They stood in a circle, about 40 of them, in the center of the parking lot. United, hands clasped with their neighbor and heads bowed, they prayed.
No fear. No shame. No wavering.
As I drove by, tears stung the back of my eyes. Emotions assailed me. I was thrilled to witness such an incredible sight, so many people openly gathering before the throne of the Most High God! And yet I felt sad that such a sight is so rare. I could not recall the last time I had been involved in a prayer circle like that!
And I wondered if God’s reaction was a little like mine.
I thought back to a question that’s been heavy on my heart for several months: Why don’t more churches gather for prayer and fasting?
When I was young, every once in a while our little church met just to pray. As I grew older, I noticed that some churches had regular prayer meetings, and some didn’t. I never thought much about it until I came across this scripture:
“And as [Jesus] taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
This verse (referencing back to Isaiah 56) has confused me for a while now. There is always prayer in church, but typically its a few sentences here and there between the music and the message. Is that enough to warrant the definition ‘house of prayer’?
Or does God want something more?
If He does want us to bow together more frequently, why don’t more churches have regular prayer meetings? Is it because they misunderstood His plan for believers? Is it because we are all too busy? Because there is no one to lead the meetings? Because we’re waiting for someone to organize something? Because we believe that praying is the job of missionaries and pastors? Because we pray in private as Jesus commanded, where no one can see us, believing that is enough? When a meeting is organized, why do so few attend?
When people cry out, God answers. We see it all through the Bible. And in many situations, groups of people cried out together, calling on the Lord in humility. They fasted in groups as they sought God for deliverance. and He showed up in big ways. In Acts chapter 2, when the early church devoted themselves to prayer, they saw many miracles and people were saved daily!
So how can we each encourage more group prayer in church when we’re not pastors? Worship teams can pray over services when they practice music. Sunday school teachers can meet and lift up their classes to the Lord. Nursery workers can meet together and pray over the little children. The youth ministry team can gather to pray over, or with, the students. The kitchen staff can pray over the kitchen, the janitorial team can pray over the building, the sound and lighting crew can pray over the equipment.
All over this city, there are whispering of prayer groups, women who have joined together to fight for the territory God has laid on their hearts. What about you? Where is God leading you to join, or start, a prayer meeting?
Let’s develop our churches into houses of prayer!