In chapter 11 of his Gospel, Luke records an instance in which some of Jesus’ followers witness him praying. We don’t know if they actually see and/or hear him pray, or if they only know that he was praying. Either way, Jesus’ praying caused them to ask him a question: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)
Jesus answered their request with what is usually called “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Luke 11:2-4) This sample prayer followed by a couple of stories to show them that if they know how to give gifts to people who ask from them, how much more with God our Father give good gifts to his children. (Luke 11:5-13)
Lately, I’ve been thinking about prayer. There are several reasons for this contemplation, but I’m not going into those reasons now. But, suffice it to say that several things have happened recently that have caused to me to wonder about prayer, and specifically to wonder about prayer with a group.
There are only a few examples of prayer in a group in Scripture. One of those instances is found in Acts 4:23-31. In Acts 20:36, we see Paul praying with a group of elders from Ephesus. Later, just before Paul and his traveling companions left Tyre to continue their journey to Jerusalem, they prayed together.
Certainly, there are other instances of the church praying together in Scripture. The passages above are not to be complete. They are simply examples of believers praying together.
So, as I was thinking about this, I realized that many of the activities and concepts related to praying with the church today are absent in Scripture.
For example, I cannot find any indication that people closed their eyes and bowed their heads when they prayed (either alone or in a group). I can’t find any suggestion of the “prayer list.”
The practice that boggles me the most – not because I disagree with it, but because I think there is something to it – is the practice of asking as many people as possible to pray about a situation. I’ve done this (from both sides – both praying for someone along with a large group of people around the world as well as asking many, many people to pray for a situation).
But, as I think about this practice, it seems to go against what Scripture tells us about God and about how he responds to our prayer. Is God more likely to answer a prayer because more people are praying it? I just don’t know. I want to say that the number of people praying does not persuade or convince God to act. I know that my reformed friends will have a field day with that last statement, but please bear with me. Some things are difficult to state.
But, then, if God is not persuaded or convinced to respond based on the number of people praying, then why do Christians do this so often? Why do I do it so often? Why do I want to know that people all around the world are praying for a young boy who was recently diagnosed with cancer? I don’t know.
However, if I’m completely honest, it is somewhat comforting to know that all of those people are praying for that boy.
What do you think?