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Prayer lesson 03

Prayer lesson 03: The Power of Group Prayer

I was reading a book from one of my favorite authors the other day, and I came across two rather provocative passages:

Christ told the Jews at Nazareth a fearful truth when He declared that with backsliding Israel there was no safety for the faithful messenger of God. They would not know his worth or appreciate his labors. While the Jewish leaders professed to have great zeal for the honor of God and the good of Israel, they were enemies of both. By precept and example they were leading the people farther and farther from obedience to God--leading them where He could not be their defense in the day of trouble.

The Saviour's words of reproof to the men of Nazareth applied, in the case of Paul, not only to the unbelieving Jews, but to his own brethren in the faith. Had the leaders in the church fully surrendered their feeling of bitterness toward the apostle, and accepted him as one specially called of God to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, the Lord would have spared him to them. God had not ordained that Paul's labors should so soon end, but He did not work a miracle to counteract the train of circumstances to which the course of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem had given rise.

The same spirit is still leading to the same results. A neglect to appreciate and improve the provisions of divine grace has deprived the church of many a blessing. How often would the Lord have prolonged the work of some faithful minister, had his labors been appreciated! But if the church permits the enemy of souls to pervert the understanding, so that they misrepresent and misinterpret the words and acts of the servant of Christ; if they allow themselves to stand in his way and hinder his usefulness, the Lord sometimes removes from them the blessing which He gave...(1)

...Thus, while apparently cut off from active labor, Paul exerted a wider and more lasting influence than if he had been free to travel among the churches as in former years. As a prisoner of the Lord, he had a firmer hold upon the affections of his brethren; and his words, written by one under bonds for the sake of Christ, commanded greater attention and respect than they did when he was personally with them. Not until Paul was removed from them, did the believers realize how heavy were the burdens he had borne in their behalf. Heretofore they had largely excused themselves from responsibility and burden bearing because they lacked his wisdom, tact, and indomitable energy; but now, left in their inexperience to learn the lessons they had shunned, they prized his warnings, counsels, and instructions as they had not prized his personal work. And as they learned of his courage and faith during his long imprisonment they were stimulated to greater fidelity and zeal in the cause of Christ. (2)

Let's just ponder what we have read for a moment here.  If the Christian leaders at the time had prayed for Paul the way they prayed for Peter (Acts 12:11-12), God would have allowed Paul to continue his ministry longer!

Friend, we have learned previously that there is a lot of power in prayer.  What could be more power than the prayer of a righteous man (James 5:16)?  Let's turn to Matthew 18:19-20.

- According to these verses, what happens when two or three are gathered in Jesus' name?

  • Answer (highlight to read): He is in the midst of them.

- According to these verses, what happens when they agree on anything they ask in Jesus' name?

  • Answer: It will be done for them by God the Father.

The prayer of two or more righteous people is even more power than the prayer of one righteous individual!

What is an advantage of group prayer?  Let's turn to Hebrews 10:25 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
- According to these verses, what does Paul admonish us not to forget?

  • Answer: He admonishes us not to forsake the assembling of others.
- According to these verses, what should we do when we are gathered together?
  • Answer: We should comfort and edify one another. 

There are times we need to be alone with God, but there also definitely times where we should gather together and pray together.  You will come to find that when we pray together, not only you will be encouraged by other believers, but your faith will increase in the process!

How should you conduct a group prayer session?  There are many different ways, but I will share with you the method we use at our church.  The prayer session is in four phases:

  1. Praise
  2. Confession
  3. Petition
  4. Thanksgiving
In our prayer session, we usually have one moderator who keeps time.  Before the prayer session begins, you should come to a consensus approximately how long the prayer session will last.  It could be as short as 15 minutes up or up to an hour (or more, depending on how the Holy Spirit leads your group).  The moderator starts off the prayer session and is responsible for initiating the transition to the next phase of the prayer session.  This transition could be a prayer (e.g. "Lord, we would now like to come to you to confess our sins.") or a verse of a praise song or hymnal.  The moderator also closes the prayer session with a final prayer.

The prayers are done popcorn-style, which means anyone can jump in to pray aloud.  Each individual prayer should be short and concise (e.g. "Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your great patience" or "Dear God, I pray that you be with the Johnson family in their time of need") to allow time for as many people to pray as many times as they feel led to.  If someone else just prayed a prayer, you were about to pray, go ahead and pray that prayer again!  Feel free to second or third that prayer!  (We literally do say, "Lord, I would like to second that prayer" or "Amen!")

Let's briefly go over each phase of the prayer session:

1. Praise

Let's turn to Psalms 92:1 and 135:3.
- According to these verses, what is it good to do?
  • Answer: It is good to sing praises to God's name.
When we praise God, we can praise aspects of His character (e.g. His love and mercy), the fact that He is the Creator, among other things.

2. Confession

Let's turn to Psalms 66:18 and Isaiah 59:2.
- According to these verses, what happens when we regard iniquity in our hearts?
  • Answer: God will not hear us. 
Let's turn to 2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Peter 3:12; and James 5:16.
- According to these verses, when will God hear us?
  • Answer: God will hear us when we confess and repent of our sins. 
Why are so many prayers unanswered by God?  Oftentimes, the person praying has not yet confessed their own sins first.  This is why before we ask God anything, we lay our own sins before the altar - we confess our sins to God, ask Him forgiveness, and repent of those sins.

3. Petition.

Let's turn to Matthew 7:7.
- According to this verse, what should we do?
  • Answer: Ask, seek, and knock.
During this phase we ask God in Jesus' name, as we have studied previously.

4. Thanksgiving.

Let's turn to 1 Chronicles 29:13; Colossians 4:2; and Philemon 1:4.
- According to these verses, what should we always do when we pray?
  • Answer: We thank God.
Just as in the ABCs of prayer, we close our group prayer session with thanksgiving, thanking God for what He has done for us, as well as what He will do for us.  This is a perfect time to claim God's promises to us through the Bible!
 

Friend, prayer is powerful (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  if you are convicted by the power of prayer, will you be willing to try group prayer with friends and family members who are also seeking God's will?
 

References:
  1. White, Ellen.  Acts of the Apostles, pp. 417-418.
  2. White, Ellen.  Acts of the Apostles, p. 454