It seems for the modern church the title “Prayer Meeting” could accurately be labeled a misnomer. To understand why I say this we need only to consider, what constitutes a prayer meeting?
What is a prayer meeting?
Dictionary.com defines it as such;
1. a meeting chiefly for prayer.
2. (in certain Protestant churches) a meeting in midweek, chiefly for individual prayer and the offering of testimonies of faith.
Also called prayer service.
Collins English Dictionary 10th Edition renders it;
chiefly Protestantisma religious meeting at which the participants offer up prayers to God
I am perfectly aware of the fact that these two examples come from purely secular sources. That fact alone actually causes me more distress. Consider, two secular (and modern) dictionaries understand the primary needed ingredient to having a “prayer meeting”– prayer, while the church has seemed to forgotten.
Notice, “a meeting chiefly for prayer”. A gathering together of like minded individuals with the sole intention of beseeching God whilst offering up their petitions. Meetings in the church house just to pray? Are you kidding, you want me to take part of an evening out of my busy schedule and go all the way to the church just to pray? No singing? No preaching? It even sounds alien when I speak it aloud, prayer meeting. How sad this makes me.
I have read many accounts of faithful prayer meetings sparking large long-lived revivals. I have listened to countless stories recounted by elders in the church, those of that generation which are quickly exiting this life, of how the prayer meeting was often the meeting. The service where the outpouring of the Spirit of God most manifested, the service that became the heartbeat of the church. How long will we live on the prayers of those that came before us?
Is there supporting precedent for the prayer meeting in scripture? Just to quickly name a few…
Deuteronomy 26:7-8 And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
Isaiah 56:7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Acts 12:12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
There used to be a hymn sung in our churches (remember hymns?),
“Sweet Hour of Prayer”;
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief, My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there, And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face, Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care, And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height, I view my home and take my flight:
This robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise To seize the everlasting prize;
And shout, while passing through the air, “Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”
How glorious are those words, how uplifting! Is this what prayer does to you?
I realize that we will be hard pressed to do something effectively at church that we are not already familiar with at home. Is the absence of the prayer meeting a reflection of the absence of the home alter? Are we privately praying? Do we have and use our own prayer closets? Can we honestly sing, Sweet HOUR of Prayer? Or have we all come to that point where we could really only sing, Sweet Five minutes of Prayer?
Oswald Chambers is said to have declared, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works – prayer is the greater work.”
Heavenly Father, please rekindle the fire within our hearts to seek your face. Give us once again that hunger and desire to commune with you in prayer and watchings. Let our hearts be lifted up to you in humbleness and meekness, as we surrender ourselves to you, losing ourselves in your presence.
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.
William Walford “Sweet Hour of Prayer” 1845