Prayer is a multi-faceted subject that can be looked at from a variety of angles. Books and volumes have been written on this very important topic.
At the heart of prayer is communication with God. And I would argue that the highest purpose of prayer is intimacy with Him. But prayer is also a vehicle that God has chosen to use to advance His purposes in the earth.
I want to look at two aspects of prayer: private and corporate prayer.
Jesus taught this about prayer:
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Jesus also modeled a lifestyle of private prayer: “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
There is nothing that can take the place of being alone with God in the secret place. Whether you are worshipping, giving thanks, interceding, confessing sins, making petitions, or just sitting quietly before Him, spending time alone with God is a catalyst for spiritual growth and intimacy with Him.
There is no way to calculate the value of private prayer. It is where we humble ourselves before the Lord and acknowledge our dependence on Him. It lays the foundation for growing in Christ. And it provides the context for intimacy with God.
Jesus also taught that there is great value in praying together with other believers.
Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
Jesus taught that His presence is manifest in a special way when we gather in His name; even if it is just two or three. He also showed that there is power in agreeing together in prayer.
The early church gives us many examples of the power of corporate prayer. They were praying together continually when the Holy Spirit was first poured out (see Acts 1:14). They gathered to pray for boldness in the face of persecution, and received a fresh empowerment of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 4:24-31). They prayed together when Peter was put in prison and an angel of the Lord was sent to set him free (see Acts 12:1-12). They gathered for corporate prayer and fasting when the Holy Spirit sent Paul and Barnabas out on an apostolic mission (see Acts 13:1-4). Paul and Silas sang hymns and prayed together in prison and the Lord broke in and miraculously set them free (see Acts 16:23-26).
It is clear that the early church understood the power of corporate prayer.
Unfortunately, many believers today are not comfortable praying with others. We need to overcome our insecurities in this area and begin gathering together to pray heaven down. God has chosen to work through prayer; we must adjust to His program instead of changing it to make ourselves feel comfortable.
It is shocking how little value is placed on corporate prayer in much of the Western church; especially since God’s house is called a house of prayer (see Matthew 21:13). Programs and formulas have replaced prayer and fasting. We must get back to true prayer; where prayer is the natural thing to do when we gather—where the atmosphere is permeated with the prayers of the saints.
The value of corporate prayer is more than we realize. It brings a greater level of power and authority to our prayers, inviting the intervention of heaven on earth. It also helps build deep relationships within the church. There is something about praying together that strengthens the bond we have as the family of God.
When it comes to private prayer and corporate prayer, it is not about choosing one or the other. We need them both. As we grow in our personal prayer lives and as we gather together to call on the Lord, we will see the Holy Spirit move in fresh ways!