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.

Prevailing Prayer

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Here is one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer: To study the Word to find what God’s will is as revealed there in the promises, and then simply take these promises and spread them out before God in prayer with the absolutely unwavering expectation that He will do what He has promised in His Word.

-Reuben Archer Torrey

Praying the promises of God anchors our prayers within the will of God. These are things God has promised to do so they will be in line with his will. It means that we can approach God with confidence and not with some lingering doubt about whether or not he will listen to our prayer. Instead, knowing that God has promised this allows us to be confident that we are praying for we shall receive. We can pray with unwavering expectation, that God will answer.

It seems only too easy, just pray the promises, but in order to pray them we have to know what those promises are. To know that requires that we dig into the Word to find those promises. The need to be fully familiar with God’s word is essential, and not just a part, but the whole of God’s Word. There is a danger that we can pluck abstract verses and think that they are promises which we can just apply…

For example, Job cries out: “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? (Job 21:7) We can’t take that verse and assume that all seniors are really wicked people, because they have reached old age. Nor can we say that everyone who is wicked is going to live a long life. We need to be aware of the whole counsel of Scripture and not pick and choose verses we want, after all Proverbs 16:31 reminds us “Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

We need to mine the Word of God for the true promises which he expresses. This means continuously reading, studying and digging in to what the Word says…

Discover promises like the one God makes to Abram:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
 and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

This is a promise which we can continue to expect with absolute unwavering expectation that the Lord, has done, is doing and will do for the nation of Israel.

So dig in, discover the promises and pray them in faith for a powerful prayer which shall prevail.

 

 

Sovereignty, Kairos and Prayer

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For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

 This verse speaks into the reality of God’s sovereignty and the way He has chosen to work within this world. The Jewish nation faced annihilation at the hands of Haman. Esther is asked to go before the king and risk her life for her people for it was forbidden for anyone, including a queen, to approach the king without his invitation. As Esther acknowledges this reality her uncle Mordecai reminds her of God’s sovereignty.

God is in covenant with his people Israel. He has shown himself repeatedly faithful to his covenant promises. So when faced with extermination Mordecai, in faith, knows that deliverance will come. God is sovereign, if he has promised that Israel would be saved then Israel will be saved. But Mordecai doesn’t know how the Lord is going to do it. He knows that the Lord works through people. He brought the people out of Egypt using Moses. He conquered the Promised Land through Joshua. God does not work independently of humanity, but in cooperation with them. So some human agent is needed to stand up and be used by the Lord to bring salvation to the Jews. Esther has a choice. She could risk her life and step out in faith or she could remain silent. We do not know if there were others who could have acted, who God could have been prompting to act, but who remained silent. It is the Book of Ester in the Bible not the Book of Miriam.

God’s overall sovereignty is never in question but the means by which that sovereign plan will be achieved does depend upon how we respond to His call and prompts… “For such a time as this…”

Esther steps into God’s kairos time when she presents herself before the king unannounced. She steps into a kairos moment, an extraordinary time, a significant time, a time, which David Henderson describes as…

Moments of unaccounted generosity which we are called simple to receive with gratitude. At the same time, they require recognition (God is present and moving in our midst now), decision (I will say yes to his invitation in this moment), and action (I will do whatever he requires of me).”

As we spend time in prayer, we grow in intimacy with our heavenly Father, we in turn understand him better, how he is working, speaking and moving. We become more aware of these kairos moments that are taking place and just as Esther we can take the step of obedience clothed in faith and respond to the Lord’s direction. As we act, speak and pray into these kairos moments the Lord is able to move in power.

As John Calvin said…

“Nothing is promised to be expected from the Lord, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers.”

It is time to join in with the work of the Lord, for such a time as this…

The Priority of a Prayer Filled Life

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The disciples had the amazing privilege of getting to know Jesus really well. They did life together, they eat together, journeyed the dusty roads of Israel together. They were the ones who got to listen when Jesus talked to the crowds about the Father, they were on the front row when Jesus spoke about the kingdom and they even had the opportunity to receive private tutorials. They even got to witness all of the miracles, healings and deliverances which Jesus did.

In the context of all of this they come to Jesus with a request: “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1). They did not ask to have a lesson on how to heal people, or even how to construct and use parables as an effective teaching aid. They simply wanted to know how to pray.

The disciples had lived with Jesus and seen his life and lifestyle in a close intimate manner. They were the people who knew Jesus the best (though they did not really understand him) and they knew that prayer was something that made Jesus different. Prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life. It was a priority for him. The disciples could see that and so they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.

Jesus does just that, He begins with the Lord’s prayer, but does not stop there. He talks about boldness in prayer using the picture of a friend arriving unexpectedly at midnight. He reminds them of the need for persistence in prayer, Ask, Seek and knock and he spoke of the Fathers willingness to answer the requests given with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus made prayer a priority in his life and he taught his disciples to do exactly the same. If you glance through the book of Acts, you can see one of the top priorities of the believers was prayer.

It must have been so wonderful to have that closeness with Jesus that the disciples had. But prayer makes that relationship possible for us today. As we make prayer a priority in our lives, an integral part of our daily routine we are drawn into a deeper and closer relationship with him, just like the disciples had. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

It’s one of the greatest privileges we have in prayer, growing in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But unless we take the time to schedule it, it won’t happen. We make the time for the things we think are important. But how often do we schedule time to be with God in prayer. The busier life gets, the more important that scheduled time becomes. Have you scheduled a time of prayer today?

How Do You Want Me To Pray?

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There is a big difference between praying God’s heart for a situation and praying from our heart. When we hear of a situation our response is quite often to pray out of our own compassion for the situation. This is certainly important and there is nothing wrong in praying out of our compassion, after all that compassion is a God-given gift to us so we should use it. But there are times when the Lord allows a situation to develop because he has a greater purpose. If we are too quick to jump into prayer we could miss what God wants to do.

In John 11 we find the account of how Lazarus was brought back to life. But if Jesus had stepped into prayer as soon as he heard the news of Lazarus being sick, if he had prayed out of his compassion for his sick friend then the outcome might have been different. Lazarus may have been heard, which would have given glory to God but not in the same way as the glory which came from bringing Lazarus back to life.

Jesus did not jump into praying for Lazarus until he had checked in with the Father as to what the Father wanted to do in the situation. Jesus said that he only did what he saw the father doing (John 5:19). Out of that checking with the father, Jesus waited till Lazarus had died before going to visit with the result that Lazarus was raised back to life and God was glorified.

Pausing to pray “How do you want me to pray about this situation, Father?” allows the Lord to direct us onto his path and purpose for a situation. His directions may be quite different from we would expect…

The Lord told Gideon he had too many men, even when they were vastly outnumbered by the Midianites (Judges 7:2).

Naaman was told through the prophet Elisha to go wash seven times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:10).

Hosea was instructed to take for himself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness (Hosea 1:2).

None of these people expected the directions they received in prayer. But God had a greater plan and purpose which he wanted to see happen.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

So when we step into that place of prayer with all our thoughts and ideas about how things should unfold, one of the most important things we can do is to pause and pray…

“Father, how do you want me to pray for this situation?” Then listen and follow his direction.