CHANGE YOUR WORLD AT PRAYER MEETINGS!
-by Kie Bowman
A friend of mine, who leads a large ministry in Austin, once said to me, “Everything in the book of Acts happened at a prayer meeting, after a prayer meeting, or on the way to a prayer meeting!” After studying the book of Acts, I have to admit his statement is essentially correct. I’ve come to believe, along with the 20th century prayer leader, Armin Gesswein, “The early church didn’t attend a prayer meeting – the early church was a prayer meeting!” There was something dynamic and miraculous about the prayer meetings in scripture and we must recapture what we’ve lost since then because prayer meetings change the world.
THINK DIFFERENT/PRAY BETTER
Admittedly all of us have been to some boring, ineffective “prayer meetings” that were more “meeting” than prayer. Forget those! They are criminal ripoffs – man made counterfeits of what we find in Scripture. God is calling us to think differently- and more biblically- about prayer meetings. We must abandon the lifeless so called “prayer meetings” we remember, and immediately move back to a biblical, life giving model for prayer meetings that change the world! Dead “prayer meetings” offend God and nobody wants to attend them anyway. They are indefensible so move on and let’s do it better! The Bible informs us about the importance of dynamic prayer meetings.
DAVID’S HOUSE OF PRAYER
One biblical model for a dynamic prayer meeting is found in David’s Tabernacle. David included worship music with prayer and we should too!
When King David organized the responsibilities of the priests and Levites in the House of God he set aside singers to lead night and day worship.
“Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.”
(1 Chronicles 9:33)
The same is true of musical instruments- David made certain the prayer meetings were filled with worship music. He insisted multiple instruments- specifically designed for prayer meetings- be played consistently. From a total of 24,000 Levites charged with ministering in the house of God, David assigned 4000 of them to provide non-stop worship music to support the night and day prayer meeting. In other words, David assembled praise teams and bands to facilitate night and day prayer.
“4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise.”
(1 Chronicles 23:5)
It’s obvious that worship music and singing is one form or expression of prayer. Our dynamic prayer meetings should be infused with prayer music using instruments and worshipful singing and praise. Worship and singing pumps life into a prayer meeting- it helps us keep our focus on the joy of the Lord and that stirs our faith.
PRAYING LIKE PENTECOST
Someone has observed that, “Jesus started the church the way He wanted it, now He wants the church the way He started it.” The book of Acts is our blueprint for the life of the New Testament church. At Pentecost in Acts 2 the church was born when the Spirit was poured out after a dynamic 10 day prayer meeting. Big things happen in response to prayer. Fortunately, God has provided a template for prayer for the New Testament church today based on the model originated and practiced in the book of Acts. Simply put, the “Acts model” for prayer was the prayer meeting. From the first few paragraphs of the book we find the entire congregation – the Apostles and many others-in a prayer meeting.
“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
This habit of meeting together for prayer continues throughout the entire book. In fact, the Apostles announced early on that leading prayer would be one of only two ministries they would focus their lives on-along with the all important ministry of the Word.
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
It might be tempting, but it would be shortsighted, to imagine that the Apostles meant they would spend all their time in private prayer. They no doubt spent hours in private prayer- just as Jesus taught them-but that is not the larger message of Acts 6:4. The phrase, “devote ourselves to prayer” in English ignores the definite article, “the,” found in the original Greek New Testament. The Apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to the prayer…” When they said “the” prayer, they were referring to an event- they meant the church’s consistent habit of gathering in the prayer meetings.
Prayer in the early church was a definite, public practice. Prior to the Apostles stating their intention to devote themselves to prayer, several instances of prayer had already occurred in the book of Acts and not one of those instances was an example of private devotionals. Only prayer meetings had been mentioned up to that point in the book of Acts. There isn’t a single reference to private prayer so far. New Testament scholars like John R. W. Stott acknowledge, “It is noteworthy that now the Twelve have added prayer to preaching (probably meaning public as well as private intercession).” The Apostles were men of private prayer, of course, but the public leadership of their ministries demanded that they continue leading the dynamic prayer meetings which kept the fires of revival burning hot in the early church.
We would never interpret the Apostolic focus on “the ministry of the Word” as an expression of their commitment to private Bible reading. Neither should we interpret their ministry of prayer as an expression of their own private devotional exercises. In fact, for the next several chapters of Acts, prayer will be mentioned in every chapter and on nearly every page- but in only a single example do we find one the original 12 Apostles praying alone! The book of Acts is about the power of prayer meetings that changed the world!
How does this focus on dynamic, life giving, biblical prayer meetings affect your prayer life? For one thing, you should be a part of a prayer meeting like this. The early church exploded in miracles, missions, and ministry as a direct result of the powerhouse that was the prayer meeting. Something tells me the people who experienced a prayer meeting in the book of Acts never wanted to miss the next one!
Why should you attend a prayer meeting like that? How does it benefit your prayer life to be involved in a congregation of praying people? There may be numerous advantages but allow me suggest two powerful reasons your prayer life will benefit from attending dynamic prayer meetings.
First, we grow best in the context of community. The Bible says,
“Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.”(Proverbs 27:17).
Our forefathers of faith, in the Iron Age of Israel’s history, knew their iron weapons could only reach maximum effectiveness if they were sharpened by other iron. The writer of Proverbs brilliantly recognized the comparison immediately that people- like iron weapons needing to be sharpened- improve fastest and best in the context of interaction with other people. That’s one reason we need to attend powerful prayer meetings. Yes, Jesus calls us to secret places for prayer, but He also calls us to grow and thrive in praying groups.
Not only do we benefit as a direct result of praying with other people, dynamic prayer meetings carry the unique promise of God’s presence. If you want answered prayer on a big scale, prayer meetings are essential. Jesus said,
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Few other promises of Jesus more clearly anticipate the history changing power of the church gathered in faith-filled prayer meetings! When we gather in expectant faith with other like minded believers, ready to pray and cry out to God, we can expect Jesus to meet with us! Amazing things happen at prayer meetings.