As I write this, I am preparing for our prayer meeting tonight. I wonder how you tend to yours? I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer to that. Along with many things we often do, there is nothing specifically in the Bible that calls us to hold prayer meetings. They are, however, one way of fulfilling the broader commands to pray and to encourage one another.
But I wonder how different your prayers meetings are to what happens on a Sunday? Are they any different to what happens midweek at your home group, bible study or whatever (if anything) you do? If you have open prayer in your Sunday services, and you have prayer in a group at your midweek offering (whatever that looks like), it might be easy to end up making all the times you get together to pray look pretty much the same.
Ours differ primarily in their focus. On Sundays, our open prayer is specifically directed towards what we have heard in the sermon that morning. The idea in our service is to open the Word, preach the Word and then pray, sing, give testimony and share in communion all in response to the Word. So, though we have open prayer on a Sunday morning, the focus is very much on the Word preached and the applications we have been hearing that day.
At our midweek groups, the focus is a little different. There, we pray before the Bible study. We break of within our group into even smaller groups. In those, we go round and ask each person for one thing they would like to thank God for this week and one thing they would like prayer about. We ask each person and then we pray for one another. So, whilst Sunday morning is focused on praying in response to the Word, midweek we are seeking to pray specifically for one another in more direct ways.
At our monthly prayer meeting, we shift the focus slightly again. The main focus of our monthly prayer meetings is mission. We have various mission partners that we support. We usually get monthly updates from them. So, the natural place to pray for them is at our corporate prayer meeting. We support three overseas churches and two UK churches. So, we usually format the prayer meeting to it begins globally, narrows in to the UK and then we finally pray for the ongoing work of mission in our own church to those in our town and community.
None of that is to say we never pray for the work of global mission in our church service. If the applications in the Word that week, if mission partners are visiting or – given we have people involved in that work in our congregation – the Word spoke to the issues facing folks in the congregation we pray for those things. It isn’t to say we never apply the Word to our prayers midweek. It isn’t that we never pray for individual needs and members at our monthly prayer meeting. Sometimes we do because those specific things are appropriate to do. But it is to say we aim to do different things in our various opportunities for corporate prayer. We very much aim to pray in response to the Word on Sundays, we pray for and with each other midweek, we pray for our local, national and global mission at our corporate prayer meeting.
We don’t want to replicate the same things. We are seeking to pray for the various things that the Lord has given us to pray about in a reasonably systematic way. We want to meaningfully pray for our mission partners and the specific things they have asked us to pray about. We want to pray for the members of the church, their particular needs and the various things in which they are involved. We want to pray into how the Word has been at work in us and to ask the Lord to apply the Word more fully to our hearts. So, we take different opportunities to pray about these things.