Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 46 — Group Praying
Matthew 6:5, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."
Most praying should be done alone. Nearly all the praying Jesus did was alone. He admonished us that when we pray we should enter into our closet. There is usually enough room in a closet for only one person. No doubt the reason that our Saviour prayed alone was that He had no one with whom He could share His burden or no one who carried a burden similar to His.
Yet there are examples in the Bible of groups who prayed. When Peter was in prison, the church prayed for him. In the upper room, 120 prayed. Our Lord reminds us that two or more can pray together if they agree. Matthew 18:19, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven." In the model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, "OUR Father." Note, He did not say, "My Father," but "Our Father." This would imply that at least sometimes we are to pray with someone."
When then is it best for a group to pray? The answer is obvious. When a special emergency arises and the burden is the same to all, group praying is in order. I can remember praying with Dr. John R. Rice. SO often we would kneel to pray. He would pray for the Sword of the Lord; I would pray for the First Baptist Church of Hammond. He would pray for the Voice of Revival Broadcast; I would pray for Hyles-Anderson. He would pray for the Sword book ministry; I would pray for Hammond Baptist Schools. I am sure that in such cases our praying would have been more effective had each of us prayed alone. Ah, but then came the time when Dr. Rice would pray for America! Tears came from my eyes, and my heart began to hurt as I joined him in that prayer for this great burden that both of us shared equally.
This is why a mother and a father can pray together for a child; they share the burden. There is no mention in the Bible of regularly-scheduled praying except in the family unit.
It is so easy for regularly-scheduled prayer groups to become sessions of idle talk or even gossip. There is also the danger in our special prayer groups for us to pray for others to improve, which is simply a way for us to criticize someone to a friend and place it in the disguise of spirituality and prayer. If one is going to pray for the improvement of another and mention his faults, it is best for him to go into the closet and pray alone.
On occasion so-called prayer groups have deteriorated until they became a thorn in the flesh of the pastor and divisive to the church. It is probably best to have prayer warriors who can come together in an emergency. While I was in college I had a prayer warrior. We did not meet regularly, but we had an agreement that we would meet when either of us had a burden or a need. If I faced a difficult test, I would call my prayer warrior. We would meet at our appointed place and pray together. If he had a burden or a need, he could call me. Sometimes we met to pray, sometimes we prayed over the phone together, and sometimes we agree to pray for each other. It is usually best, however, for the Christian to do most of his praying alone. For example, most of my praying for the finances of the First Baptist Church of Hammond is done alone. Most of our people are concerned about the finances. A few of our people have much concern, but nobody stays awake at night and carries the load as much as the Pastor, for the "buck" stops at his desk!
When I am praying for the power of God on my life, I usually do it alone. There are many who no doubt would like for me to have the power of God, but since their desire is only a fraction of mine, I believe I can best seek the fulness of the Holy Spirit alone in prayer.
When the burden is equal, group praying is beneficial. When the burden is unequal, praying alone is probably best.
Many nights I have prayed all night concerning a financial need. My feet have paced many motel room floors. I have walked by the hour up and down the sidewalk alongside a freeway. Ah, how sweet has been the fellowship, how sure are the promises, and how definite are the answers!
Often and regularly through the years I have had long season of prayer for the power of God and the fulness of the Holy Spirit. These were times alone with God, times of pleading, begging and supplication.
Then there have been times during the years when I felt another shared a burden on a near-equal basis. We have gotten together without an effort to pray pretty prayers or to seem pious and have poured out our hearts to God together. In such cases, group prayer can be very effective. Since, however, it is usually impossible for another to share with me anywhere near the degree of the burden I carry for a matter, I find it more effective to pray alone most of the time.
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