The Power and Place of Corporate Prayer

Intercessory prayer is Jesus’ chosen way to release heaven’s resources into action on the earth. It is His primary means of moving His eternal plans and purposes forward. Many terms have been used historically to refer to this concept, including victorious, persevering, prevailing prayer. Intercessory prayer is prayer on behalf of people, families, cities, nations and situations, as we stand in their place contending for the will of God, transformation, conviction of sin and the influence of the Kingdom of God among them. There is a law in God’s Kingdom that this type of intercession, committed to faithfully, will over time produce results.

Many cite the fall of communism as a direct result of the global praying church. John “Praying” Hyde and others listening to the Lord in the 1890’s sought God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit leading to the global revival period from 1900 – 1910. Many church historians cite this decade as the greatest period of revival in history. Rees Howells and others were instrumental in helping turn the spiritual tide of World War II. In contemporary circles breakthroughs in church planting movements (CPM’s) among unreached people groups can be traced directly to focused intercession campaigns. The greatest advances of the gospel have come about through the primary means of intercessory prayer.

The Moravian movement of the mid 1700’s teaches much about this important subject. In the 1720’s a community of persecuted Christian refugees were welcomed by Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf to live on his estate in Moravia (modern day Germany.) Over time this community grew into a thriving revival center. John Wesley visited the Moravians many times for spiritual refreshment, citing rich encounters with God each time. In the communities’ early days, there had been divisions among the refugees. Zinzendorf asked God to bind hearts together in love. God answered with a revival in 1727 of such quality that relationships were immediately mended. Conviction of sin was rampant and heavy. The revival’s power was sustained for years as these believers would not speak negatively against one another.

Soon after, the community set up a round-the-clock prayer watch seeking God for depth of spirituality and growing interest in cross-cultural mission. God gave them deep burden through intercession. They sought God to release conviction upon people, remove spiritual blinders, and enlighten hearts to recognize their deep need for God. The Moravian prayer watch became the fuel for the cross-cultural ministry of the Moravians and lasted unbroken, round the clock, for one hundred years. Known historically as the “100 Year Prayer Meeting” it was high quality prayer and intercession that sustained the ongoing sending and fruitfulness of large numbers of message bearers. According to contemporaries their work was marked by powerful results.

Intercessory prayer is the most important of ministries, yet generally the least utilized. The Great Commission is a spiritual work and intercessory prayer is central to producing spiritual fruit. Prayer is almost offensive to our minds. Human nature wants to “do” something more productive. Intercession seems like a waste of valuable time compared to what could be produced through action. The Lord sees it differently. He values the “foolishness” of disciples praying, not leaning on their abilities and capacities alone.

Prayer & intercession give expression to our inner longing to see God’s glory & Kingdom known and experienced in our cities, nations & the world. He has set up His Kingdom so breakthrough & spiritual triumph come as a direct result of obeying His invitation – “Ask of Me!” This is the greatest condition of prayer. It’s a simple promise. In His call to “Ask of Me!” there is an implicit assurance that He will answer. The Father and Son possess all power and authority. Yet we’ve responded with slowness to do our part. Satan & evil run rampant stealing, killing and destroying life, cities are in bondage and the church in general continues to play its games. God has bound Himself with an oath to answer those who take Him at His word – “Ask of Me!”

God’s Kingdom is brought near, He is moved to release greater works, demons tremble and flee and the power of the Spirit is released and experienced. As disciples are moved to ongoing, faithful, consistent prayer, God’s purposes in the earth are accelerated. There is no more important lesson in the spiritual life then learning to pray. God is waiting for His people to lay hold of Him to bring His Scriptural promises into reality. Through prayer we partner with God to change the future of nations, people groups, cities and villages. It is the general and corporate neglect of prayer that results in the delay of God’s Kingdom being known in the earth. True prayer seeks God Himself propelling Him to action into His own work. It is this kind of praying, driven by faith, that receives “whatsoever you ask (Mark 11:24).”

The greatest calling of the body of Christ is to fulfill her mandate as a “House of Prayer For All Nations (Isaiah 56:7)” This is a corporate calling and not merely for individual disciples. Of course, God uses our individual prayer lives to accomplish untold blessing. James tells us the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16)!” Yet it is a church/ ministry corporately and the Church made up of many churches/ ministries across a city/ region that becomes a “house of prayer.” This corporate “house of prayer” extends great spiritual victories in more parts of the world and the powers of darkness are pushed back.

The accumulative influence gained as the people of God labor in a spirit of oneness for the bigger purposes on God’s heart is a common theme in Scripture related to prayer. Throughout Scripture we find God calling His people together to seek His face in a corporate way. This is the Biblical & historical pattern used of God to usher in tremendous spiritual awakenings and push back schemes of darkness over cities and regions of the world. We want to be inspired and learn from a few of these passages.

At the end of Joel 2 the prophet saw far into the future to a day when the Spirit would be poured out. This prophetic promise was given, in context, after the people responded to God’s mandate in Joel 2:12-17. God’s invitation revolved around the people gathering in sacred assemblies across the land and turning to God with wholeheartedness. These corporate assemblies purposefully seeking God’s face were the precursor of the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit in Joel 2:28-32. We find a divine pattern. Corporate prayer seeking God with wholeheartedness is a precursor of God unleashing great spiritual power in the earth.

In Joel 2:32 we observe God’s purpose behind the Spirit’s outpouring, a harvest brought into the kingdom by the millions. This is what we contend for in the nations. In Acts 2, we find direct results to this kind of praying and the first fruits of the promise of the outpouring of His Spirit – the ingathering of 3,000 new believers. At His ascension, Jesus instructed the disciples to return to Jerusalem and together seek His face until the promise of the Holy Spirit was realized. A corporate sacred assembly was the birthplace of the Church. As they “waited on the Lord,” the Holy Spirit came to them. Great fruitfulness followed corporate, wholehearted prayer seeking God among the 120 in the upper room. It is the Joel 2 pattern in affect.
The prophecy in Joel of the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit has continued to come to pass in various measures throughout history as God’s people have followed the divine pattern of corporate, wholehearted prayer and fasting. The initial outpouring of Acts 2 was a down payment. It was never meant to be seen as once and for all. We are meant to seek fresh outpourings of the Spirit in our cities and regions of the world in each generation.

We see the same pattern in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This was a corporate calling to Israel. They were to gather together and do these three activities in an ongoing way: (1) humble themselves (2) pray and seek my face (3) turn from wicked ways. There is great spiritual authority released “on the land” when the people of God seek His face together toward unified ends.

Revelation 8:3 reveals that God sees His body in a corporate, united way in relation to prayer. “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” This verse is in the context of the seven trumpet judgments Jesus releases upon wicked humanity and the antichrist. The clear implication is the judgments are released in answer to the accumulated prayers of the saints (throughout history). As the body of Christ corporately and proactively seeks the coming the Kingdom of God in power and the revealing of God’s judgments against the powers of evil, God in time will answer. God sees the “saints” in a corporate way as they together seek unified ends.

The account in Acts 12:5-17 provides meaningful instruction on this subject. Peter is supernaturally freed from prison by an angel in direct response to corporate prayer. Verse 5 tells us, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” We see two forces at work – Peter held in prison by Herod and a corporate body of believers interceding for him. The empty prison is a glorious object lesson to the power of corporate prayer. We are meant to see a cause and effect pattern. Opposition was raised against the body of believers and they responded by gathering together and praying. God heard and was moved by their prayer, undertaking in the circumstance. Their prayer is said to be earnest (with perseverance). A great political force was arrayed against the people of God through Herod. But the church had the divine authority at their disposal through the means of prayer. They were laying hold of God to orchestrate His will. God defeats Herod through the wholehearted, perseverant prayers of a corporate people standing together for a unified end.