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The power and importance of corporate prayer

June 2, 2021 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13)

We all read the Bible with our own cultural filters, lenses to which we are often blind. One of the most glaring filters in our culture is how individualistic we are, while the world Jesus inhabited was much more communal. Case in point: I read recently that 33 out of 37 verses on prayer that are found in the gospels are commands given not to individuals but to groups of people. Verses such as “Ask and it will be given to you (plural), seek and you (plural) will find, knock and the door will be opened to you (plural)” (Matthew 7:7) assume that prayer will be a corporate affair, where believers seek God together. And yet I would dare to say that most of us operate in the American church as if God’s primary concern is our personal prayer life, not the prayer life of our faith community.

The most well-known prayer in the gospels is the Lord’s Prayer. The version we tend to recite is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, although in Luke 11, Jesus teaches a variation of it to his disciples after that ask him to teach them how to pray. Once again, I would venture to say that in all our years of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, most of us have never truly reflected upon the communal aspect of the prayer. He did not teach them a prayer to be recited simply between the individual and God. He taught them a prayer that uses first person plural language, a prayer meant to be offered in community.

Consider how that changes, for instance, the request “Give us today our daily bread.” What if, instead of this being intended for an individual to ask of God, it is a prayer for the community to ask for God’s provision? And what if God’s answer were to provide enough resources for the entire community but not in perfect portions? What if God’s provision required individuals who had more than enough to share with those who were in need?

Or what about the prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”? When an individual lifts up that prayer to God from the privacy of his or her home, there may be some conviction with regards to bitterness or unforgiveness. When a community of faith prays this together, there is a tangible opportunity to consider any unforgiveness that is being harbored among members of the community and to seek out reconciliation.

And finally, what about the prayer “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”? Just think about the increase in strength and protection that can come from praying that in community! When we pray with our brothers and sisters for God’s deliverance, then we are no longer fighting the battle alone.

Your personal prayer life matters to God. But so does the prayer life of the community. Let God remove your cultural lenses and find the power of praying with others.

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