XXXV. THE PRAYER MEETING
`Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.' -- Matt. 28:19,20
The Lord Jesus has told us to go into the inner chamber and hold our personal converse with God by prayer in secret, and not to be seen of men. The very same voice tells us that we are also to pray in fellowship with one another. (Matt. 6:6; Luke 9:18,28) And when He went to heaven, the birth of the Christian Church took place in a prayer meeting which one hundred and twenty men and women held for ten days. (Acts. 1:14) The Day of Pentecost was the fruit of unanimous persevering prayer. Let every one who would please the Lord Jesus, who desires the gift of the Spirit with power for his congregation or Church, who would have the blessing of fellowship with the children of God, attached himself to a prayer meeting, and prove the Lord whether He will make good His word and bestow upon it a special blessing. (2 Chron. 20:4,17; Neh. 9:2,3; Joel 2:16,17; Acts. 12:5) And let him give help in it, so that the prayer meeting may be such as the Lord presented it to us.
For a blessed prayer-meeting, there must be, first of all, agreement concerning the thing which we desire. There must be something that we really desire to have from God; and concerning this we are to be in harmony. There must be inner love and unity amongst the suppliants, -- all that is strife, envy, wrath, lovelessness, makes prayer powerless, (Ps. 133:1,3; Jer. 58:4; Matt. 5:23,24; Mark. 11:25) -- and then agreement on the definite object that is desired. (Jer. 32:39; Acts. 4:24) For this end it is entirely proper that what people are to pray for should be stated in the prayer meeting. Whether it be that one of the members would have his particular needs brought forward, or whether others would bring more general needs to the Lord, such as the conversion of the unconverted, the revival of God's children, the anointing of the teacher, the extension of the kingdom, let the objects be announced beforehand. And let no one then suppose that there is unanimity whenever one is content to join in prayer for these objects. No: we are to take them into our heart and life, bring them continually before the Lord, be inwardly eager that the Lord should give them: then we are on the way to the prayer that has power.
The second feature that characterizes a right prayer meeting is the coming together in the name of Jesus and the consciousness of His presence. The Scripture says, `The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.' (Prov. 18:10) * The name is the expression of the person. When they come together, believers are to enter into the name of Jesus, to betake themselves within this name as their fortress and abode. In this name they mingle with one another before the Father, and out of this name they pray: this name makes them also truly one with each other. And when they are thus in this name, the living Lord Himself is in their midst: and He says that this is the reason why the Father certainly hears them. (John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23,24) They are in Him, and He is in them, and out of Him they pray, and their prayer comes before the Father in His power. O let the name of Jesus be really the point of union, the meeting place, in our prayer meetings, and we shall be conscious that He is in our midst.
Then there is the third feature of united prayer of which the Lord has told us: our request shall certainly be done of the Heavenly Father. The prayer shall certainly be answered. O we may well cry out in these days, `Where is the God of Elijah?' for He was a God that answered. `The God that shall answer, He shall be God,' said Elijah to the people. And he said to God, `Answer me, Lord; answer me; that this people may acknowledge that Thou, O Lord, art God.' (1 Chron. 18:24,37; Jas. 5:16) When we are content with much praying, with continuous praying, without answer, then there will be little answer given. But when we understand that the answer as the token of God's pleasure in our prayer is the principal thing, and are not willing to be content without it, we shall discover what is lacking in our prayer, and shall set ourselves so to pray that an answer may come. And this surely we may firmly believe: the Lord takes delight in answering. It is a joy to Him when His people so enter into the name of Jesus, and pray out of it, that He can give what they desire. (Acts. 12:5; 2 Cor. 1:11; Jas. 4:8; 5:16,17)
Children of God, however young and weak you may still be, here is one of the institutions prepared for you by the Lord Jesus Himself to supply you with help in prayer. Let every one make use of the prayer meeting. Let every one go in a praying and believing frame of mind, seeking the name and the presence of the Lord. Let every one seek to live and pray with his brethren and sisters. And let every one expect surely to see glorious answers to prayer.
Blessed Lord Jesus, who hast given us commandment to pray, as well in the solitary inner chamber as in public fellowship with one another, let the one habit always make the other more precious as complement and confirmation. Let the inner chamber prepare us, and awaken the need for union with Thy people in prayer. Let Thy presence there be our blessedness. And let fellowship with Thy people strengthen us surely to expect and receive answers. Amen.
1. There are many places of our country where prayer meetings might be a great blessing. A pious man or woman who should once a week or on Sabbath at mid-day gather together the inhabitants on a farm-place or the neighbours of two or three places that are not far from one another, might be able to obtain great blessing. Let every believing reader of this portion inquire if there does not exist in his neighbourhood some such need, and let him make a beginning in the name of the Lord. Let me therefore earnestly put the question to every reader: Is there a prayer-meeting in your district? Do you faithfully take part in it? Do you know what it is to come together with the children of God in the name of Jesus, to experience His presence and His hearing of prayer?
2. There is a book, `The Hour of Prayer,' with suitable portions for reading out in such gatherings. Or let this book, `The New Life,' be taken, a portion read, and some of the texts reviewed and spoken upon: this will give material for prayer.
3. `Will the prayer meeting do no harm to the inner chamber?' is a question sometimes asked. My experience is just the reverse of this result. The prayer meeting is a school of prayer. The weak learn from more advanced petitioners. Material for prayer is given: opportunity for self-searching; encouragement to more prayer.
4. Would that it were more general in prayer meetings for people to speak of definite objects for which to pray; things in which one can definitely and trustfully look out for an answer, and concerning which one can know when an answer comes. Such announcements would greatly further unanimity and believing expectations.
* The Dutch version has -- `and is set in a high room.' -- Translator