Christianity isn’t a solo sport.
Jesus sends out the apostles “two by two” (Mark 6:7). They gather together in the upper room following his crucifixion (John 20:19). And thousands come to faith in the book of Acts because the disciples were in “fellowship,” “all the believers were together,” they “meet together,” and “ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:42-47).
Clearly there’s something important about being in the company of other believers.
In fact, what is the most commonly spoken prayer in the Christian community, regardless of denomination? . . . Tick . . . Tick . . . Tick . . . That’s right, the Lord’s Prayer, found twice in the Gospel accounts, in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. This is how Jesus teaches his disciples and others to pray – and he assumes they would do so alongside of others. A community in prayer.
Notice the plural throughout the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father . . . Give us . . . Forgive us . . . So we can forgive others . . . Lead us.
Sure, prayer can also be a solitary endeavor. There are plenty of examples of Jesus and others throughout Scripture praying by themselves. Yet, look at how Jesus lifts up the importance of group prayer. He knows the power of prayer in assemblies. So that’s how he teaches it.
Almost 30 years ago a small group of us started a Bible study, sponsored by Ascension. We called it a Care Group. It still gathers every Tuesday evening in Ascension’s library. It’s actually a Bible study on steroids. While pondering the Scriptures together has been an important element, many of us have experienced incredible breakthroughs in our faith journeys during our prayer time together. Even members who were initially hesitant to join in the open prayer at the end of each gathering, have, years later, remarked about how transformational it was to pray out loud in a group that numbered as many as 30 people.
Part of that transformation has come from seeing how the prayers of the group were impacting the individuals. They saw how God worked even in those prayers that weren’t answered directly. I would argue that the fellowship of prayer has changed more lives in the group than the Bible study everyone originally joined the group for.
And just like the seeds of a dandelion carried in a breeze, members of this prayerful Care Group over the years have gone out into the world to become even more effective pastors, executives, teachers, shuttle drivers, entertainers, parents, lay ministers – all sharing Christ’s love in their churches, companies, schools, roadways, television shows, homes and communities.
There’s something about praying in community – a church – that changes us, changes others, changes the world.
Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.
© Ed Klodt, 2019
(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.)