The local church prayer meeting has been in the process of dying for years. Many, if not most churches have cut the weekly prayer meeting out of their weekly activities calendar. There have been numerous reasons cited for this change, but we have to ask ourselves, are they legitimate? I would suggest that we think twice before following this disturbing trend. I stumbled across an article from the 18th century by a man named John Brown where he discusses “The Purposes of Prayer Meetings.”
1. To promote and increase the knowledge of the truths, ordinances, and works of God
(Co. 3:16; Ps. 111:2).
2. To express and exercise mutual sympathy among the members (Rom. 15:1-2; Gal. 6:2)
3. To provoke and encourage one another to holiness and virtue, in all manner of conversation (Heb. 10:24-25; Eph. 4:15-16).
4. To communicate one another’s gifts and graces to mutual edification
(1 Pet.4:10; Eph. 4:12-13).
5. To render [members to be] faithful and friendly watchers, counselors, and reprovers of one another (1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 3:13; 10:24).
6. That [the members] may join together in prayer, praise, and other spiritual exercises
7.Praying together is often the means God uses to initiate or increase revival.
8. Praying together increases the commitment of believers to the kingdom of Jesus Christ at home, throughout the nation, and around the world.
9. Praying together provides an important spiritual oasis in a busy week. R. J. George writes, “It comes midway between the Sabbaths to arrest the rushing tide of worldliness, and to draw the Christian apart from the exacting cares of this earthly life; and it makes him “to sit in the heavenly places with Christ.” Prayer meetings cultivate a tender, devotional spirit, as well as quiet, inner strength in the midst of trials.
10. Praying together increases unity in the church. As Johnston says, at prayer meetings, “unity has its birth-place; here it is cradled; here it is trained; here it becomes a three-fold cord; here is the centre of the unity of the church; for here is the soil– the genial soil beside the waters– where unity strikes deeply its roots, and whence it draws its life-power to bind together in comely brotherhood.”
Peter Masters put it this way: “In the prayer gathering, preoccupation with ourselves as individual believers slips away, and we become a group of people longing for the blessing of others, and for the prosperity of the cause. In the prayer gathering we are refined and honed as a united body of people. It cements unions, and promotes respect. We hear each other pray; we subordinate ourselves to each other; we appreciate each other. We feel as the old saying goes, one another’s spirits, and we are warmed and deepened in oneness and regard. To adopt a well-worn phrase, the church that prays together, stays together.
11. Praying together utilizes the spiritual life of the church for the good of all the church’s ministries. When members are called to exercise their Spirit-
empowered gifts in prayer, the spiritual power generated from the prayer meeting pervades all of the other ministries of the church. Thus, the prayer meeting serves as an important connecting link between the Spirit’s power and human instrumentality.
12. Praying together increases the Christ-centeredness of believers. David Bryant writes, “Prayerfulness is the natural response of a heart that is fully caught up in all Christ is to us and for us, over us and within us, through us and before us and upon us. Christ defines our agenda in prayer. Christ opens up the door to heaven to present our prayers. In other words, prayer and the supremacy of Christ must forever walk together.”
13. Praying together provides an education in prayer for the entire church. Believers grow in the gift of prayer as they hear others pray. They learn to appreciate specificity in prayer, passionate pleading, Christ-centered wrestling, and fresh modes of expression. Iron sharpens iron. Young believers learn from older ones, and older believers are encouraged by the sincere petitions of the younger.
14. Praying together enhances private prayer. It makes us realize that, due to the intercessions of Christ and true believers, every time we pray, we are entering a twenty-four hour per day prayer meeting. Surely this ought to increase our expectations and fervency as we pray in “private.”
15. Praying together demonstrates our complete dependence upon God’s sovereign power and gracious blessing for all His ministries and all our work in His church and kingdom. It is a corporate recognition that without Christ we can do nothing and that with Him we have large expectations. Praying together helps us turn our eyes heavenward to the God of the harvest who has promised great things. It focuses our minds on large-scale blessings.”
From John Brown of Haddington (1765)