All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers
I am an introvert who enjoys my times of solitude and personal prayer, but one day I was challenged by Jesus’ special, promised presence with the “two or three” gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20). I realized that it is not enough just to pray alone. So today I seek not only to be disciplined in personal prayer, but also to be disciplined in praying with others.
The importance of praying with others was reinforced for me in a study I did of prayer in the book of Acts. I wanted to better understand how the first Christians prayed with such power. I was surprised at what I discovered. In looking at every time the word prayer was used in the book of Acts, I found that people most often prayed with others. I then started looking at the New Testament in a fresh way, seeing that there are more commands about praying together than praying individually. Christian educator Gene Getz writes about the lack of emphasis our Western culture places on praying with others:
Because of our philosophy of life, we are used to the personal pronouns “I” and “my” and “me.” We have not been taught to think in terms of “we” and “our” and “us.” Consequently, we individualize many references to corporate experience in the New Testament, thus often emphasizing personal prayer… Don’t misunderstand. Both are intricately related. But the personal dimensions of Christianity are difficult to maintain and practice consistently unless they grow out of a proper corporate experience on a regular basis. (Praying for One Another)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned his students, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” (Life Together) I think that Bonhoeffer would have included in that warning our need for both private prayer and praying with others. “Let him who is not praying alone beware of praying with others. Let him who is not praying with others beware of praying alone.” Praying alone and praying with others are not opposites, but are mutually reinforcing. And by praying alone we are readied for praying with others.
Jesus taught His disciples: “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:9,11). The pronouns here are plural; Jesus assumed they would gather for prayer as they sought to follow Him.
The first Christians learned about prayer by praying with others, and found themselves emboldened by the presence of others. Know that you too can be blessed and can experience Jesus’ special presence wherever two or three gather in His name.
- Think of a person, or perhaps two, with whom you would like to pray. While it is preferable to meet and pray together in person, some people meet and pray over the phone, or Skype, or FaceTime.
- Take a few moments to pray about talking with that person or persons about meeting for prayer.
- Now that you have talked with God about this, talk to the person or persons with whom you would like to pray. Talk with them about:
- When you will meet
- Where or how you will meet (in person, phone, Skype, FaceTime)
- How long you will meet each time
- How many times will you meet
- What you will pray about
“Through the years I have found other people indispensable to my growth in praying. They have helped me see glimmers of God’s presence I would have overlooked when left to my own devices…Sometimes they have simply stood by me when I knew I should pray but didn’t feel like it.”
Eugene Peterson, The Art of Prayer