Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great English pastor of the eighteenth century, is commonly honored as the “Prince of Preachers.” But Mr. Spurgeon was among the first to give credit where credit is due: he considered the faithful, praying members of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle to be “the powerhouse of this church.” The “engine room,” as he called it, was the church basement where people gathered on their knees asking the Lord for His blessing. According to Spurgeon, the prayer meeting was the spiritual thermometer of the church as “souls stormed the celestial city with the might of their intercession.”1
Making Corporate Prayer a Priority
If we were able to take a measurement, what do you think would be the average spiritual temperature of churches today—a healthy body temperature of 98.6 or a feverishly high reading exceeding 100 degrees? If prayer meetings are an accurate spiritual gauge, Spurgeon might say that many churches (certainly not all!) are languishing on life support in the ICU.
It’s time for the church and for Christians everywhere to take stock of whether prayer is our priority and to ask ourselves some hard questions.
Could it be that we live powerless lives and attend powerless churches because we’ve given up the vibrant prayer gathering in favor of a church-wide event, committee meeting, or an extra Bible lecture? There’s nothing wrong with those good activities, but the trade is a rip-off. What could be gained if once again we stoked the fires of the engine room of prayer in churches and homes across America and the world?
In one word, the answer is change.
The change that’s so desperately needed in our world will not simply happen by casting a vote, rearranging our financial portfolios, or shouting on social media. Only God’s divine power can bring deep-rooted change. Change happens as God performs His work through the powerhouse of corporate prayer.
Scholars say that in the original Greek language, when Jesus taught on the subject of prayer, He referred to corporate prayer nearly ten times more than he addressed personal, private prayer. Jesus clearly expected the early church to gather together for prayer—and to anticipate powerful results (Acts 4:31; 12:5–17; 13:1–3; 16:25–26). Likewise, the apostle Paul advised the young pastor Timothy to make prayer the top priority of the church.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. (1 Tim. 2:1)
May I offer you a challenge? When you hear the latest headline news, after retreating to your prayer closet, don’t end there. Be a woman of courage who gathers others to join with you in crying out to the God of heaven. Let’s venture beyond the neat and tidy borders of praying for our immediate needs and into forcefully impacting our world, nations, communities, churches, and all of God’s family for His kingdom purposes.
The idea of initiating a prayer group may sound intimidating, but let me ease your mind.
Basic Principles of Prayer
God is looking for sincere, humble hearts, not perfectly worded prayers (Jer. 29:12–13; Rom. 8:26). Our tendency is to make prayer complicated. We’re overly concerned with whether we’re getting it wrong or whether we’re getting it right. There’s no magic formula for prayer, but understanding these basic principles for personal and corporate prayer can boost our confidence:
- Focus on prayer as intimacy with the person of God instead of a formula to finagle what we want or think we need. It’s a conversation in pursuit of a deeper relationship.
- Fill your prayer time with Scripture. Pray it back to God with joyful adoration and thanksgiving.
- Respond obediently to the Spirit’s prompting to personally apply His Word.
- Ask God to guide your intercession according to His Truth and kingdom plan.
- Learn to listen to God’s voice as He speaks through the Bible.
- Praise His perfect answers and perfect timing while you wait in faith. Pray, “Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever!”
Create Space for Corporate Prayer
With those reminders in mind, here are a few ideas to inspire you to create space for gathering with friends to pray:
- Pray for a faithful prayer partner (or two or three!) with whom you can pray weekly—even if only by phone.
- Establish a recurring Skype call, online meeting room, or Facebook group with women who share your burden for prayer. This prayer group has no geographic limitations!
- Reenergize your existing groups like Sunday School or Bible study by asking leaders to allocate time for kingdom-based corporate prayer. Look for on-ramps to corporate prayer where groups are already established.
- Open your home once each week or month for neighbors to gather to seek God together.
- Get active! Take regular prayer walks with friends.
- Pray before or during your church worship service and invite members to join you.
- Pray with your children while riding in the car.
- Huddle up with coworkers during lunch or before the workday begins.
- Research your area and find an existing prayer group to join.
Once you begin to turn up the heat on your commitment to prayer, over time you’ll notice that a transformation is taking place. Not only will there be evidence of change around you, change will occur inside you—and it will be undeniably glorious!
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)
Are you involved in a women’s prayer group? How have you witnessed God’s hand at work when uniting to pray with others?
1 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon (Ulricksville, OH, Barbour Publishing, 2009).