I remember the joy I felt when someone I cared for very much, who had been estranged from God and family from a number of years, returned to the fold (in heart and in person!). I had been praying for her, along with her parents and many other friends, through the ups and downs of her drug addiction and other destructive life patterns. I’d seen her make some half-hearted attempts at change in the past, but it was very obvious (and is to this day) that this time the transformation was real.
When I commended her parents for their perseverance in prayer over their daughter, they protested. “Oh no,” they said, “it was you too!” Then we laughed because we knew full well it was not just one person’s prayers that had helped bring about their daughter’s restoration. We were reaping the fruit of praying in community.
It’s true it sometimes only takes the prayer of one person to move God’s heart for a situation, like when Moses convinced Him to change His mind about destroying Israel (Deut. 9:36). But we have to hold that truth in tension with the New Testament call to Christian community. James’ statement that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” was set in the context of community: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other” (James 5:15). In fact, the early church modeled this very thing for us; we know from the Scripture record that “they all met together and were constantly united in prayer” (Acts 1:14).
It’s good to remind ourselves regularly of the blessings and benefits to interceding in community so we’re not tempted to just “go it on our own.” Here are just a few:
- Support of friends. Even though our friends were strong intercessors themselves, when they realized their prayer journey for their daughter was going to be a long haul, they recruited a team of intercessors to partner with them. When they felt so discouraged, weary, and disappointed that they couldn’t pray another prayer, other intercessors prayed in agreement with them, figuratively holding their arms up like Aaron and Hur did for Moses (Ex. 17:12). Sometimes you need the support of people praying with you and for you.
- Protection through discernment. No one is above the need to test whether what he or she is hearing in prayer is from the Lord, self, worldly wisdom, or even occasionally a deception of the enemy. We are commanded to test everything—especially everything of spiritual nature (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1). We need others around us who will provide that safeguard.
- Completion in unity. In the Body of Christ, we all have different gifts. Some may be gifted with encouragement and mercy, some with leadership and administration. Some are more prophetically gifted than others, while some believers seem to have an extra measure of such gifts as healing, wisdom, or discernment. God designed His body in this way for a purpose: He wanted us to need each other—and to benefit from one another’s gifts. Reread 1 Corinthians 12 with the ministry of intercession specifically in mind. What part of the intercessory body are you? How do you demonstrate mutual dependence on other “body parts” when it comes to prayer?
- Power in numbers. Jesus said, “If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:19-20). I’m not exactly sure how this works, but I know it does. I’ve seen it. In fact, the biggest breakthroughs I’ve encountered in intercessory prayer ministry have been the result of a praying community. When one of our pastors was healed spectacularly of a terminal illness, when our church had a huge financial need for which God miraculously provided, when an infant in our congregation was healed of a heart murmur after we laid hands on him and prayed for him in a church service, when a family member was set free from a serious addiction—these answers all happened within the context of a community praying together. In Acts 12:1-17, when Peter’s friends gathered to pray for him when he was in prison, their corporate prayers mobilized angels to deliver him from his prison cell. That’s powerful stuff!
I know when I’m regularly exposed to other intercessors in regular, accountable relationships, I grow because they stretch, encourage, and challenge me. My faith grows by leaps and bounds because I hear their personal prayer victories, and experience the joy of answered prayer for the things we’re interceding about together. It’s a delightful and rewarding part of being part of the Body of Christ!
Consider ways you can pray more in the context of community. Are you a praying mom? Perhaps a Moms in Prayer group could meet in your home to intercede for your children and their schools. Want to see spiritual transformation in your workplace? Maybe you could meet with some other believers before work for prayer (along with your eye-opening cup of coffee!). At church, you can join with other intercessors for the concerns of your church body. There are all kinds of opportunities to be part of a praying community!
(c) 2017 Arlyn Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.