Last night we had our monthly prayer meeting at the church where I serve as senior pastor.
We meet in the basement of the church in a vast series of chairs arranged in a ring. It looks like a picture of the 16th century Huegenot chapels in France or like rings of the trunk of a Douglas fir tree.
How We Pray
We normally pray through Scripture in some manner. We often follow the prayers of Paul (see Don Carson’s recommendation), or use the sections of a Psalm (see Christopher Ash’s guide). The prayer meeting leader is one of the pastors who will either read the texts or assign men and women to read from different portions. We’ll use that text as a point of meditation on God and his will for us as we pray.
We will adopt a sort of paradigm that can follow the ACTS method of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. Usually, the pattern of the text guides us through those emphases. We try to encourage everyone to give a hearty ‘amen’ when a person has finished praying. It is encouraging to hear frequent amens, and it keeps us all engaged to listen intently and not drift when someone else is praying.
With deliberate planning combined with enough informality to encourage us to be honest and transparent, a prayer meeting can have a wide range of people participating without it being burdensome. Towards the end of the meeting I ask people to offer praise to God but in a single sentence! The result was that more people prayed aloud, and even timid ones could briefly pray a phrase or sentence out loud. This last round of prayer was full of hopeful energy as the praises to our triune God were literally pouring from people’s lips!
Our church has a monthly prayer meeting, not a weekly one, though there is weekly prayer at bible studies. Maybe other churches are doing a better job of gathering together more frequently for focussed prayer. Our church has aimed to try to gain consistency by a monthly meeting and it has been a highlight that everyone looks forward to at the end of the month.
Examples of How We Pray
At the recent prayer meeting that I was leading, we heard very diverse prayers. Here are some of them:
We heard prayers for mothers trying to do their best, for Christian universities adopting false ideologies, for the conversion of Justin and Sophie Trudeau, for protection for Christians in North Central Nigeria from the attacks of Islamist militias and Boko Haram, for pastors and churches in Alberta, for the conversion of Mayor Naheed Nenshi, for ministry in poor communities in Scotland, for churchgoers who don’t really know the gospel, for our own sins of pride, hypocrisy, bitterness and selfishness, for the many undeserved blessings we enjoy like marriages, babies, jobs, health, friendships and freedom, for English bibles, for a church that meets in person, and much more.
People claim it doesn’t mean much when you offer “thoughts and prayers” for others in calamity. They think there is no real action in that expression. But when you sit with a large group of people who are all appealing to God in heaven at the same time with the same focus, you cannot ignore the fact that there is a great activity going on.
Charles Spurgeon reflected on the significance of corporate prayer meetings. He said:
How could we look for a Pentecost if we never met with one accord, in one place, to wait upon the Lord? Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer-meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.
Do we want change in our lost society? Yes, we all do. But have we lost our confidence in the Lord and in corporate prayer together, appealing to him? Have we started to look sympathetically at the Marxist presupposition (adopted by both the Right and the Left) that everything is political?
If Christians are concerned about all of the activism which has spilled the banks of society, then maybe we should all start with this other kind of grand activism—the activism of corporate prayer.