Visiting with a friend, who asked, what is corporate prayer really and why do we do it?
I wasn’t sure how to answer that, but I made an attempt.
Corporate prayer is our moment to grow in conversation with God, together. It is the chance for the prayer leader to lead the group to growing moments of shared conversation and awareness where we get to feel, know, trust, and converse with God together. Corporate prayer is the chance for us to have our minds blown, or stilled, or reminded, or challenged, or loved…together…by a corporate God (Trinity). Corporate prayer shakes the place (Acts 2) in ways that convince us that God was amongst us, and we need that. And sometimes that shaking comes in the form of stillness, and ordinary, and liturgy where we become quiet enough, or still enough, or led well enough for the Spirit to interact with us.
Corporate prayer is not one person rubbing the lamp so that God, our personal genie, does what we ask. We were coached to ask…and prayer involves that asking, but prayer is the group discovery of God, more than the group getting their wish. Corporate prayer is the group becoming available to that God, more than God fulfilling group demands.
Does God answer corporate prayer? All the time. Not always what is asked for, but always answered. Prayer is more about journey, community, and connection than it is about demands, demonstrations, and outcomes. The best outcome is a unification of the group around the will of God (Matt. 5.13, “Thy kingdom come…thy will be done…”) and around the new awarenesses that happen in prayer.
“God we ask you to be present with us today…oh, wait you are already here…oh you’ve been waiting for us for some time…oh you know what we’ve been up to…you already know our stuff…and you still love us…and you accept us just like we are…and you look for chances in corporate worship where we might open our eyes to who you are in your grace, in your mercy, in your holiness, and in your dreams for our lives. God thank you for being the presence we desperately need and not the presence we prefer! Amen.”