I estimate that about a fifth of a regular Sunday attendance come to prayer meetings on Sunday evenings. (but who’s counting?) I don’t know anyone else’s individual prayer life, but as I believe prayer to be the lifeblood in one’s relationship with God, so corporate prayer is the lifeblood of church fellowship! “Fellowship” in the Biblical context is not about sitting around, drinking coffee and talking about superficial things, but rather, a mutually recognized goal of manifesting our common faith to the glory of God.
Our culture of individualism, compounded with technologies that increasingly isolate us, only serve to weaken our ability to handle the everyday stresses of life. But deep, authentic relationships formed out of a mutual dependence on God and each other, serve to help us grow in the Lord better together, than without each other. Prayer is part of the work of the Kingdom of God, through which God chooses to accomplish His Will. However, even with that said, I think that the majority of Christians do not understand the doubly-effective nature of prayer. Prayer is not about changing God’s mind, but ours!
Prayer is not always about God changing others’ minds to do His work (as much as He is able), but quite often a preparatory work to empower us for His Service! As an example: We may pray that God will change Jason’s heart to be more empathetic towards his family, and as an answer to that prayer, God’s Spirit may move the person praying to go and speak the difficult words to Jason that need to be said!
Some of us don’t want the increased difficulty which leads to increased blessing, and thus, we may be hesitant to pray certain things, like, “Lord, help me to see this sin as YOU see it”, or ask a group to be praying for you as you deal with it, or…even to a prayer meeting! (6:30 Sunday evenings, quick plug…) Are we afraid that my prayer may lead to action…on my part!? Here’s an illustration I read recently:
“For fifteen years from 1981 to 1995, in one Chinese city there were many cases of murder, armed robbery, and rape. Gangs of thieves and local village tyrants were rampant; small children were being kidnapped; taxis were being robbed; and taxi drivers being killed. People’s hearts were nervous. Traffic-related disputes were increasing and society was not in a peaceful state. There were less than 3000 believers in the city.
At this time, the Holy Spirit moved Sister Zhou to the city. This Christian sister helped the church there for over one month. She received a burden while praying that the church should set up a prayer watch. So, the first prayer watch group was established. When it started, there were only 6 people. On Sundays these six people would all watch and pray simultaneously.
After almost six months of this kind of prayer, the national police cleaned up and eliminated the triad gangs and local village tyrants and brought about a change for a better environment in the city. At the time when children were being kidnapped, old Sister Chang began to fast and pray. Every day she would pray saying, “O Father God, save and rescue these children. Send an old granny to look after them!” After a year’s time, the problem of children being kidnapped was transformed.
One problem would be solved and then another problem would come up for prayer. The rate of deaths in that city due to traffic accidents was an average of one to two people per day. Many more than that were injured daily. They then decided to make the city’s traffic safety to be a special prayer topic. They prayed and relied on God to solve the traffic problems.
From 1995 until now, small groups of prayer watches have expanded from one to three core groups. Each person prays at a designated time and the time for prayer rotates to another person in the group. It has now expanded into a large prayer network. Now the city is peaceful and safe. The work of the gospel is stable and steadily expanding. There are more than 30,000 Christians in the city attending meetings. The people’s attitudes and appearance all seem like they are renewed. Although there are many laid-off workers, they seem to be able to find enough work to still be able to feed their families. This truly is the effect of prayer. It is the work done by our Father for the city.” (OpenDoorsUSA.org)
Our church (ERBC) has opportunities to grow corporately, should you choose to do so! We have Bible studies and prayer meetings. We have a prayer chain by phone, to lift up special needs in prayer. We have those who can’t make it regularly to church, who would love to be encouraged by a visit. There may be those who need an encouraging word, or perhaps you might like some encouragement or counsel from your pastor? As Scott Rideout, president of Converge, our Baptist denomination, we are truly “better together”. If God’s glory is the focus, then our time together becomes “fellowship”.
We seek out the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:23. We hold fast to the words of John the apostle: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). If our hearts mirror our Lord’s heart for us, then we prioritize our time together, even in the summer, to sharpen up each other’s faith, as “iron sharpens iron”, and stir up one another to exercise that faith and love out in the world!