The Gift of Praying Together

How do you pray?

Do you normally pray on your own, in your own space?
Or does your church have a weekly or monthly prayer meeting? Does that sound like an evening of boredom and awkward silences? Or maybe you’ve had great experiences of corporate prayer and such times are thriving and soaked in the Holy Spirit!

What I’ve been mulling over for a while now is that yes praying together is modelled by Jesus and the early church:
“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” – Acts 1:13-14 ESV

But that it is so much more than a good thing to do, but rather it is a gift from God!

Bonhoeffer states that “the physical presence of other Christians is the source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer” and that “It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community”.

Having grown up in a highly individualistic society, being fed the belief that I can do everything on my own, it has taken years of being around communities dedicated to praying together to break down my individualistic mind-set that had seeped into my personal faith.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that praying on your own is worse than praying together! It is actually utterly good and necessary!

Pete Greig, in his book How to Pray, says that “You must seek solitude and silence as if your life depends on it, because in a way it does”.

We need our times of solitude. We need that intimate, secret place with God to grow close to him. Without my morning time spent sitting on my bedroom floor with my first cuppa tea the rest of the day often feels sluggish. Time alone with God is a priority of mine – it is the bedrock of our relationship!

But we also need times to come together to pray out loud (not just all sitting in the same room quietly contemplating, though there is space for that too!). In this space God takes each of us deeper and reveals new and adventurous aspects of his character. It brings a richness that I have found nowhere else than in kneeling alongside other Christians, each of us pouring out our hearts to God.

In this place we can be inspired by one another, listen to one another, learn from one another, and best of all we get to agree with each other! We get to partner in with others prayers and say “yes and Amen!
So often you’ll find that what God is speaking to you he is also speaking to another person in the room and then confirmation arises! God is on the move – he is listening and he is participating with us!

But my favourite by-product of speaking my prayers out with others is the accountability. That we are able to feedback answers to prayer because more people are aware of what God has placed on our hearts.

Recently I was visiting a House of Prayer in Dundee and during one corporate morning prayer time I prayed that there would be no anger on the roads that day. By the evening some really bad weather had set in and one person came to me and said, “I’m so glad you prayed about the roads this morning because there were nearly three accidents on my way home, but everyone was safe and there wasn’t any anger”. Were those crashes avoided because of our prayers? Who knows! But we were able to turn it back to God, to praise and celebrate his goodness and protection! We were far quicker to recognise his hand over our day and over the city because we had talked to him together!

Charles Finney hits the nail on the head when he said that “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love on another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.”

Do you want to be in a prayerful community? Do you want to know God in a new way? Are you up for the challenge? Then go, gather, pray together, and always remember our fellowship is a gift of grace, a gift from God!

Words by 24-7 Prayer Scotland Intern

The Prayer Course: More than a Formula

“…it taught my non-praying church to pray… More than a formula – through Pete’s discussions – it assisted people in having permission to pray.”

This is what Church of Scotland minister Nathan McConnell had to say about 24-7 Prayer’s The Prayer Course (prayercourse.org) after running it in his church Downfield Mains (https://www.downfieldmainschurch.org) in Dundee.

Nathan told us how he went into The Prayer Course a bit wary. He thought it could potentially be a good supplement for the Alpha Course which they had recently finished but he was concerned that another video series might bore people, or just not feel relevant to them.

However, his concerns were soon dispelled as people gathered one night a week to watch the video sessions, coming from outside of the church as well. And for those who engaged with the course, it made a significant difference in their prayer lives.

“Honestly, we didn’t know how to pray as a church,” Nathan admitted. “The Prayer Course laid a foundation”

One example is a young man who, at the start of The Prayer Course, confessed that he just couldn’t pray out loud but by week 4 was praying in tongues!

A highlight for Nathan was when they had a joint time of prayer with other churches they are networked with across the globe. Not expecting a large number, Nathan organised an on-line prayer gathering in his home with these other churches and invited anyone who want to join in to come along.
Forty-five people turned up to pray for 1 1/2 hours with and for complete strangers in other nations! Packed into the living room, sitting on the floor, yet happy to be there.

People have grown in their confidence, praying for one another and sharing prophetic words with one another. And they now have time in their worship for prophetic prayer ministry and healing prayer where they have seen God answer their prayers and heal people!

We asked Nathan if he would recommend that others do The Prayer Course. His response?
“Do it! And, pastors, take it seriously. If you want to move your people forward, The Prayer Course will give you a platform.”

The Prayer Course has been downloaded over a million times and just this week, 24-7 Prayer launched the new, fully updated, free, downloadable Prayer Course!
There are eight sessions, leaders guides, thirty different accompanying prayer tools, and it follows the same format as Pete Greig’s newest book How to Pray so that the Prayer Course and the book can be used side by side if so desired. For more information go to prayer course.org.

A Day with International Justice Mission: A Beautiful Waste

  • This is Part One in a series on Beautiful Waste as prayer.

    “While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” – Mark 14: 3-7

    As 24-7 Prayer Scotland, one of our closest partners is International Justice Mission. We love the work that they do as an organisation around the globe and in Scotland; their passion to see an end to injustice and freedom for those facing exploitation. It was therefore a privilege to work alongside IJM last weekend for their Pray for Justice conference at Queens Park Baptist in Glasgow.

    Around the world there are roughly 1,000 member of IJM staff who each spend an hour of their working day in prayer. This totals up to around 5,000 hours of prayer a week, and approximately 260,000 hours of prayer a year! That’s a big chunk out of the staff’s working time. A lot of time not spent on busy and important things each member of staff have to do that day, but frittered away talking and listening to God. In light of this, the whole conference day centred on the theme of “A Beautiful Waste”, adapted from the story of perfume being poured on Jesus in Mark 14. IJM is leading the way in the global fight against slavery so stopping to pray could feel like a waste of time – but the work of justice begins at the feet of Jesus.

    This theme was fleshed out in the main sessions by our very own Crystal Cryer, the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland, and Benson Shamala who flew over from IJM’s office in Kenya. This theme of a beautiful waste was put into practice in the space given for workshops centring on different expressions of prayer, and in the afternoon we spent hours praying for different regions where IJM are working. This blog is simply the first in a series on prayer as a beautiful waste and some of the themes from throughout the conference shall be explored in further weeks.

    Every part of the day was focused on the truth that regardless of the desire, passion, and urgent need to stand up for those who do not have a voice, it is beautiful and powerful to waste our lives in the presence of God. Setting aside our productivity, passions, and fights to posture ourselves first and foremost towards Jesus.
    The rally cry for the day by IJM was that we can be modern day abolitionists, but we should be dependent modern day abolitionists, dependent on God. And that our pursuit for justice at its heart – above everything else – should be to glorify and worship God, because he is worthy to be glorified, just as the woman in Mark 14 shows us. It is very likely that the alabaster jar of nard would have been the woman’s entire inheritance. And yet, still she poured every last drop out on Jesus’ feet, anointing him. She understood even before the cross that Jesus was worthy of such an extravagant waste. A waste that resulted in her giving up her earthly stability, but a waste she still saw as necessary.

    Prayer can sometimes feel like a waste. Why am I sitting here? Why am I not out there? There is so much to be done and so little time, so why pray?

    I guess the simple answer that I took away from being with IJM and the example of devotion in Mark 14 is that it is because God is worthy.

    He is worthy of the sacrifice of our time, patience, and activity. He is worthy because he gave up everything for each one of us, because he loves us unconditionally, and because without him at the centre of everything that we do it’s just not going to work. Our strength and wisdom will fail quickly, but God’s strength and wisdom is infinite.
    So I guess my question back would be why not rely on God? Why not take an hour, or more, every day to worship him? Why not waste your life for the one who hand-crafted you, the one who intimately knows all the injustices of this world and whose heart breaks for those who are exploited and manipulated?

    Isn’t it a waste worth pouring out? A waste that is beautiful.

    Words by 24-7 Prayer Scotland intern

  • Luminous Dark and Learning to Pray Again

    We are incredibly blessed in 24-7 Prayer with a number of gifted communicators and writers whose stories have been impacting hearts around the globe. But it is not just the gift of communication that has made their stories powerful and influential – but the fact that their stories are real, they come from the heart, from personal places of struggle, brokenness, pain, questions, hope and healing.

    I was given the weighty privilege of reading and reviewing the manuscript of one such gifted communicator and his story. Alain Emerson of 24-7 Prayer Ireland has courageously put onto paper his journey through grief after the death of his young and beloved wife and his wrestle with God in the darkness of pain, fear, anger, unanswered questions and all that grief brings with it.

    I expected it to be an emotional read. After all, I have also known grief as companion at points along my life’s journey. But I did not expect what has happened through the beautifully raw and honest words that make up Alain’s story.

    As I type this, it is nearly 6 years to the day that my own dear mum passed away, 7 years since we first received the news of a rare and incurable cancer eating away at her within and speeding up the dementia that was already confusing her mind.

    I remember those surreal days and nights spent at the hospice, sitting with my dying mother and finding myself praying for God in His mercy to take her home. Never would I have expected to one day pray for death rather than life as death seemed the more merciful.
    And I will never forget the night my childhood bestie whose sister had just taken her own life came and sat with me. We sat together in our grief for ourselves and for one another, sometimes in quiet, sometimes talking about films, sometimes voicing to one another our questions that had no answers. Yet we were aware of another Presence sitting quietly with us as well. In His book Alain says, “In our pain and suffering God is not answering our questions, for we come to learn that they are beyond the objective explanations our rationalised minds crave. God reminds us, I AM, in the midst of the flames…God doesn’t give us answers. In the silence, He gives us Himself, bigger than our pain, beyond our explanations, closer than our breath.”

    And that is something that has been consistent throughout my seasons of grief and brokenness, His presence.

    Yet what I was surprised to learn about my own heart through Alain’s book was some areas of unresolved grief that explained why I have been wrestling with God about praying for certain things.

    Have you ever struggled to pray for something or even stopped praying altogether, because the pain of disappointed hope, the tension of the waiting became too much?

    Then you can relate I’m sure.

    There were a number of unanswered prayers, death of dreams, deep disappointments in those couple of years during and after my mum’s passing. And it has dented my hope. Not so much hope in general, but hope in those specific areas of disappointment.

    I don’t like feeling weak. So I have just trudged doggedly on, not allowing myself to push into the pain of the disappointments like I did the year after my mum passed away, resigning myself to life as it is in the present reality. When I have attempted to pray into these areas again, I have experienced what Alain describes here: “…I didn’t know how to rebuild anything…because every opportunity for believing again was overshadowed by a giant question mark.”

    But God isn’t content with leaving me there because He has better for me. So in His tender love He brought me healing in the disguise of doing a friend a favour of reviewing a book.

    It is painful yet life-giving, this re-awakening of hope and I am cautiously, tentatively stepping forward through some very wobbly prayers for the areas that have felt barren and empty. It is a place of “risky hope” like Alain calls it. Brennan Manning would refer to it as “Ruthless Trust” I think. I believe it will be worth the risk but I have to choose to take that risk.
    It’s like Alain says in Luminous Dark: “I slowly became aware that the place of reorientation, the ‘spacious place’ I was being invited into, involved a corresponding decision from me. It was a decision to step over a threshold, to walk into the new. We choose and declare hope before we are fully in it…”

    If you have experienced grief and loss in your life, whether that be the loss of a loved one, the death of a dream, the pain of an unfulfilled hope, then I truly believe you will find this book a helpful companion. A companion that seeks not to give you answers, but to journey with you as you wrestle with the pain, the questions and the darkness and to, somewhere along the way, discover a “luminosity.”

    Luminous Dark by Alain Emerson will be published in a few days and is available for pre-order now so check out the publisher’s website and social media feeds for details: https://www.muddypearl.com