While it is true that a very large place is given in the Bible to individual and personal prayer, it is also true that a very great value is put upon corporate prayer. Indeed, a value is given to corporate prayer which cannot be known in individual prayer. In the New Testament the prayer meeting has a very vital place in relation to the people and the work of God. It can be rightly said that the prayer gathering is the index and register of the church's life. Show us your prayer gathering and let us hear how the believers pray, and we will tell you what kind of church that is.
But what is church prayer? In other words, What should the prayer meeting be?
It may seem a truism to say that it should be:
1. The Church at Prayer
That is, the church as an entity, a corporate entity. Such a gathering together should be the solid expression of the organic oneness and spiritual unity of the local company of believers. The mere congregating of a number of individuals without an organic integration, and with so many personal interests to express or have expressed, may have values and would be better than nothing at all, but it would not be the solid and effectual prayer of the church as an entity.
There is a history behind the prayer of the church, as such. It is the history of a work of the Cross in which each member has been brought on to the ground of identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection, and by that common history has identical life and fellowship. Such a church has gone through something in experience and that something has become subjective.
If two people have gone through a similar experience which has deeply affected their inward life, they have a mutuality of understanding, and they can speak with one voice. So it was in the prayer life of the New Testament churches. They shared and expressed locally what was fundamentally true of the Church universal. It was a crucified and resurrected Church, having been baptized into the sufferings and victory of its Head. That victory should be inherited by the local church, and be manifested in the effective working and issues of its corporate prayer.
There in the gatherings - or coming together - for prayer the very nature and vocation of the Church universal should be in expression. Its nature is that of a spiritual organism because it has been born "not of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God," "born of the Spirit." Its vocation is to express the greatness, the rights, and the authority of Christ. Prayer is essentially vocational, and thus is preeminently so in corporate prayer.
Vital relatedness, both of the persons and of the prayer, is indispensable to effectual prayer. How easy it is for someone to come in with something quite discordant or irrelevant, and so swing the prayer away from its strength of purpose and positiveness.
While many particular matters may occupy the foreground of required prayer, there should always be a looking beyond the thing itself to how it really relates to and touches those three factors just mentioned - the greatness, the rights, and the authority of Christ. We must have an adequate case in our prayer, and that is the Lord's glory.
(continued with # 4 - (2. Corporate Prayer Must be Authoritative)