Prayer in Community

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread
and the prayers.          Acts 2:42

Apart from the Psalms, Acts has more verses with “pray” or some version of “pray” (praying, prayers) than any other book in the Bible. People in the early church, people of The Way, were people of prayer. Praising God for what God was doing among them, giving thanks, naming their requests, praying for the needs of others and for God’s ongoing work of transformation in their lives were all part of the prayers they said. Praying together in community was important. And it remains important for us today.

Joining together in corporate prayer during Prayers of the People on Sunday morning and in other settings is a significant element of our worship and work as church. In joining together in prayer our corporate attention is focused on our communing with God, who alone, can meet us and minister to us as we pray.
                 
We praise God for God’s works of salvation throughout history and in our very lives. The biblical revelation of God’s redeeming work helps us see our lives within the large story of how God is present and active in the world. Coming together in prayer we name and give praise and thanks to God for how we recognize God with us and for what we see God doing in our lives. As we bring our lives into prayer naming and giving thanks for what God is doing we evoke within each other the awareness of how God is present and active in our own lives. In the practice of corporate prayer we experience mutual blessings as our spirits unite together in praise and gratitude.

We also bring our needs and requests to God in prayer. Not our wishes for good fortune, prosperity and comfort; rather our needs that will further enable us to live out our divine task of bearing God’s image in the world. We name our needs and requests that will increase our capacity to live out God’s truth, justice, love, peace, compassion, grace, forgiveness and mercy. And we bring to God our deep longings, laments and the aching cries of our hearts. We bring those sighs that are too deep for words, the ache that cannot be named, the wordless prayers that only Spirit can understand and interpret for us. In the practice of corporate prayer we experience mutual honesty and encouragement as our spirits unite together in naming our needs and requests.

In corporate prayer we pray for others; we stand in solidarity for those who are in need, for those whose lives are so heavy with pain or sorrow they cannot pray,  for those who need the tangible and spiritual ministry of others in order to regain focus and hope. We all find ourselves in that place at some point in our lives. Knowing that we have a community of people who will minister to us through prayer and love and who journey through rough times just like we do frees us to reach out when we are in need and to receive from the vastness of God’s abundant fullness. Praying for others keeps us ever mindful of our interdependence and of our communal wisdom and strength.

We also pray for our world. For world leaders and for marginalized people. For places of injustice and oppression, of poverty and violence. We bring the brokenness of our world into our communing with God because this is the world that God created and loves. We name situations that seem beyond hope and help, we express our feelings of helplessness and anguish, we voice our laments and longings for resolutions, for shalom. In the practice of corporate prayer we experience mutual vulnerability and solidarity as our spirits unite together in praying for others and for our world.

One more thing we do is to confess our lives, as they are, to God. We examine our motives and desires; we acknowledge our willful stubbornness and arrogance, our human tendency toward selfishness and pride. And, in the loving embrace of God’s mercy we confess whatever it is that holds us bound and rigid. In our naming and truth-telling of how we are or of what we have done or have not done, we find the unwavering forgiveness of God, we find freedom and release. In the practice of corporate prayer we experience mutual restoration and renewal as our spirits unite together in confession.

Joining together in communal or corporate prayer keeps us both strong and humble. In praising and thanking God, in naming our needs, in praying for others and for our world, in confessing our lives, our spirits unite together and we recognize and experience the wondrous power of God's Spirit working within and among us. We grow in our awareness of what God is up to in the world and in our lives. We are better able to discern what we are being called to do and for what we are being invited to trust God. Joining together in prayer changes us.

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