Sunday, June 14, 2009

Praying Together

Recently, during our Wednesday night Bible Study, I preached a series of messages on prayer. This series was in response to some questions about prayer that the men in our church were struggling with. One of the questions involved praying together corporately. As a result of my searching, I realized that there does not seem to be much written about corporate prayer that is practical in nature. I hope this blog will help believers to think more deeply about how to practice corporate prayer and encourage more of it.

The fact that believers should pray together can be demonstrated in many ways, but Paul’s command that men everywhere should pray seems to suggest corporate prayer (1 Tim. 2:8). The apostolic church modeled it (Acts 2:42, 4:23ff). Finally, the Lord’s Prayer uses no singular pronouns in its petitions (Matt. 6:9-13). Thus, corporate prayer is commanded and modeled by both the early church and the Lord’s Prayer.

Praying together of course means more than just being present in the same space. We should pray together with the same purpose. The phrase “in one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24) points to this truth. “In one accord” means literally with the same passion, with one mind, purpose, or impulse. [1] To pray together in one accord means to share the same purpose. While there may be other minor purposes that believers can unite around, the overarching purpose for which we do everything including prayer and under which all minor purposes are subsumed is God’s glory. Praying together necessitates sharing the same purpose especially the glory of God.

So how do we accomplish this in a practical way? First, we should actively think and listen while others are praying. This can be accomplished by saying, “amen”[2]or “Yes, Lord” either in one’s heart or audibly. JI Packer warns, “When another person is praying aloud, the temptation is to do no more than passively listen, but the proper task is actively to think and pray in our heart along with the leader, making the petitions our own as we hear them spoken. To form and maintain this habit takes effort, but we are not joining in according to the will of God, save as we labor to do this.” [3] Another writer comments, “[A] biblical theology of prayer teach[es] we who sit in the church pew, or folding chair, or stadium seating, or couch…to listen intently to the person leading prayer, while repeating to God, ‘Yes, yes, that person speaks for me and all those around me.’”[4]

Secondly, we can also use the same words, i.e., praying pre-written prayers (the Lord’s Prayer, other scriptural prayers, or hymns). Most Christian seem to be opposed to this thinking that only spontaneous prayers are truly spiritual; however, this cannot be proven either biblically or historically. The Bible nowhere forbids praying form prayers. In fact, Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer seems to using the Lord’s Prayer in this manner: “When you pray, say.”[5] In addition, the church has traditionally used the Lord’s Prayer as form prayer. Certainly, there have been abuses with repeating the Lord’s Prayer and other written prayers, but we should not allow the abuse of a healthy practice to discourage from the practice altogether.

Not only can the Lord’s Prayer be used in this manner, but there are other biblical prayers believers should make use of by making the words our own. For example, Psalm 51 can be used as prayer of confession, and Habakkuk 3:2 is an excellent prayer for revival.

The Bible directs believers to practice corporate prayer with the same purpose, the glory of God. I have suggested two ways believers can practically accomplish this by actively participating when others pray and often by using the same words in prayer. Please, visit the links cited in the notes, and feel free to offer any feedback. The above ideas are my initial thoughts on a subject upon which I would like to expand my thinking.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

[1] BAGD
[2] See 1 Cor. 14:16 where this is not commanded, but it is the practice of the church, which Paul is affirming.
[3] Paker, JI and Carol Nystrom. Praying Finding Our Way through Duty to Delight (IVP 2006) pg. 256 italics mine
[4] Hamilton, James M. Jr. and Jonathan Leeman. A Biblical Theology of Corporate Prayer. available @,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2386892,00.html
[5] Luke 11:2 NKJV

Other links:
Dunlop, Jamie and Papu Sandhu. Corporate Prayer: God’s Power Creates Unity “Living as a Church”—Class 4 available @,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2414278,00.html
Luther, Martin. Larger Catechism available @

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