What I’ve Learned about Spirit-led Corporate Prayer

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During the last few months I have attended several prayer events where there was no fixed agenda. Instead the event was led by the Holy Spirit. The leadership sought to discern the Spirit’s leading and stay in step with the Spirit throughout the event. As I have been involved in these times of prayer there are some common themes which have emerged as being essential for corporate prayer which is led by the Spirit.

Unity

Praying in unity is foundational for Spirit-led corporate prayer. Jesus talks about the power of agreement in prayer in Mathew’s gospel…

 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

In Spirit-led prayer, this need for unity becomes even more important because the group is seeking to stay in step with how the Holy Spirit is leading. This means that instead of the group praying their own thoughts and idea, they are praying what the Spirit wants them to pray.

Getting into a place of unity where this is possible is not easy. It takes work, especially with larger groups. To do this requires time focussed upon God and recognizing our position together with Jesus Christ. It also means staying together in prayer.

Recently, in a group trip I was a part of we were moving as a group from one place to another. Those who walked quickly were soon out in the lead and those who were slower followed behind. I got the privilege of following up behind to make sure no one got left behind. But as we moved along I quickly found myself feeling isolated. The group was so spread out that we had lost any sense of unity.

If we had really wanted to stay together in unity we should have moved at the pace of the slowest person. Staying together in prayer means that we move at the pace of the slowest person. It is important that everyone knows where we are in the prayer and understands what we are doing. Practically, it means making sure that during a time of listening prayer that everyone has long enough to hear from the Lord. For some people, they need time to get quiet and listen to what God has to say. Others hear very quickly. It takes work from everyone. Those who hear quickly need to be patient with those who take longer to hear. Otherwise there is a danger that some of the group can run on ahead without hearing everything that the Lord may be saying to the group. Waiting and allowing everyone the opportunity to participate might mean a slower paced prayer time, but it allows people to remain together in unity. It also requires frequent times of debriefing to make sure that everyone understands what is happening and where the direction of the prayer is going.

Expectations

In seeking to stay in step with the Spirit during corporate prayer it is important to deal with personal expectations. This helps the group to stay in unity. Everyone comes to a prayer meeting with expectations. They may be as simple as dealing with a list of topics which need to be prayed for or it could be expectations about what style of prayer is going to take place. There is nothing wrong with coming with expectations, but it can become problematic if different expectations clash. For example, if one person arrives at the prayer time expecting a time of quiet contemplative type of prayer but another person arrives expecting to have the prayer led “Korean Style” where everyone speaks their prayers out loud at the same time the two don’t really fit well together. One or both of the people will either be frustrated or will have to give up their expectations.

If we want to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we need to surrender our expectations so that we can follow the Spirit. In some ways this is obvious, but it is not always easy. The ideas which we bring into a time of prayer may be great. The prayers may be good prayers, but if it is not where the Spirit wants to go then we will need to give them up. So if we come with a desire to pray for high school teachers and students, but the direction which the Holy Spirit gives is to pray for federal government we need to be willing to give up our idea of praying for high schools so that we can follow what the Holy Spirit wants us to pray for. There is a danger that if we come with a fixed idea like praying for high schools, which is a very good thing to be praying for, we can miss the more important prayer which the Spirit wants to prompt us to pray. The Spirit is the one who knows what’s happening at the current time. Perhaps there is a specific need to be prayed for within the federal government. If we do not surrender our own expectations, or at least hold them loosely, we could cause the group to get out of step with the Spirit.

As we surrender expectations together we move from our own agenda onto the Spirit’s agenda. We move into a greater place of unity and dependence upon the Spirit to guide our prayer time.

Evangelism Prayer

Father God, thank you for the opportunities you give us to share the good news of Jesus with our neighbours. We thank you too for those you have called and equipped to reach others for you. Bless them in their work, enable them to see their harvest fields and equip them to be faithful in bringing that harvest in. Lord, we thank you for those who work as missionaries both here at home and overseas. Give them all they stand in need of. Help us also to see the places in our lives where you are calling us to be your witnesses. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who instructed us to pray, Amen.
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Revelation 5 Prayer

Father God, you deserve our praise simply because you are God. There is no one who is like you, no one as powerful, majestic and awesome. But there is no one who is as just, wise, and loving as you. So we come in worship. We come to say “Yes” to you. We come to say that we want to surrender ourselves again to your Lordship. We declare that you are the sovereign Lord and that you and you alone should be the focus of our praise not just today, but everyday, now and forever. Amen.

 

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Whose side are you on?

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Joshua 5:13-15

Are you on our side or our enemies?

We all have the tendency to think that we are on the right side of any argument. “I’m right, you’re wrong!” We see ourselves on the winning team, because we know that we are. It is easy to picture ourselves as the good guys. It’s easy to say “we are the one God chooses to bless, God is on our side!” That is our perception, it’s our understanding. It makes us feel better and at times it helps us to justify our behaviour. But are we right? Is God really on our side?

Joshua, the leader of God’s chosen people, stood with the walls of the city Jericho in the background. This fortified city, in the land he had been instructed to go and conquer, was a big challenge. But there was nothing to worry about, God was on Joshua’s side, right? Or was he? Our natural reaction is to say “Yes! of course God was on Joshua’s side!” Joshua was the leader of the Israelites, he was the apprentice of Moses. But when we look at the Bible and the encounter Joshua had with the commander of the Lord’s army, we get a slightly different picture.

Joshua encounters this commander of the Lord’s army, who could well be the pre-incarnate Jesus himself. But this commander does not identify himself with either side in the growing conflict. He is neither for those in Jericho nor does he say he’s on the side of the nation of Israel. The Lord does not “take sides” in this conflict.

Instead, the Lord stands above the conflict. He is righteous, He is true and just. The Lord is Sovereign and thus acts for His good will and purpose. In this case, it was for Joshua and the Israelites. But at other times the Lord would let Israel’s enemies have the upper hand.

So the Lord works his purposes out. The Lord is on His own side. After all, he created the people on both sides of this situation. His love is present for his creation, but where sin has separated the people from him, the consequences of judgement will come. When Israel disobeys the Lord and Akin keeps some of the plunder from Jericho for himself, Akin’s sin becomes a problem for the whole community. The Lord withdraws his hand from Israel leading to the defeat at Ai. Akin eventually receives the consequences for his sin.

Our world is full of division, whether it is political, religious, or social division. Yet in the midst of this division everyone seems to claim that God is on their side of the argument. However much we may want God on our side, we need to remember that God is on His side. His side is one of holiness, righteousness and truth. The Lord is looking for people to be on his side. He is looking for people who will seek to walk in righteousness and holiness. After all, the Lord tells us “Be Holy because I am Holy”.

In the battle at Jericho, God did not take sides, but he did work with Joshua. He guided, empowered and brought the walls of Jericho down. He did it to further his greater sovereign purposes for the chosen nation of Israel. God’s will was done.

So before we presume that God is on our side in a conflict we need to pause and ask ourselves whose side are we on? When Joshua met with the commander of the Lord’s army he was given the following instructions…

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:15)

That is perhaps the best attitude we can have, to humble ourselves, remove our shoes and recognize we stand on Holy Ground. Seek the Lord’s direction and understanding rather than our own. So whose side are you on?