acts when we pray.
It is my prayer that as we go through the study of Acts, prayerfulness will indeed increase both in our private and public lives. God forbid that our prayer meetings will eventually die a natural death due to the lack of prayer warriors in our church. In my last editorial, I wrote about why prayer meetings are vital to the life and growth of the church. In this second part, I would like to take us to the other side and understand some possible reasons why one might not want to pray with others at prayer meetings.
In an article entitled “The Death of Prayer Meetings”3, author Mark Jones quoted from another article that gave some possible reasons why Christians don’t seem to want to pray together at prayer meetings. Some of the reasons mentioned are:
The pastor doesn't see the importance of corporate prayer. (Personally, I think a pastor should be at the corporate prayer meeting even if it is just him and his family).
The meetings invariably turn into an "organ donation" gathering (e.g., my aunt is going into hospital for an ingrown toenail).
There isn't a whole lot of fervent, biblical prayer going on. (The elders must fix that problem through teaching and example.)
People are too busy. (Remember, people do what they want to do, and usually always find time and a way to do it.)
People are functional hyper-Calvinists. (They don't really understand that the God who ordained the ends has also ordained the means to accomplish those ends. Prayer is one of those means: if we do not ask, we will not receive.)
Jones believes that there is a correlation between our private and public prayers. He alludes to the possibility that the problems begin in our private prayers when we fail to grasp the value of prayer and how important it is for our souls. Thus, we are decidedly unmoved to want to meet for corporate prayer. Jones believes that corporate prayer helps private prayer, and vice versa. We need both because the Christian life involves both (Matthew 6:4-6; Acts 12:12).
Jones also points out that there is a current type of Christian theology making the rounds that argues that you should not do something unless your heart is right. These people argue: if you do something, but you don't want to do it, you are acting hypocritically. You should, in their mind, get your heart right first. God forbid that his people apply this thinking to prayer (or any other Christian duty). Echoing a well-known Puritan, Jones shared that there had been times in his life when he would rather die than pray. Often, he didn’t feel like praying privately, and sometimes he didn’t feel like praying corporately. But, it is a Christian duty. And often, in his grace, God turns his duties into delights (or partial delights) — but not always, which does not negate his duty.
This experience that Jones shared has also been my own personal experience. Indeed, I confess, there were times I didn’t feel like going for our prayer meetings. But when I went, most times, I would feel a sense of peace and joy at the end.
May I encourage you to read the full article for yourself following the link provided in the reference. My prayer is that the article will speak to you, and that the Spirit will help you to re-consider your priorities and make the necessary changes for you to be able to regularly attend our fortnightly prayer meetings this year. God has given us technology so that we can attend prayer meetings online in the comfort of our homes. May we use this as an added incentive to come and pray together. May the Lord help us! Amen.
1. T. W. (n.d.). Prayer in the book of Acts. https://www.drtimwhite.net/blog/2021/7/7/prayer-in-the-book-of acts
2. M. E. M. (2018). Prayer in the book of Acts, https://markmoore.org/index_htm_files/Prayer%20in%20Acts.pdf
3.The death of prayer meetings. (n.d.). Reformation 21. https://www.reformation21.org/blogs/the-problem-of-corporate-praye.php - ELD SIM CHOW MENG