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Prayer Is Public

Yesterday, we talked about how prayer was a private thing. But that doesn’t mean that prayer isn’t also a public thing. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray.” That’s what the apostle Paul writes to his protege, Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:8. Paul is giving instructions to the church on how they are to conduct themselves as a church. A vital part of the life of the church was to be prayer in the midst of the assembled people.

And that’s because God wants his people praying together. While it’s true that public prayer can easily be turned into a spectacle or a way for people to show off, it doesn’t mean that we should avoid it. In fact, it’s vital that we pray together as a body of believers who love Jesus and who love one another. And in fact there are a lot of benefits about praying together.

For one thing, public prayer unites us in spirit. We’re not just waiting for our turn to pray. We’re actually joining our spirits together and offering a collective prayer to God. When we pray together, we are not only encouraging one another by taking turns to pray. We’re living out the real spiritual unity we have through Jesus Christ.

But another benefit to public prayer is that it helps teach us to pray. As we listen to the prayers of others, we learn from them new things for which to pray, and we learn new ways of praying. Have you ever heard someone pray and a light bulb went off, and you thought to yourself, “I’ve never heard someone pray like that before.” I’ve listened to more than a few stories of people who learned to pray anew because someone was there to pray with them.

I remember a pastor friend of mine told me that he went to visit someone who was in a mental hospital. And when he arrived, he discovered that it was a double room; there was someone else who was staying there with his parishioner. He sat down with her, talked to her, and prayed with her. But on his way out, the other woman in the room asked if he could pray for her. Of course! was his answer. “But why don’t we pray together,” he asked. “First I’ll pray and then you can pray.” Right away, she got up, went to the night stand, and pulled out a prayer book. She planned to read a prayer. Very gently, he asked her, “Do you know that you don’t have to use a prayer book to pray? You can just talk to God.” “I’ve never done that before,” she said. Never in her life had she offered a prayer to God that wasn’t from that book. But because she was praying with someone else, she got exposed to a whole new way of praying. And on that day she prayed to God in her own words.

God wants his people praying together, not only because it pleases him to see us unified through the Spirit, but also because it helps form us into the image of his Son.

Pray with me. Lord, thank you that you didn’t make this Christian think a solo endeavor. Thanks for giving us one another in Christ. We pray that you would knit us together as his body, granting us the joy of fellowship in the Spirit. And teach us to pray together, Lord—both for one another and with one another. And use us to shape our brothers and sisters in Christ more and more into his image. And give us humble hearts to be molded into his image as well. And it’s in his name we pray. Amen.

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