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One Body, One Voice: the Unique Purpose of Corporate Prayer

Corporate prayer has several dimensions. It has played a powerful role in Church history and in the history of nations, and it is a clear testimony that God has one living Body on earth.


Nineteenth century devotional writer, E.M. Bounds said, "Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance!" Indeed! Revival history is replete with astounding testimonies of the power of corporate prayer to bring the dynamic and redeeming presence of God into the world.

Possibly no one in the Church would dispute the fact that corporate prayer has played a powerful role in the history of the Church and even in the history of nations. The first and most notable instance is the extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago.

This historical gathering was not a new idea but built on a long-standing tradition. Under the old covenant, God's people were instructed to come together for prayer, to stand together as one, and appeal to the God who gave them identity as a people.

Under the new covenant, just as under the old, the gathering together for prayer gave identity to the emerging Church as God's Spirit formed His people into one Body.

Both testaments abound with testimonies of great outpourings from heaven as God's people come together with one voice. Times of national crisis, times when the nation was under threats of invasions, times when divine rescue was desperately needed, times of celebrations and times of covenant renewal all brought God's people together in prayer with one voice.

In the New Testament, the newly formed Church came together to pray for the release of God's servants from prison; they assembled to ask God to grant them power for effective ministry in a resistant society; they gathered to pray for the appointment of leadership and for the sending of missionaries. The weekly gathering of the saints always included corporate prayer. To them, praying together was a vital part of worship. In fact, gathering together for prayer was the first response of the Church following the ascension of Jesus. From the moment the disciples were without the physical presence of Jesus they assembled for prayer and from that day, continued together in prayer.

The witness of the Early Church has much to teach us about prayer, particularly about corporate prayer. In the New Testament, it is remarkable to note that prayer is spoken of more often than any other activity of the gathered Church. Is it any wonder that in spite of unimaginable persecution and growing opposition the Church of Christ grew and had profound impact on the surrounding world?

Missions' promoter and interpreter Dr. A.T. Pierson said a century ago, that every great awakening began in a "union of prayer." Like in the Book of Acts, says Pierson, corporate prayer and the impact of God's Word upon people "are in direct proportion."

Prayer, individual and corporate, is that definite and principal act of faith that ties together God and humanity.

There is another dimension to corporate prayer. To understand its purpose is to recognize the presence of the mystical Body of Christ on earth, the spiritual fellowship of the saints, and the need for the Church to express solidarity with the suffering members of this sacred Body throughout the world. It is also to recognize the need for the Church corporate to enter into its role of intercessor, as one Body, with one voice, on behalf of a nation and its people.

Corporate prayer… is a strong expression of our unity in God and corporate identity in Him.

Corporate prayer is a unique and much needed expression of the ministry of the Church. It is a clear testimony that God has one living Body on earth. The Church is not a number of scattered individuals but one Body, diverse, yet united in one God. And it is fitting for this Body to express its utter dependence on God with a united voice of agreement.

In corporate prayer gatherings, our hearts are united in the love of God. Here we affirm that God is sovereign over us, that the Church and the world are dependent upon Him.

In public and corporate prayer gatherings, we are reminded that we are not alone and we find a concrete way to resist the temptation of private religion and selfism. The corporate prayer gathering of the Church is not one more meeting to attend. It is a strong expression of our unity in God and corporate identity in Him.

As I read through the pages of revival history, I can't help but wonder and even imagine what great things the Lord would do in His Church and in society if His people were to gather together regularly for corporate prayer.

May we never hesitate to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ to pray and worship God with one voice. It is an appropriate response to the Lord's invitation to call upon Him to touch our world with mercy, grace and compassion.

Jacqueline Dugas is the director of ministries for Every Home for Christ International/Canada, P.O. Box 3636, Guelph ON N1H 7S2. TEL: 519-837-2010. She can be reached at jdugas@ehc.ca.

Originally published in Christian Week April 2006.

 

 
 
 
 

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