Hello, everyone. This blog has moved to JOHNVOELZ.COM!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Prayer Posts and Prayer Dares #7

This post is on the topic of “group prayer.”

When I say “group prayer” I am referring to any number of prayer vehicles such as small group prayer, prayer email groups, prayer chains, etc.

Each “group” has it’s own dynamics and it’s own personality so, though I am throwing them all into one group for this post, I will also separate them and discuss their own idiosyncrasies in future posts.

For years, I have led prayer groups. I led one in High School before school in a classroom. I have led small groups where prayer is a focus. I have pastored prayer teams.

Over the past few years at Westwinds, we have had prayer groups come and go. We have had groups organize for the purpose of praying through “requests” that come in on cards and emails. We have had groups meet during Fusion. We have had one particular prayer group that has ebbed and flowed and died and rose from the ashes countless times with countless leaders at the helm.

Recently, I had someone ask me why I didn’t seem very supportive of the “prayer group” (the one that keeps dying). I think it is time I jotted some things down to clear up that little misconception.

It is a misconception that I don’t “support” it but, this person was very astute in thinking I have some concerns. The concerns are not with “prayer” but rather some of the “prayer talk” surrounding a group of this nature. I plan on getting together with some of those who want to see this group thrive but I am going to show my cards and seed the conversation here first. I think it is also good for the rest of us.

Before I voice my concerns and invite you in to the conversation, I want to point out some important things—some of the things I LOVE about group prayer.

  • For starters, I believe in prayer because God instructs us to do it (Ephesians 6:18). I believe it aligns us with God and helps us develop a relationship with our Maker (Matthew 26:41). I believe prayer gives us perspective and reminds us of who we are in light of who God is(Ephesians 5:2). These things are true of private and group prayer.
  • I believe there are some great benefits to prayer besides “getting answers” or tracking things in a journal to see how God moves—or doesn’t move.
  • I believe prayer unites us. Jesus prayed for our unity with one another. He prayed we would be in community with one another and with God just as He and the Father are in community. This unity talk was all in the context of His prayer (John 17). When we pray with one another, not only are we aware of one another’s needs, concerns, victories, challenges, etc., we don’t have a chance to bicker with one another. We get on a level playing field. We focus on something other than ourselves. Group prayer promotes unity.
My concerns with group prayer in some contexts revolve around some myths about prayer and some problems with group dynamics.

Let’s look at a couple of the myths.

Myth #1—the more people that pray, the better chance God will answer that prayer in the way we want.
There are a few different scenarios with this myth that bother me to my core. It is not always “stated” as I have it stated above but it is certainly implied.

The greatest infraction is probably the Fwd: Fw: Fw: email prayer request. It’s not the request itself that bothers me—I like to know what is happening with my friends and I love to pray for them. It is the prayer request that comes in from a friend of a friend who has a brother who knows a guy in some country I have never heard of that seems to think if “enough” people pray his prayer will be answered. And, that I need to stop everything I am doing and pray and forward that prayer request to as many people as possible so that it can be answered.

I don’t see “the more people who pray” argument anywhere in scripture.

Again, good things happen when God’s people are in unity but we don’t have any reason to believe that God is counting prayers before He makes a move.

Frankly, I think this perspective is dangerous. I think it is a slippery slope that leads to believing we somehow hold the power to make things happen if we have enough “faith.”
Myth #2—If we “bathe” an event in prayer, God shows up.
Again, God does not “need” us in order to make a move.

God moves in spite of us. God moves without us.
Myth #3—If we don’t have a large group of people praying for “XYZ” then God WILL NOT “bless it.”

God has already revealed his moral will and many of his expectations to us. When we do those things, we are doing His will. He is happy with that.

This sometimes shows up in conversations like “if we don’t pray for God to bless the weekend services how can we expect things to go well and expect the Spirit to show up?”

Answer: We can expect things to go well because the Holy Spirit who moves spontaneously is the same Holy Spirit who guided the planning of the event and is the same Holy Spirit who lives in every believer who is told to worship in community with one another. Therefore, when we worship together, the Holy Spirit is there. Period.

We don't have to beg Him to be there. We don't have to pray He will "rain down" on us.

We can however, pray that while we meet together in HIs presence we are focused on Him, non-distracting and helpful to those who may not believe yet, treating one another kindly, not full of ourselves, listening, attentive, uninhibited, etc. Boy, do we ever need to pray these things.
I am a proponent of prayer. Alone. Group. All of the above. These myths and some others are what add to my “caution” about group prayer meetings. I love them. I support them. But, now you see inside my head a little more.

Do any of you experience some of the same thoughts/concerns?

blog comments powered by Disqus