I believe it is important to remind God’s people that praying together as a church body is essential to the spiritual life of the church. It may not be the most physically active and energetic service, and will not really connect or engage those who are spiritually stagnant or indiffierent, but it is the lifeblood of those who are serious about seeking God. As our Executive Pastor put it recently, “Sooner or later everybody will end up at prayer meeting!” Some just wait until a crisis.
But there is an important part of a believer’s prayer life that is not collective or public. It is when you spend time alone with God in prayer. Group praying must never replace or be a substitute for private, personal praying. We get a picture of this in the Gospels from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If we are going to develop a healthy personal prayer life, we need to:
Pray Intentionally (Matthew 14:22-23)
After feeding the 5000, Jesus sent His disciples ahead (on a ship), personally dismissed the crowd, and went up a mountain to pray alone. Notice the word: “apart” – he got away from people, distractions. “He was there alone.” He remained there until meeting His disciples on the water just before dawn. He spent the night in prayer.
Notice also: “to pray.” He went up to pray. Jesus was intentional about it, about making it happen. It wasn’t for rest and relaxation. He made a conscious, intentional decision to get alone somewhere so that He could pray. It didn’t just happen. He planned for it. He made it happen. And it won’t just “happen” for us either. Either you are intentional about it, or it won’t happen. “Come apart or you will come apart.”
Pray Sacrificially (Mark 1:35)
This took place early in Jesus’ ministry, after casting out a demon in Capernaum and healing Peter’s mother-in-law. His fame spread like wildfire and He was getting mobbed. Here we see Jesus getting up early, long before sunrise, finding “a solitary place” to pray. He probably slept in a group with His followers, so He had to put forth a little more effort to find an appropriate time and place. It was not convenient. It came with a price.
For some of us it takes more effort than for others (family, kids, roommates, hotel rooms) – but it is far too important. If you want a prayer life (personally or collectively) that is convenient and comfortable, you won’t find it, and you will wither on the vine spiritually. Praying is a battle that requires sacrifice, commitment, and dedication. Just like Jesus had.
Pray Regularly (Luke 21:37; 22:39-41)
Here we learn of a favore spot of the Lord. He would teach in Jerusalem in the daytime, then go to the Mount of Olives at night (where Gethsemane was located). We know He would pray there regularly, because of other comments made in the Gospels (22:39; John 18:1-2). This was a custom, pattern, favorite spot.
It doesn’t really matter where your favorite spot is to pray alone (living room, Florida room, Starbucks, back yard, neighborhood). What does matter is that you go there regularly, consistently.
The take-away? Praying won’t come easily or naturally – as a congregation or as individuals. But to experience “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man [that] availeth much,” you need to be intentional, sacrifical, and regular. The reward and results will change your life and change eternity. How has your life been impacted by praying alone?