Been to a prayer meeting lately? In my lifetime I have been to hundreds of those gatherings, in some just 2 or 3 of us gathered, others where thousands joined to seek God. I attended a massive men’s prayer rally on the Mall in Washington, DC in the mid 90’s. The experience of hundreds of thousands of us calling out to God was amazing! Some of those prayer meetings were quite formal, prayers prepared more like speeches, with polished phrases. Others were hastily assembled in time of crisis and the prayers were raw, accompanied by tears and groans.
I know that nostalgia creates a rosy glow but I do remember Sunday evening church gatherings 35 years ago that invariably closed with people on their knees around the front of the church, worshipping together, seeking God, confessing sins, and finding the empowering Presence of God. There was a bond of the Spirit created in those times where we made an altar of prayer that is largely missing in my life today.
Praying together can be difficult. We may feel self-conscious. “What do I say?” We may be reluctant to open our heart to God in front of others, wondering what they might think of us. We may be embarrassed when emotion overtakes some follower seeker who shouts or weeps. Often there is that one person who starts to pray who has no ‘off’ switch, who drones on and on. Our mind loses focus on God and we wonder if they will ever run out of words! And, then, too there is this – when God’s people pray there is the opposition that arises in the spiritual realm because prayer, no matter how awkward or poorly phrased, is an act that honors God and changes the world. The Devil hates when God’s people pray.
Peter and John were arrested for preaching Christ’s Gospel in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church. The authorities warned them to stop and threatened them with death if they persisted. Here is how that little band of Believers responded. “As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ … . And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:23-31, NLT)
Christian let us never say “Well, at least I can pray!” That phrase reveals a hidden conceit, a kind of faithlessness that needs to be replaced with the witness of the Scripture to the power of God. We are too ready to trust our strategies, our organizational skills, our programs and make prayer the last resort instead of the first response. May the Lord forgive us and call us to renewed faith.
We are taught to be in constant conversation with the Spirit. “Pray continually,” Paul teaches. Our smartphones keep us in constant contact with others. Day and night we are just a text away from any person with access to the electronic network anywhere in the world. The Spirit invites us to stay in touch with the Throne of God! When we find ourselves facing need how about saying, “Let’s pray, together, right now, about that.” There is no need to make a production of it, nor does that mean going on for 10 minutes. A simple, earnest Christ-focused expression is sufficient. I pray (yes, I do!) that the Church will rediscover her voice in prayer. When those first Christians prayed, Luke records this result – After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”
Oh, Lord, teach us to pray!
Here is a word from the Word. “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:13-16, NLT)
Through the eyes of man it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
And one by one the enemy
Has whispered lies and led them off as slaves
But we know that You are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith You’ve given us
We step into the valley unafraid
We call out to dry bones come alive come alive
We call out to dead hearts come alive come alive
Up out of the ashes let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive
God of endless mercy God of unrelenting love
Rescue ev’ry daughter
Bring us back the wayward sons
And by Your spirit breathe upon them
Show the world that You alone can save
You alone can save
(So) breathe oh breath of God
Now breathe oh breath of God
Breathe oh breath of God now breathe (yeah oh)
We call out to dry bones come alive
Lauren Daigle | Michael Farren © 2012 Wordspring Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) CentricSongs (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) Farren Love And War Publishing (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.)
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