I have found prayer the most difficult discipline in spiritual life. Perhaps one of the reasons the testimony of local assemblies is weak is because fewer saints than ever before have a serious prayer life. Do you regularly pray for the assembly, for the overseers, and for lost souls?
The Lord Jesus taught that believers ought to be marked by consistent and active prayer. Read the parable in Luke chapter 18 verses 1 to 8, where the Lord Jesus taught on this point.
The operation of prayer
1 John chapter 5 teaches that when we, God’s people, pray in His will, He hears us. He will answer according to His will. We may have to wait a long time for an answer. James chapter 1 teaches that prayer should be accompanied by faith, with a definite conviction that God answers prayer. Too often, if we pray, we pray outside of God’s will, and/or we lack faith!
When we pray, we bring our desires before God. In articulating them in the presence of God there is a refining effect. As I bring my requests before a holy God, my desires ought to be brought into submission to the will of God, Rom. 8. 26.
God clearly has the power to answer prayer irrespective of our spiritual state of health. However, it is clear from the scriptures that our spiritual condition is important when we pray, 1 Tim. 2. 8; Jas. 5. 16. Perhaps our lack of power in prayer is not only down to a lack of faith but also because of the fact that we are in poor spiritual condition and are not regularly confessing our sin.
Sometimes prayer is just too much hard work. It involves the need to get alone with God. We see from scripture that times of intercession had a marked effect on individuals' lives, Gen. 32. These were usually times of isolation and solitude with God. The question is – are you willing to get alone with God?
It is true that our collective prayer life, meaning assembly prayer life, will be empty if we have no personal prayer life. Collective prayer is vital to have a strong and healthy local church. It is a key fundamental principle and practice of assembly life, Acts 2. 42, which is why attending the assembly prayer meeting is not an optional extra.
1 Timothy chapter 2 makes it clear that men, marked by holiness, and absence from temper or strife, should lead the assembly in public prayer. Which men pray is not limited by who is the most gifted but by the spiritual condition of the men and whether they come with the desire to pray! The assembly needs young men and women who will pray in the gatherings of the church. Young men should pray audibly and young sisters should pray silently, and we must remember that their contribution is of equal value.
When we gather to pray, we must be careful to have a variety of people we pray for – not just the same people every week. Paul taught that local assemblies should also develop various types of prayer:
(a) Supplications: prayers with a point about need being met, not just vague requests for sinners to be saved but more pointed, 'that particular man' etc.; supplications make a specific, fresh and good prayer meeting;
(b) Intercession: prayers on behalf of others, taking hold of God for someone else. Think of the ultimate example of our Great High Priest making intercession for us;
(c) Thanksgiving: prayers should be marked by gratitude and thanks, rather than simply a list of things that we are asking to happen.
The individual challenge
1. Do you pray at regular times? Do you make time to be alone with God?
2. Do you pray in an emergency?
3. Do you have a prayer list? A prayer list can be a very useful way of organizing our thoughts and prompting our memory. The risk you will have to be aware of is that it could become something that is repeated without thinking?
4. Do you make an effort to establish the facts about situations so you can pray intelligently?
5. When you are at the prayer meeting, do you pray along with the brother who is praying? Are you considerate to others when you pray? The assembly prayer meeting is a place for succinct and sincere prayer so that all who want to pray can pray.