Learning To Pray: Community Prayer


The occasion was one of those community inter-faith Thanksgiving services where all the local pastors were participating — including the Episcopal rector and the Baptist preacher. The Baptist preacher wasn’t really sure whether he should even be there with this motley crew, but he was steeling himself, against his better convictions. He was assigned to read a Scripture passage and then introduce the Episcopalian, who was going to lead in prayer. When the Baptist finished his reading he struggled to get out the words, “I would like to present Fa, Fa, Fath, Father Smith it was hard for a Baptist to call another clergyman ‘Father'” but he finally got it out and then continued but not without adding a twist “Father Smith, pastor of the local Episcopal Church, who will read one of those Episcopalian pre-written prayers.” Father Smith stood up, approached the pulpit, turned and smiled at the Baptist preacher and said, “Would you all join me? ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven…”

A community prayer where the Church (all the people) pray. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

(Matt 18:18-21) “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” We are talking about the Church, the fellowship of believers. There is tremendous power in community prayer. “…if two of you on earth agree…it will be done….”

There was an ad put in the paper that went like this: Do you believe God is everywhere? If so let our computer pray for you, over 100,000 prayers each month. Send $2 donation for brochure, Bishop Skousen, Universal Life Church, Box — etc., etc.

Prayer is real and it comes from the heart. Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth, but from falling in love. Some of the kindest words ever spoken to me came from a person following my announcing to this congregation that Vickie had been diagnosed with cancer. I invited the congregation to pray for her. They said, “We always feel helpless and unable to do anything, but you invited us to be a part of her healing process, to pray.”

Prayer is not a pious decoration of life but the breath of human existence.
There is no greater function of the Church than to participate in prayer, unison conversation with God. (Acts 12:5-16) So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her.

Many people quench the Spirit by being down in the mouth rather than rejoicing, by planning rather than praying, by murmuring rather than giving thanks, and by worrying instead of trusting in him who is faithful. One of the highest functions of the Church is to have community prayer. When we come to the “invocation,” “pastoral prayer,” or “benediction,” what do we do? Certainly it is a time that we listen to the minister or other leader as he/she leads us in prayer. Their words are important. But we supplement that prayer with our own prayers. Remember, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

There was a soldier in the Union Army, a youngest son who had lost his older brother and his father in the war. He went to Washington, D. C. to see President Lincoln to ask for an exemption from military service so he could go back and help his sister and mother with the spring planting on the farm. When he arrived in Washington, after having received a furlough from the military to go and plead his case, he went to the White House, approached the doors and asked to see the President, and he was told, “You can’t see the President: Don’t you know there’s a war on? The President’s a very busy man. Now go away, son! Get back out there and fight the Rebs like you’re supposed to.” So he left, very disheartened, and was sitting on a little park bench not far from the White House when a little boy came up to him. The lad said, “Soldier, you look unhappy. What’s wrong?” The soldier looked at this young boy and began to spill his heart to this young lad about his situation, about his father having died in the war and his older brother having died in the the war, and how he was the only male left in the family and was needed desperately back at the farm for the spring planting. So the little boy took the soldier by the hand and led him around to the back of the White House. They went through the back door, past the guards, went past all the generals and the high ranking government officials and they all stood at attention as this little boy took this private through the rooms of the White House. The private didn’t understand this. Finally, they got to the Presidential office itself and the little boy didn’t knock on the door — he just opened the door and walked in — and there was President Lincoln with his Secretary of State, looking over battle plans on his desk, and President Lincoln looked up and said, “What can I do for you, Todd?” And Todd said, “Daddy, this soldier needs to talk to you.” And right then and there, the soldier had a chance to plead his case to President Lincoln, and he was exempted from military service due to the hardship he was under. And such is the case with our Ascended Lord. We have access to the Father through the Son.

(Matt 6:5-8) Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.
I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Whoever wrestles with God in prayer puts his whole life at stake. When Jacob was fleeing his home one night he wrestled with God. Not only was his hip touched and changed, his very life was changed from that moment. Prayer with God does that to all of us. (Acts 1:12-15) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

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