Summary: The importance of small group prayer
Prayer – If Two Agree
Prayer is one of the foundational practices in the Christian life, yet is probably the most neglected aspect of the Christian life. A Christian who has a weak prayer life has a weak spiritual life or will have a weakening spiritual life. There is no way to achieve the kind of depth God desires for us in our Christian life without a strong, consistent prayer life. The Bible commands that we pray without ceasing, yet Christians have the misconception that they can grow spiritual while willingly disobeying and neglecting this foundational principle.
Praying without ceasing does not mean that we must be praying every waking moment. It means that we have a daily consistent walk with the Lord that is founded upon prayer. Most people begin with a commitment to pray and do well for a while, but within a few weeks their prayer time begins to fade. Though prayer is a discipline, we should approach it with more than a commitment to be disciplined. We have a love relationship with God and like all relationships, it will not grow without communication. God constantly communicates with us through His word, our circumstances, our hearts, spirit and through prayer. We communicate with God through our responsiveness to Him and through prayer. Hopefully we would not consider ignoring our spouse for weeks or months at a time, yet we think nothing of doing this to God. In time, we wonder why we are feeling distant from Him.
A Christian who lives without prayer is a Christian who does not understand the power of God. God may use us even when we are lacking spiritually, but without prayer, we are limiting ourselves from God’s best. A church who fails to pray or does not have leaders who pray, will not see God move in a mighty way. Through prayer we acknowledge our gratitude, dependence and submission to God. Without prayer we are declaring, by our actions, that we don’t see our need for God, we believe we are self-sufficient and we take God for granted. Consistent and effective prayer comes from a heart that delights in time spent with God. The Bible teaches us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. When we look at prayer as ‘doing our duty’, we will not pray effectively. When we look at prayer as a time to delight ourselves in God and our desire to spend time with God drives us to pray, then we will pray effectively, consistently and we will see God move. Prayer will touch our inward lives and our outward needs.
What Prayer is not
Prayer is not a canned presentation to God. It is not words we mouth thoughtlessly to Him. Prayer is not chanting ‘Jesus’ over and over. Responsive reading can be a type of worshipful prayer, but it does not replace prayer in our lives. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus warned, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Vain repetitions are words that are habitually repeated without thought. Vain repetition is also repeating spiritual words or phrases as though there were some type of mystical power in the words themselves. Chants and ‘faith words’ are unbiblical and are closer to paganism than Christianity.
Vain repetition is not repeating a sincere prayer. Many people misunderstand the words of Jesus to mean that you cannot make a request more than once. This is not what Jesus is saying. In fact, Jesus teaches just the opposite. Look at Luke 18:
1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.
3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ’Get justice for me from my adversary.’
4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ’Though I do not fear God nor regard man,
5 ’yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ "
6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.
7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?
The point of this parable is to show us that if an unrighteous judge will answer grant the persistent petitions of a widow he cares nothing about, how much more will God answer His people that He cares intimately for? Jesus used a persistent widow to teach us the benefit of persistent prayer. When Elijah prayed for rain, he prayed three times before he saw God answer. There is a difference between repeating a phrase and calling it prayer and taking a heart-felt need before God until you get results. Some people pray for years to see a loved one saved. This is biblical; chanting and special words are not.