I have been burdened for some time—at least two decades—about prayer meeting. Too many Christians don’t attend. Maybe it’s because my parents made this a priority in my life, but I could never imagine skipping any meeting of my local church.
With this in mind, I’ve had some thoughts simmering in my mind for some time, and I decided it’s time to share them. I’d appreciate any thoughts you’d have to share on these points. I’ll stretch these out over several posts to hopefully make this more “bite sized.” Today I’ll get started with some introductory thoughts and the first point…
Perhaps one of the most neglected—yet one of the most important—ministries and meetings of a church body is the prayer meeting. To be sure, there are legitimate reasons why some Christians do not assemble to pray with their brothers and sisters in Christ, the most common being work or illness.
Yet most Christians do not attend prayer meeting, and they do not attend because of excuses—too tired from work; desire to take it easy during the evening and spend time with the family; or an unwillingness to miss a favorite television show. This is a matter of priorities—these things or others like them are more important than praying with God’s people.
Is praying with God’s people a priority to you? Maybe you have not given it much thought because you have never understood the importance of gathering to pray with God’s people. Consider these reasons for attending prayer meeting:
Attending prayer meeting helps you grow in the Lord. It’s not that merely being there will give you a spiritual “zap”—you need to give your full attention while attending this meeting! In this service are all the essential activities God has established for growing more like Jesus Christ.
You receive instruction in the Word, which is essential for your spiritual growth. In fact, you should be longing for it in order to grow (1 Pet 2:2)! You should devote yourself to every opportunity you have to hear the Word, just as the first Christians did (Acts 2:42). God has given us Scripture, and it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training you in righteousness, so that you will be equipped to serve him faithfully and fruitfully (2 Tim 3:16-17)!
Prayer is essential for growing in the Lord, and regularly meeting with God’s people to pray provides accountability to pray. Look at prayer meeting as an indispensable discipline of the Christian life—we are too soft on ourselves, and we need to discipline ourselves to be godly (1 Tim 4:7). Genuine prayer is humbling—remember Jesus’ words about the proud Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14! You need God, and prayer is the means for crying out in humility to God.
James reminds us that it is not enough to merely hear the Word—we need to be doers of it (Jas 1:22). Obedience is essential to growing more like Christ, and the New Testament has many commands for believers. One command pertinent to the prayer meeting is to not forsake assembling with other believers but to encourage each other (Heb 10:25). Attending and being actively involved in prayer meeting helps you draw close to God and encourages others to persevere in the faith.
There are several other things that could be mentioned, but one last aspect is important here: worshiping God. Sure, you can pray, read the Bible, and sing by yourself, but that is never a substitute for worshiping with God’s people. When you gather with God’s people to sing praises to God you also encourage them with Scriptural truths (Col 3:16) and you are encouraged as well! Worship promotes a reverence for God, a fear of the Lord necessary for working out your salvation (Phil 2:12), growing in holiness (2 Cor 7:1), and serving him acceptably (Heb 12:28) and faithfully (2 Cor 5:11).