In prayer, the motives and desires of my fellow brothers and sisters are on display. I gain insight into the deep wells of their faith. I see their heart of compassion. I hear their love for the lost. I discern their affection for Christ. I perceive their steadfast faith. We gain understanding of one another, and that understanding is critical for genuine, durable love.
Every believer desires spiritual intimacy with other believers. We may call it fellowship, community, or doing life together. God didn’t make us to be lone rangers. He saved us into the church. He called us out of the kingdom of darkness and into local expressions of the body of Christ.
And yet, spiritual community is still hard to come by. It doesn’t happen by accident. It comes as a gift from God, and he usually gives it as we intentionally cultivate Christian affection and mutual understanding. So, how might we begin cultivating this kind of life together?
One proven way to this kind of life together is that we pray together. What better way to be more united with fellow believers than to gather and bare our hearts before the throne of God together? What an opportunity and privilege! We get to go to him in prayer.
Shared Prayer Transforms Churches
Shared experiences — a concert, a vacation, an adventure — create a bond. Those memories often create deeper, more enduring affection. They can be a relational glue that holds people together. Dates and vacations with my wife have reinforced our marriage for times when life gets hard. These shared memories create tenderness, understanding, and love. In the church, similar kinds of shared life can lead to mutual appreciation, unity, and trust. I love my fellow elders more when we have endured trials together, fighting side by side in spiritual battle.
Gathered prayer can be that shared experience in a church. I’m not advocating for any particular program or event, but for prayer (formal and informal) to fill your church and bind you together. You might think of these prayer times as the furnace room of the church. Heat and warmth radiate out when God’s people gather together to pray. I’ve seen firsthand how this shared dependence on God transforms the ethos and culture of churches.
Each Sunday morning in our church, a small group gathers in the prayer room. Service will not start for another 45 minutes, but communion with the Lord has begun. We gather to call upon God to work for his glory and purposes. We sing together of his grace revealed in Christ. We lay hands on the preacher and ask for God’s word to run. We lift up our suffering saints, pleading that they would find comfort. We pray for our visitors and for our people, for our neighborhoods and for the nations. We cry out for mercy, and we confess our sins. It’s a holy moment. No fanfare, no fireworks, but again and again, we see God come, meet us, and answer our prayers.
These times of prayer together create Christlike affection for one another.