We are not given must information in the NT concerning the meetings of the local church. Acts 2:42 tells us that believers met for “fellowship, prayer, ministry of the Word, and breaking of bread.”
Beyond this very little information is given. As far as Gospel witness is concerned, this seems to have been carried on largely by the individual in a personal way. Those who were reached and saved no doubt were brought into the fellowship or a local church. It would appear from the Acts and Epistles that the prayer meeting is a very important factor in the life of an assembly. Note that the church was born in the wake of a prayer meeting. Acts 1:14. after the birth of the church the believers “continued steadfastly in prayer”—Acts 2:42. the glorious history of the church is a tribute to the faithfulness of God who answers prayer.
Collective prayer carries with it divine sanction, also a special promise of the presence of the Lord Himself.
Matthew 18:19-20—“Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” These verses reveal to us a twofold promise and pledge which cannot be broken.
1. When two or more believers are united in presenting a petition to God that request is answered.
2. When Christians are gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus, He is in their midst. The tragedy in Christendom as a whole is that we do not believe this. If we did, our prayer meetings would be filled and our churches would be on fire for God. If we were motivated thus, it would not be who was speaking that would induce our presence, but the glorious fact that the Lord is there.
Let us consider a few basics relative to prayer:
1. Only one person leads at a time. He is actually praying for the assembled company. All others should be following him and as occasion demands giving assent audibly by saying “Amen”.
2. We must avoid the grievous error of saying prayers. Prayer should be an expression of the burdened heart. Prayer should be a deep spiritual exercise. Our prayer should be fresh, not repetitious, and there should be a spontaneity of utterance. These elements are usually found in the prayers of young believers. Older Christians frequently fall into a pattern of prayer that is useless for God and man. In this connection long prayers should be avoided, it is not good for one or two men to monopolize the meeting. Conversely the lack of exercise among the brethren could induce a situation like this. The more who are spiritually exercised and take part the greater the interest will be.
3. We should avoid generalization. “Bless all thy servants everywhere.” It would be better to pray bless brother Jones in so and so. Remember brother Smith in his work among the children.
4. There should be no lack of subjects for prayer. The departmental work of the assembly, the elders and leaders of the various departments, the sick (mention by name), the unsaved relatives or friends, the backsliding (those whose spiritual progress has stopped), those whom God is raising up. Pray for evangelists, teachers, pastors, missionaries, and all in authority over us. Never let us pray without offering our thanks for answered prayer and for our many blessings. Phil. 4:6—“Be over anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.
Certain conditions must be met if our prayers are going to be effective:
1. We must abide in Christ. If ye abide in me and words in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:17. Abiding in Christ is keeping His commandments, doing His will, obeying His Word.
2. Our prayers should be according to His will. 1 John 5:14—“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, he heareth us.” This is the key to successful praying “according to His will.” Find out what God’s will is from the Scriptures. If our prayers do not conflict with the will of God our prayers will definitely be answered.
3. We should always pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. “And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”—John 14:13. “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you”—John 16:13.
4. Our motives must be pure. Unpure, selfish motives are the cause of unanswered prayers. See James 4:3. We ask and receive not because we ask amiss, that we may consume it upon our lusts.
Some of the do’s and don’ts to be observed if we want the “prayer meeting” to be the “power-house of the church”:
1. Do not pray simply to be seen. See Matt. 6:5, hypocrites.
2. Do not ask God to do something that you can do yourself.
3. Do not ask for something that you know you should not have. God sometimes grants these requests but sends leanness to the soul. Psalm 106:15.
4. Do not be discouraged if the answer does not come when you expect it. God’s timing is perfect.
5. If God’s answer is not just exactly what you asked for, remember this: the Lord reserves the right to answer as He pleases. He knows what is best for us and is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Some Thoughts on Prayer
What does the Bible teach about prayer?
It is important for every believer to know what the Bible teaches about prayer. There can be no real progress in any part of the believer’s life without prayer.
1. Why pray? Because the Bible commands us to do so. 1 Timothy 2:8.
2. How often should we pray? Daniel and the Psalmist prayed three times a day. Daniel 6:10. Paul urges us to pray without ceasing. 1 Thess. 5. The believer should give thanks for his food when he is alone and when he is with other people.
3. In what position should we pray? Daniel kneeled (6:10). The Lord Jesus kneeled (Luke 22:41). Nehemiah prayed as he stood before the king (Nehemiah 2:4). We may pray kneeling, standing, sitting, walking, at home, in the chapel, at work, etc.
4. What hour should we ray in order to have our prayer answered?
a. Our prayers will be answered if we abide in Christ. John 15:7. What does it mean to abide in Christ? If we enjoy Him day by day, if we have communion and fellowship with Him, if we obey the Scriptures, then we are abiding in Him.
b. If the above is true we will know God’s will and our prayers will agree with it.
c. Our prayers should be in the name of the Lord Jesus. John 14:13. His thoughts become our thoughts. So that when we pray it is the same as if the Lord Jesus was speaking to God.
d. Our motive or the reason for our prayer must be right. Jams 4:3. We cannot expect an answer if our nature is selfish.
5. Some warnings about prayer.
a. Don’t pray in order to be seen and praised. Matthew 6:5.
b. Don’t ask God to do something you can do yourself.
c. Don’t ask for something you know you shouldn’t have.
d. Don’t say words without thinking what they mean. Don’t say the same things over and over again. Matt. 6:7.
6. If you have problems with mind wandering, try praying out loud. This will help you to think about the things for which you are praying.
Don’t be discouraged if your answer does not come immediately. God knows best and answers in His time. He is never too early, and never too late.