On the 3rd Wednesday Evening (7-8p) and 4th Sunday Morning (11:15-12:00p) of each month the congregation gathers to pray together and give thanks with one voice for the Lord's faithfulness, revel in God's glory and grace, and plead for those things we need pertaining to life and godliness. In our prayer meetings we pray in response to worship, that the Lord would make much of the mean of grace. We pray in response to those things mentioned both prayers and praises. We pray both young and old, knowing that the Lord hears and answers prayer. We believe, whole-heartedly that the Kingdom of Christ is advanced through His people on their knees, humbly asking that God would do what only He can. Prayer does not represent an exercise of weakness but strength as the Lord has called us to pray and promised to act through our prayers.
For more on our doctrine and practice and prayer see the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A's 98-107 and the Westminster Confession of Faith, XXI. Both of these sections guide and govern how we pray as a congregation, along with select passages of Scripture.
Praying As A Community of Beggars
I. Prayer as a Means of Grace
There exists, lifted from the pages of Scripture, a number of elements that comprise the ministry of the Church, given to us by Christ, used by the Holy Spirit, for our salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul lays down for us the nature of our own salvation. We are “saved by grace through faith.” Our salvation is not a product of our own efforts and religious exertions. We, like Lazarus, are dead prior to our being awoken by Christ from the dead. And if we are dead, then need to be made alive. The way Christ does this is in acting in a gracious way with sinners, by giving them the life-giving power of the precious merit of His redeeming act of atonement. Grace. This is impetus for the salvation of sinners, and it is the very commodity that makes us more fit for our future in Glory. And as those are beggars in terms of the whole event of salvation, justification, sanctification and future glorification, are dependent upon the one thing that guarantees every component of this order of salvation: GRACE. We are as Martin Luther wrote, moments prior to his death, “beggars, this is true” - We are beggars of grace. Yet the Lord has not left us as beggars with empty cups, ringing bells for mercy that will never come. No, Christ has given us means whereby we might receive the grace and power of His once-and-for-all atoning worth. They are: Word, Sacrament, Discipline and PRAYER.
Prayer is a means of God’s grace whereby He uses the act of prayer to effect change upon world related to those things asked for by His people. Our own confession contains a glorious and rather full understanding of what prayer is, what prayer does, etc., but for our purposes, related to our understanding of how we are to partake of this means of grace as a church we need to understand things more pragmatic related to the principles found in Scripture. The principles are well expressed in our larger catechism and I will leave to it the business of relating the doctrine, dealing more with application in my letter to you all.
II. Prayer as a Means of Fellowshipping With and Before the Throne
As those who depend upon the means of grace for salvation and continued spiritual health, the discussion of whether or not we should pray is a settled mattered. We must pray if we are to be covenant community blessed by with the power of the Risen Lord.
A. Vertical Connectivity
The blessing that descends upon a covenant community engaged in prayer is one that comes primarily from above. Christ promises us grace through the exercise of prayer. And so our first realization concerning prayer is that it is a real-time connection to the Throne of Grace, where is seated our Lord Jesus Christ who promises to pour out the unadulterated blessings of His act of redemption upon those who plead for it. Prayer is not a religious exercise of personal piety that exists only for the relinquishing of self-interest and giving up of anxiety by letting go and letting God. No, prayer is the real and active exercise of communing with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Asking for that which we need, for that which is required for spiritual success and kingdom victory. Prayer connects us to the source of grace, making prayer then a means of grace between man and God, nurturing the covenantal relationship between Savior and those in need of salvation, between creature and Creator.
B. Horizontal Connectivity
Not only is there a connection between men and God in the spiritual act of prayer, but there is an undeniable connection, not to be missed, between the people of God, one horizontal as those united by that same covenant that unites us to God. Prayer unites us together as we become a collective of sincere beggars for a grace that can be found at the foot of the Cross. And for this reason, that prayer is both vertical and horizontal in its expression and benefit, we must endeavor to pray together. It unites us, not only to a singular Head, who is Christ, but it makes us a united people, even as we derive that unity from the Head, who is Christ. Prayer connects us to one another, and it produces in praying communities a peace and unity that can only come when we are corporately connected to God. Fellowship is the blessing of praying congregations.
C. Families that Plead Together, Stay Together
These two connections then must be realized as we seek to understand not only why prayer is powerful and important, not only in our connection with God, but with each other. The realization of this glorious covenantal reality must be expressed, and expressed faithfully. And the way that is done best in the church is through corporate prayer as a congregation with and for one another, in groups ranging from large and small. We gather because we believe that in prayer God’s grace is given and made effectual unto salvation. We pray because we know that the work of the kingdom can only happen according to God’s own power and working among us and through us. We pray because we we have been taught to do so by Christ Himself who said, “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are praying for God’s will. And what is that will? For the heavenly kingdom to be better represented in the kingdom of this earth. We are praying for victory, for God’s glory for the salvation of the elect, for our own lives to be sanctified.
All of these things can only be accomplished by God’s help, and so we must beg for them. And in begging, as a covenant community we are not only obeying Christ, not only exercising loyalty to the Lord, but we are inevitably laying aside our kingdom and our agenda for one that is more glorious and eternal. The congregation that prays together stays together because in prayer we exercise self-denial, the destruction of personal pride, and we take up God’s on agenda - magnifying His own name, the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We become a covenant community emptied of self and filled with the prerogatives and reflexes of the Spirit which are to bring honor to the Father and Son. And a family that does that is not only singular in focus, but united, at peace with one another for they have abandoned the self pursuits of the kingdom of self and the pleasure of pride.
D. Application for Reformation OPC
At Reformation then it is our intention to cover the basics. To pray corporately, lifting up our voices together, begging God for grace and those things that must come from Him. To pray as a group of men, for those things delicate and decidedly masculine in nature, a times too intimate for coed gatherings. To pray, also, as women united around the matters pertaining to womanhood and the roles and duties unique to the callings of the fairer sex. Our goals always being vertical and horizontal connection and honor unto the end of God’s glory and kingdom expansion.
May we in the coming days, months and years find ourselves at the mercy of a gracious God, begging Him for that which only He can give, joyfully united in offering up our supplications, thanksgiving and words of adoration to the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest.