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  • Make Prayer Meetings Great Again!

    Corporate Prayer Meeting
    by Dewey Dovel

    “What is the greatest need for the church in 2020?”

    This thought-provoking question will undoubtedly elicit many noble and Biblically accurate responses from the average seminary student. Indeed, presenting such an inquiry before a room full of men training to be pastors, missionaries or teachers within Christian academia would surely generate a tremendous discussion on how the church can grow deeper in orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Some students may suggest that the greatest need for the church is more men who are adequately trained to deliver expository preaching before their congregation on a weekly basis.[1]

    Some students might cite the 2018 “State of Theology” study by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research,[2] indicating that the church’s greatest need is to become better educated on the basic theological tenets of the Christian faith that has been once for all handed down to the saints throughout redemptive history (Jude 1:3). Other students could bring up that there are an estimated 3.19 billion people who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ[3] and use such a figure as motivation for the church to send out missionaries and church planters to remote corners of the world in desire to fulfill the Great Commission mandate (Matt. 28:18-20). 

    There are many competing suggestions that could be lobbied as the church’s greatest need in 2020 by the students of our world’s most faithful seminaries. Yet, what if I told you that perhaps the greatest and most overlooked need for the church in 2020 is the retrieval of corporate prayer meetings? Let the reader ask himself: Would corporate prayer meetings make your top 5 list of what could be stated as the church’s greatest need in our day?

    Survey the pastors of some of the most doctrinally sound churches in Western Christendom: they will place great emphasis on the importance of expository preaching; they will stress the necessity of midweek fellowship gatherings and small group Bible study; they will highlight the need for personal discipleship at all age groups; but the prevalence of a corporate prayer meeting will routinely prove to be scarce or even non-existent. If “prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul”[4] and if “man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God,”[5] then why is this spiritual discipline so frequently neglected by the church?

    For the remainder of this article, I want to briefly set forth three practical reasons why I believe that the church’s greatest contemporary need is a retrieval of corporate prayer meetings.[6] It is my prayer that readers would make prayer meetings great again in the context of the local churches that our Lord has placed them!

    1. Corporate prayer meetings remind the Body of Christ that God is God: He is worthy to be praised, worshiped and adored through prayer

    As the Westminster Shorter Catechism Question and Answer 1 affirms, human beings were created by God to know God and to enjoy God forever (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36). As creatures bearing God’s image, we cannot begin to rightly understand who we are until we begin to rightly understand who God is. There are perhaps few greater ways to collaboratively cultivate a higher view of God amongst His people, as guided by Scripture, than gathering together before His Heavenly Throne to praise Him and entrust their petitions to His providential, loving care (Luke 11:11-13; 18:1-8). Furthermore, the act of offering prayer unto God is also an explicit commandment that is binding on all partakers of the New Covenant (Luke 18:1;1 Tim. 2:1); need there be any other motivation to pray?

    2. Corporate prayer meetings enable the Body of Christ to embrace who we are: a community of redeemed sinners completely dependent on Him

    The very act of prayer in and of itself brings the Christian to consider how absolutely dependent and accountable he is before God with respect to all things (Luke 16:1-11; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Furthermore, when Christians come together before the Lord, it likewise showcases their mutual dependence and accountability as partakers of the New Covenant. Having been washed in the blood of the Lamb, Believers are joined together within an eternal community of saints on Earth and in Heaven (Heb. 12:1-2; Rev. 5:11-14). Thus, corporate prayer can serve as a powerful antidote against spiritual isolationism within the covenant community of faith, thereby enhancing unity amongst the brethren. After all, it’s hard to have ongoing conflict with a fellow Believer if you are routinely praying alongside and/or for one another.

    3. Corporate prayer reinforces the reality that God is faithful and cares for His people: He works extraordinarily through His ordinary means of grace

    In contemporary evangelicalism, many Christians are tempted to earnestly pursue creative ways to personally encounter God such as concert-style worship music, listening in prolonged silence for the audible voice of God or seeking to learn how to exercise the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit that were practiced by the Apostles and in the presence of the Apostles during the first century church. The triune God has certainly worked in radical ways throughout redemptive history to accomplish His eternal purposes in and through His people (John 11:1-44; Acts 9:36-43).

    However, God’s primary and normative manner of saving, sanctifying and sustaining His people is through His appointed means: the preached Word, the prayer of His people, the administration of the New Covenant ordinances and the execution of church discipline (Acts 2:41-42; 1 Cor. 11:25-26; 1 Tim. 2:1, 8; 4:13). It is to these aforementioned means of grace that Christians ought to look towards if they desire to experience God in a way that is both ordained by and pleasing to Him as He works to accomplish His eternal purposes for their good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28; 11:33-36).

    Dewey A. Dovel is a Personal Banker at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and is happily married to the love of his life, Beall. He played college baseball at Western Texas College, where he received the Associate of Arts degree in General Studies and at The Master’s University. During his undergraduate studies at The Master’s University, Dewey developed a passion for studying God’s Word, going on to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Ministries (Magna Cum Laude) and the Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies (Summa Cum Laude). He is actively pursuing the Master of Theology degree in Historical Theology from Campbellsville University and is passionate about further educating Christians in the Reformed tradition. Dewey’s greatest desire is to see Christians growing in their awareness of what they believe, why they believe what they believe and how to graciously share their faith with those God has placed in their life. You can follow Dewey on Twitter @SlaveOfChrist17

    [1] https://equip.sbts.edu/article/sermon-expositional-preaching-as-a-mark-of-a-healthy-church/

    [2] https://thestateoftheology.com

    [3] https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/statistics 

    [4] Martyn Lloyd-Jones Quote

    [5] Martyn Lloyd-Jones Quote

    [6] https://www.reformation21.org/blogs/why-is-a-central-prayer-gather.php – I was greatly encouraged and edified by this resource as I prepared this article.

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