I am going to answer two questions that I don’t often see asked together: How important is praying together as a church (“corporate prayer”), and how important is small group prayer?
First Question: How Important is Corporate Prayer for a Church?
Twice a year, preceding Christmas and Easter, we ask ministries and small groups to suspend their regular activities to instead pray corporately at our “Concerts of Prayer.” Why do we do that? How important is all-church, corporate prayer?
One of Pastor Jim’s longtime mentors, Pastor Dee Duke, from Jefferson, OR, leads an annual prayer conference which covers much ground on many topics including biblical benefits of corporate prayer. The importance of gathering corporately for prayer is plainly and powerfully seen in his points. Here are some of my favorite:
The more corporate praying that a church does…
- The more people in the church will know God, and the greater the sense of His presence will be in their lives. (Acts 4:31; Matthew 18:20)
- The more joy, confidence, security, faith and peace they will experience. (Psalm 16:11; Ephesians 1:18-23; Philippians 4:6-7)
- The more people will grow spiritually. (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 3:14-16)
- The more boldness, courage and passion the people will have to reach their lost friends, neighbors, and relatives for Christ. (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 6:19)
- The more desire there will be in the hearts of people in the church do the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:16; Matthew 9:37-38)
- The less influence Satan will have on the people in church and for those being prayed for outside the church. (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4:4; John 17:15; Ephesians 6:12, 18; Exodus 17:9-13; Luke 22:31-32)
- The more opportunities there will be to serve the Lord, and to be used by Him to advance the Kingdom of God. The opportunities will come because God is opening doors, and because of the increased vision in the life of Pastor and lay people. (Colossians 4:2-3; 1 Corinthians 16:9; Acts 14:27; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Revelation 3:7-8). We serve God when he opens a door. He opens doors when we’re close to him. He brings vision.
- The stronger the marriages and families in the church will become. (Ephesians 3:14-16)
Our Immediate Opportunity for Corporate Prayer
One of the great blessings of LC3 is having a praying senior pastor who models and teaches us regularly on this topic. So, most people at LC3 probably know all the answers, intellectually. But, have you learned them experientially? Have you witnessed God break through hardened hearts after praying corporately? This is a blessing that you, your family, and your group should not miss.
The Christmas corporate prayer schedule is as follows. Bring your group to any of them. Maybe include a meal or party before or after.
November 26-29 Christmas Prayer Events
1) Sunday Concert of Prayer, 1:00PM, in the Gym, with lunch (with childcare)
2) Monday, 10AM
3) Monday, 7PM (with childcare)
4) Tuesday, 10AM
5) Tuesday, 7PM (with childcare)
6) Wednesday, 10AM
Second Question: “How Important is Prayer to Your Small Group?”
You know prayer is important to your small group. But, HOW important? What, for instance, would well-researched, doctoral-level, empirical data demonstrate on this topic?
Read this excerpt about the findings of such a Ph.D. project which set out to determine the most important factor in leading a small group. (Not to give the answer away or anything, haha.) [Full article found here.]
A religious expert wanting to cut through the confusion of 613 Old Testament statutes came to Jesus and asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus gave his famous reply, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Mark 12:28-32).
Like the scribe who came to Jesus, I was a confused small-groups expert just a few years back. I kept hearing advice from a plethora of small-group authors and speakers, each promoting different methods and models. All of them were confident and persuasive, but their contradictory theories couldn’t all be right. Someone needed to do cut through the confusion by doing serious, scientific research on what really creates healthy, growing small groups. We needed to look past the models to discover the key underlying principles.
I wanted to get to the bottom of things. I wanted an answer to the question, “What’s the most important part of leading a small group?” I completed a Ph.D. degree and did extensive statistical research involving over 3,000 small-group leaders in more than 200 churches to probe that question, and the answer I found was surprisingly simple.
The most important dimension of leading a group is your prayer life—your connection to God as a leader.… Out of the hundreds of questions we asked, the leaders’ answers to the following questions yielded the most pivotal results:
- How consistently do you take time for prayer and Bible reading?
- Are you praying daily for your non-Christian friends to come to know Jesus?
- How many days in the past week did you pray for your small-group members?
- Do you pray for your group meetings in the days leading up to it?
- How much time on average do you spend in daily prayer and Bible reading?
Why Is Prayer So Important?
Why does the prayer life of the leader make such a difference in the health and growth of a small group? The research doesn’t tell us why, it only tells us that a very strong correlation exists. But I don’t think it’s hard to figure out.
Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing”….
Basically, our research statistically proved John 15:5! If you want to see Jesus’ life flowing in your small group, stay connected to him!
Well, how do you measure on those five questions?
Brothers and sisters, you have influence in a church, a small group, or a ministry. Pray is important for you and for them. Draw close to your Heavenly Father and just witness the results in your people, your family, and your soul.
Praying for you right now,