The Church: A Different World
A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
Article: We Pray Together
By Kassidy Reynolds
Do you personally know of any Christian who does not struggle with his or her prayer life? Consider this question: “Do you pray enough?” If I were to ask this question to the saints whom I would expect to pray the most often, I would predict for their answer to be, “No.” These saints who pray most would also be aware of their dire need to remain constant and steadfast in prayer. I think they would respond with no because they know that no one could ever pray enough. We would be in the most danger if we were to answer, “Yes, I pray enough.” In that very answer, we would be unaware of how short we are falling. We need the church for this reason. We need corporate prayer.
How is prayer different when we pray together as a church as compared to private prayer? We need both private prayer and public prayer. Each strengthens the other. Private prayer will strengthen our corporate prayer, and corporate prayer will strengthen our private prayers. If I immerse myself into private prayer without ceasing, then courage in corporate prayer will flow more naturally. If I join fellow believers in prayer and listen to the audible pleas of other saints, then my private prayers will be more Biblically rounded. But many believers struggle with public prayer. We frequently feel nervous to pray out loud in the hearing of others because we equate praying publicly with speaking publicly, and understandably so. When a group of people closes their mouths and you speak on their behalf before God, you are representing yourself and all of those people before the Lord.
Trembling at the weight of such a task is natural. But we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (1 John 2:1, Romans 8:34) Praying on behalf of others in a public setting is a picture of how the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27) When nerves flood the surface of our hearts, minds, and throats in the waters of public prayer, the Spirit acts as our lifeguard. He helps us in our weakness. Our weakness of not knowing what to pray for as we ought opens the door for the Spirit to intercede for us. (Romans 8:26) His power is made perfect in this weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Jesus set the model for both private and corporate prayer. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus Himself withdrew to desolate places to pray. Therefore, we too must be withdrawing regularly to pray individually. When Jesus taught on private prayer, He said, “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” (Matthew 6:6) Then, from this place of desolation and privacy, we can go out in order to come together in corporate prayer.
When Jesus taught on how to pray corporately, the first word He spoke in His model prayer was our. “Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9) In fact, all of the pronouns Jesus used in that model prayer were personal plural pronouns (we, us), except for when He used the pronoun your to refer directly to the Father. This use of personal plural pronouns encourages unity and humility - unity because, as the body, we take on each other’s hurts and burdens, and humility because the pleas and requests are not focused on me but on us.
The purpose of prayer, both private and public, is to deepen our relationship with the Father. The Father’s compassion towards us as His children is woven into Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. When you pray to your Father who is in secret, He sees you in secret, and He will reward you. But we are also family, brothers and sisters who come together before our Father. Before we pray corporately, our Father knows what we need before we even ask Him. And as a result of coming together as siblings, praying to God our Father, asking Him to forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, we will then be in the position to forgive each other just as He has forgiven us. Nothing binds hearts together quite like praying together. Corporate prayer puts us in fellowship with each other so that we can be in unsevered fellowship before our Father.
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