Most Christians appreciate how important it is to pray. And they know that praying in secret, not to show off, is commendable. But when a church comprised of Christians is formed can it rely on the private prayers of each individual in the church, or does God expect the church as a whole to meet to pray to Him? Our answer would be yes! We should meet together to pray prayers of worship, praise, thanksgiving and sincere requests. The content of our prayers as a church is a big subject in itself. These notes are just about the need to meet together to do it!
As usual, the expectations God has in this matter are disclosed in the Bible, so here are some passages that apply. First we look at how God instructed His people in the Old Testament, then noting that precedent we look at how people living in the New Testament era are guided in this matter.
In the Old Testament:
Read: Lev.16. This is about God’s people approaching Him. It prescribes how the high priest of Israel must offer a sacrifice for the people as a whole, not just sacrifices for individuals; approaching God must be done according to His instructions (see verses 1,2 and 5). Approach to God by His people together is a privilege
Read: 1 Chron.16:36. All the people said “Amen” to David’s collective prayer
Read: Neh.8:6. Ezra prays and the people collectively say Amen; see also chapter 9.
Read: Lk.1:10. Notice “the whole multitude” meeting to pray outside, as the priest entered on their behalf to burn incense in the temple; and see Acts 3:1 to confirm the practice.
And for New Testament people:
Read: Lk.11:1,2. Note we are instructed to say “our Father,” not my Father; “when you (that “you” is plural) pray”.
Read: Acts 2:42 It says “they” continued in the prayers of the ones who formed a fellowship; not simply prayers as individuals; fellowship implies plurality.
Read: Acts 4:24. It is clear one person could have prayed these words but all said Amen. This is implied as the prayer of one was the prayer of all; and God answered powerfully!
Read: Acts 12:5. The church prayed together for Peter, and he was miraculously released.
Read: Acts 13. The leaders must set an example and pray as one; see 1 Tim.4:14; and see Acts 20:36.
Read: 1 Cor.14:16. Again there is a clear principle of one praying out loud and others saying Amen in church meetings: v.19. And surely only one person prays at a time; it would be rude in even everyday conversation to start speaking to compete with the person who is already talking; we wait for them to finish (see “each in turn” in 1 Cor.14:27).
Read: 2 Cor.1:11. Note, “your” supplication/prayer is singular, though obviously a plural activity as the words are addressed to the whole church in Corinth (see verse 1); many “persons” (some versions) is actually many “faces”, i.e. people collectively expressing in their faces their thanksgiving to God.
Read: Phil.4:6. These are instructions to the Philippian church as a whole to “let your requests be made known to God”
Read: Heb.4:16, reinforced by Heb.10:25, that emphasizes joint activity: “Let us”.
- The Lord taught disciples to pray as a group, not just as individuals
- The early church met routinely for prayers, just as God’s people had always done
- The prayers of the church were said by one man and everyone else said “Amen”
- Joint prayer by the church makes a difference!