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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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Prayer is truly an indescribable gift. To have the freedom to converse with the Creator of all that is seen and known is a miraculous mystery of grace. God, in Christ, grants us a constant, unconditionally present ear to our cries thereby satisfying our need to be known and loved, and yet the benefits of prayer reach far beyond this.
While personal prayer allows for us to understand our unique oneness with God, corporate prayer leads us into the fullness of what it means to belong to Him and to one another. Romans 12:5 says we are one body in Christ and individually members one of another. This means that God has designed us to function together.
If we neglect to participate with the family of God in fellowship, worship, and prayer, we actually neglect to fulfill a part of our created purpose. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV) says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Charles Hodge reflects on this passage by saying, “The Church is everywhere represented as one. It is one body, one family, one fold, one kingdom. We are all baptized into one Spirit so as to become one body.”
In light of this truth, let’s take a look at some of the blessings associated with corporate prayer and worship.
As the family of God, we have a union in our salvation and therefore a fellowship in our thanksgiving. Each one of us had to be rescued, and we have each received our salvation through faith. When we gather together in prayer and praise, we are reminded that we are not alone. We are knit together by the fellowship of our faith in Christ.
Ephesians 4:4–6 (ESV) says that “there is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” There is a strengthening that comes in this reality. We “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV). Corporate prayer edifies and unifies us as we share our common faith and identity.
In the same way that the unity of our faith brings a strengthening, it also highlights both our need for one another. As the body of Christ, gathering together helps us to recognize and remember that we are not designed to function independently. This reality can be very humbling as we battle our natural desire to isolate and resolve things on our own. But when we humbly recognize our need for one another, we are able to partake in the healing the body is designed to administer. In Ephesians 4:15–16 (ESV), Paul reveals how dependence leads to maturity when he says, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” In the corporate gathering, we are in a position to receive, embracing God’s gifts from those He has joined us with.
In Acts 4:24 (NKJV), the early church “raised their voice to God with one accord.” And what happened when they did this? Luke tells us in Acts 4:31–33 (NKJV): “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.”
Their corporate prayer produced an outpouring of power from the Holy Spirit, giving them great boldness and grace. These same gifts are ours to possess as well. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) promises, ”If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” What wondrous, powerful promises! Here God assures us that He will hear our prayers and then He guarantees His response—to provide forgiveness and healing in our world. In order to receive these promises, we are to set our lives in a position of holiness and humility before Him, where we seek His face—His will and purpose for our lives and for the world. If we do this together, collectively as disciples and brothers and sisters in Christ, we will see an outpouring of healing in our land as the kingdom of heaven is brought to earth.
The Bible also reveals to us that there are unique manifestations of God’s presence in our corporate gatherings. In Psalm 22:3 we discover that God is enthroned on the praises of His people, which translates literally to mean that He is dwelling in the praises of His people. And in Exodus 25:8 (ESV), it says, “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.”
In the Old Testament, before Jesus came and made a way for us to come to God, first it was the Ark that represented the presence of God because the objects contained within it reflected God’s nature and His attributes of faithfulness, holiness, and sustaining of life for His people. Then, when the temple was built, God’s presence resided in the Holy of Holies. This was the inner-most room in the temple, which was separated by a veil, a large curtain, and the high priest could only enter into it once per year on Yom Kippur.
But when Christ died, the veil was torn in two (Matthew 27:51), showing that the divide between God and man had been torn down. Through His grace, we can now experience the presence of God always, every day, as He dwells within us. We are His temple, and when we as the Church come together, in one accord, with our eyes on Christ, His presence flows in and through us. His presence in the corporate gathering of the surrendered Church is something so real and deeply powerful, it’s something you can truly feel and experience.
So friends, if I can leave you with anything today, it’s this: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV). I hope to pray together with you someday soon!