The Sudden Disappearance of the Prayer Meeting

The church stands upon the pillars of the Word, the Sacraments, and prayer. This is at least true for those building off the Reformed or Presbyterian tradition. We have always needed God’s Word to guide and lead us. We have always needed the sacraments to strengthen us and visibly demonstrate the Gospel. But is prayer such a priority?

Prayer is, of course, offered in all sorts of places. We have prayers before meals. We have prayers before bed. We have prayer before first dates. We have prayer when we’ve only slightly exceeded the speed limit. Prayer is an integral part of the Christian life. Martin Luther famously said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

But is prayer a central component in our churches? Our congregation enjoys prayers of various sorts. We have an invocation to call upon the name of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have a prayer of confession for sin because we all stand in need of God’s grace. We have a prayer of illumination whereby we ask for the Spirit’s aid in helping us to understand the Scriptures. We have a pastoral prayer whereby the minister prays that the sermon then preached would be applied in the hearers’ hearts and then prays for the needs of the community and the wider world. There is lastly the Lord’s prayer which is said in unison by the minister and the congregation alike. All of these come together to establish a harmony of prayer for the good of the church and the world.

But whatever happened to the prayer meeting? Churches used to regularly commit themselves to all sorts of worship services. People would establish their calendars according to worship, and not the other way around. There was once a Friday night service, typical for preparation for the Lord’s Supper. There was once regular mid-week Bible Study. There was morning and evening worship every Sunday, that is, every Lord’s Day.

What happened? The same thing that always business: people get busy. Busyness is not an inherent evil. I, and presume, all of you are rather busy. We have to cart the kids here and there. We have to get to our appointments and to our doctors. We have to follow up with the contractor, or the plumber. We have to get our vehicle to the garage. The list is endless. Which teaches us that we will always be busy.

But are we too busy? Are we too busy for prayer? Prayer meetings are often the least attended venture in a church’s community but the most powerful tool for building the life of the church. It is no surprise that our churches may find themselves anemic these days when prayer has been thrust into the closet, along with the flannel-graphs, and those old cream and blue choir robes. But unlike those bits, prayer is essential.

The Lord Jesus was a tremendously busy man. But even He made time to regularly get away with His Father and pray. The Apostles did not abandon their primary work of prayer and the Word, and so we find that the deacons were born.

What am I getting at? Perhaps the great need for our churches today is not better programs. It’s not a bigger sign. It’s not a new pastor. It’s not a new building or extension. It’s not a new hip youth group. It’s not anything we can produce. The great need of our church today is saints committed to prayer.

To that end, our church has started up a new prayer service on Wednesdays at 4pm every week. We are committed to praying to God that He might have mercy upon us, our families, our congregation, our community, our nation, our world. And my prayer is that more than our church would commit themselves to the lost art of the prayer meeting. My prayer is that we would see other gospel churches raise up members committed to prayer. That we would see the fruit of men and women, boys and girls, committed to calling out to Christ.