Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Makes a Good Prayer Meeting?

If you have never been to a bad prayer meeting, you need to get out more.  There is a reason why prayer meetings are going extinct.

But if you have never been to a good prayer meeting, you have missed something beautiful.  Your loss is more tragic than going through life never seeing a rainbow.

An easy way to evaluate a prayer meeting is to ask yourself afterwards, "Would my time have been better spent praying in private, than in this meeting?"  If you answer yes, the meeting was bad.  (Or you have no taste for the joys of Christianity and are probably not a Christian.) 

Generally, prayer meetings are bad because they fall into one or more of the following ditches:
  1. Coldness (apathy, lethargy, passionlessness, dryness)
  2. Weirdness (there are a lot of goofy spiritual ideas out there)
  3. Talking to men instead of God (preaching, gossiping, visiting, but not actually praying!)
  4. Organ recital (focusing on a litany of physical ailments and needs rather than gospel advancement)
  5. Loquaciousness (when one person hogs the floor)
The participants in our local Saeed prayer gathering
I was reminded of this when today's local prayer vigil for Saeed Abedini turned out to be the best prayer meeting I have been to in several years, avoiding all the ditches I just described.  I gave only three instructions:
  1. Try to keep your prayers below 2 minutes.  You can always pray again after someone else has had a turn.
  2. Try to base your prayers on Scripture.
  3. Don't talk about the prayer needs, just pray for them.
But simply giving good instructions does not create a good prayer meeting.  What does?  Why was today's prayer time so good?

I'm still pondering that question myself.  But I may have one small piece of the answer.  It seems more than coincidental to me that the best prayer meeting I have ever been in was also one dedicated to praying for the persecuted church.  And, when I speak of praying about persecution, I don't mean simply "God, make it stop and get me out of it!"

So many of the Psalms lend themselves directly to praying for the persecuted.  Paul's personal prayer requests often relate to persecution.  And, two of the most powerful prayer meetings in Acts (chapter 4 and chapter 12) were in response to persecution.

This reminds me of John Piper's words: "The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believers is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom."

Tell me your thoughts.  What can we do to see good prayer meetings more often?

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