Many churches that once had regularly scheduled prayer meetings have discontinued those services altogether. Some churches now meet in small groups instead of having a corporate prayer meeting at their churches.
For several biblical reasons, regardless of whether they also meet in small groups at other times, churches should have regularly scheduled corporate prayer meetings.
Continuing in the Legacy of Pentecost
After the Resurrection of Jesus, a key group of believers were gathered together in one place and all “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). The Holy Spirit later birthed the Church when on the day of Pentecost He came on believers who “were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).
Because the Church was born through God’s moving upon believers who had devoted themselves to praying together in one place, churches today that have regularly scheduled corporate prayer meetings continue in the legacy of Pentecost in a way that churches who do not have such meetings do not.
Churches Should Be Houses of Prayer That Highlight Prayer Meetings
During His incarnation, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, acted forcefully to cleanse from the temple of God those people who were defiling it (Mark 11:15-16). On that occasion, He taught that it was written that God’s house would be called of all nations “the house of prayer” (Mark 11:17).
Christ obviously greatly valued the temple’s having that designation by all nations! It is unthinkable, then, that God would want that testimony to have ended with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
On the contrary, we would rightfully expect that God would act so that people of all nations would yet have the opportunity to call His house the house of prayer. When Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, how would that opportunity be best extended to the people of all nations?
Pauline teaching in 1 Timothy answers that question decisively. Paul taught Timothy that the Church was “the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). He also commanded Timothy that corporate prayer was to have vital importance in the churches of God (1 Tim. 2:1-8).
Based on Jesus’ teaching about the house of God, Paul’s declaring to Timothy that the Church of Jesus Christ is the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15), and his instruction that corporate prayer have a vital place in the Church of God (1 Tim. 2:1), local churches most assuredly should be houses of prayer! As the house of God, local churches should maintain a vital testimony to their community and the world that they are houses of prayer—they should have at least one stated regular prayer meeting that affords anyone who would desire to do so the opportunity of coming to God’s house and rightfully calling it a house of prayer because they experience the primary importance that those believers place upon such prayer meetings!
The Unique Value of Corporate Prayer Meetings
Paul teaches believers that when they assemble together corporately in one place and all minister together, they put themselves in the position of having God use them effectively to bring people to worship Him in a way that their gathering non-corporately does not put them (1 Cor. 14:23-25; see this post for an exposition of this vital truth). Because churches are the houses of God, they should maximize their usefulness to God as His houses of prayer in all nations by having regularly scheduled corporate prayer meetings that He can use in the lives of needy people!
The regularly scheduled corporate prayer meetings of a local church continue the legacy of Pentecost and furnish people with the opportunity to be in God’s houses of prayer in a way that small groups do not. Such corporate prayer meetings allow the believers of a local church to be used by God to minister in the lives of people uniquely in a way that small groups do not!
Although small groups that meet for Bible study and prayer undoubtedly on many occasions benefit many of the believers who meet in that way, they are not corporate prayer meetings of a local church. For all the reasons presented above, churches should not discontinue their regularly scheduled corporate prayer meetings or replace them with small groups!