One of the best practical changes Tri-County Bible Church has made during our short history is the adjustment of our Sunday morning schedule to facilitate corporate prayer. In my recent studies (and in my observation of Ugandan believers), I’ve been convicted that whole-church prayer meetings were more important in the early church than in the modern church. One of the four basic practices of the early church was prayer (Acts 2:42), after all. And the New Testament is filled with examples of churches assembling with prayer as the primary focus, not just a “call to order” and “adjournment.” (See Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; James 5:13-20; Acts 1:14; 4:23-31; 12:5; et al.) Sure, we have Wednesday night prayer meetings, which we should. But, at least at TCBC, there’s a lot of “competition” during that time. Our teens, children, and many of our core members are busy with our youth ministries. So our only scheduled weekly prayer time is left only to a remnant of our church family. That can’t be good.
Burdened about our need to pray together, I preached a brief series on corporate prayer. Then we altered our Sunday morning schedule. (Church schedules should be the outworking of church philosophies and priorities, by the way.) Initially, we started our Sunday School and Bible study hour at 9:00am, then met for a half hour of prayer at 10:00am, before the 10:30am worship service. We’ve now altered that schedule permanently, and we meet for prayer from 9:00-9:30am, first thing every Sunday morning, and have other services at their originally-scheduled times. Not everyone attends, and we’re hoping participation will grow. But those who do attend can’t say enough about the positive impact its having on our body and our worship services. During a recent congregational discussion of our schedule, many who initially were bothered by the earlier start said they’ve been completely won over. Praying together is an amazing thing, especially at the beginning of the Lord’s Day. It quiets us for worship after what you know is a harried morning for most. It immediately turns those attending into spiritual supplicants rather than critical consumers, changing the whole mood of the morning. It rivets our attention to Christ, not ourselves. It allows us to intercede for the members of our church family by name, as well as for government leaders, missionaries, and urgent needs. It enables us to pray together for the services to follow, and specifically for the teaching and preaching of the Word. Most importantly, it reminds us of our tremendous need—that anything that will be spiritually profitable on this day will be done by our Lord, not us. The gist of prayer is a plea for God to “do what we cannot.” Not surprisingly, we’re seeing Him do some remarkable things. And when He does, it’s clear to everyone that no one else deserves any glory (Psalm 115:1).
I urge you to rethink the place corporate prayer has in your assembly. If what you’re doing is inadequate, work toward change, even if it means adding a special service.