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

Wasteful Worship

This is Part Two in our series on A Beautiful Waste.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42

I remember the first time I heard a worship song that had the phrase “we waste it all on you” in the chorus. To be honest, I was a little offended by it. “Worship isn’t wasteful, worship is purposeful!” I said to myself while determining not to listen to the song again. Reflecting on it a few years on, the reality is, there is something wasteful about worship… isn’t there? Particularly if we time-sheet our day and keep productivity diaries. (Who does that? Definitely not me… ….)

We are, more than ever, living non-stop lives. As a society we glorify the self-made leaders who sleep less that five hours a night, have a 5am daily two hour workout routine and have made their first million before they reach thirty years old. We so often celebrate that kind of success, but at what cost?

What do we lose in our endless pursuit of such a goal?

Here’s a good measure.

Compare that pursuit of success with spending ten minutes telling God he is a good, good, good, good Father. How does it feel? Like a waste of time? I mean, He is God, so He definitely knows that already! We don’t need to tell God that He’s a good, good Father do we? In which case, surely we’d be better getting on with the stuff of life! That is what worship really is anyway right? The whole of life stuff?

Yes, worship is about lifestyle, the way that we serve God in our daily lives, offering our bodies as living sacrifices.

And yet, there is something distinctively different and of eternal importance in choosing to give our time and our attention to focus on Jesus. To sit at His feet as Mary did (Luke 10:38-42), to sing to Him in His presence, to delight in Him and remind ourselves of his loving kindness towards us. Even when we know that there is work to be done. Especially when we know there is work to be done.

Why?

We were made for these moments. Moments of intimacy, knowing God and being known, reflected in the very nature of God as three persons.

We find perspective in these moments. When we stop, the world doesn’t fall apart. In fact, more often I find that I become more aware of where God is at work around me when I set my attention on Him.

And ultimately, it’s for him, not for us. He is absolutely so worthy of all of our worship!

Words by Zak Robb, the gatherings, worship, and creative leader for Central Church in Edinburgh

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