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.
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.
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.