How beautiful, and of good tendency would it be for multitude of Christians . . . to unite in such prayer as is proposed to us.”
Human beings are social beings. We attempt to connect with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with internet friends who repeat what we say and love our pictures. We join groups in CrossFit gyms, MOPS groups, and softball or fantasy football leagues. We enjoy the camaraderie and competition that comes with being together. We delight in knowing that other people are looking at the portrayal of our perfect life and our profound observations concerning life. Our spiritual lives would benefit from investing in mutual encouragement and openness. While Jesus warns against practicing our spirituality before others to show off (see Matt 6:1ff), the church community is to help spur us on in good works and growth in our spiritual lives (see Heb 3:13; 10:24).
The discipline of prayer is often a private cry in our hearts or in the closet early in the morning. Our prayer lives stay isolated from our brothers and sisters except in the occasional prayer meeting or small group setting. What would happen, though, if the church unified over one specific, God glorifying request? Or to ask an even bigger question, what would happen if a group of local churches, the world over, would unify in one request? Jonathan Edwards sought to bring churches together in prayer to see a work done by the Spirit of God in their time that would change the world.
How can Christians and churches come together in an endeavor to pray for an agreed upon time and for a specific request? For Edwards the unity was a natural result of seeking the success of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. There is type of harmony that brings believers striving for the same goal together in a delightful way. Edwards exhorts, “How beautiful, and of good tendency would it be for multitude of Christians, in various parts of the world, by explicit agreement, to unite in such prayer as is proposed to us.” While we may agree that unity is beautiful and even necessary in the Church, what would motivate many local congregations and Christians to come together to pray specifically?
Edwards notes that there is a great need to be praying for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. The brokenness and calamities that fill the earth are stark reminders that a Savior is needed. Christians’ desires should be moved to see God redeem and restore all people and creation (see Rom 8). The constant wars and famines that are on the nightly news and in our web-browsers give warnings to the breakdown of relationships globally.
Not only are the physical calamities great reminders that we need God to work, but the spiritual deadness that surrounds us necessities earnest, united prayer from all Christians. Edwards laments, “How much is the gospel ministry grown into contempt…How many of our congregations and churches rending in pieces! Church discipline weakened, and ordinances less and less regarded! Vice and immorality, of all kinds, withal increasing and unusually prevailing!” The destruction of sin in creation and in people’s spiritual lives calls for unity in the church to pray. Edwards notes that when these circumstances are carefully observed it will move people to pray for the “outpouring of [God’s] Spirit, which alone can be an effectual remedy for these evils.” The need is pronounced, but God promises to work for His glory and to build His church.
The church’s extremity, has often been God’s opportunity for magnifying his power, mercy, and faithfulness towards her.
Although there is great need in our day, God has not and will not abandon His glory. “The church’s extremity,” observes Edwards, “has often been God’s opportunity for magnifying his power, mercy, and faithfulness towards her.” The darker the night seems, and the state of the world may appear, then the more magnificent will the light of the Gospel be. God has commanded us to pray and the Church must pray for God to do His work of revival by His Spirit.
A call for unity in prayer is beneficial in many respects. Edwards saw that “union in religious duties, especially in the duty of prayer, in praying one with and for another, and jointly for their common welfare, above almost all other things tends to promote mutual affection and endearment.” The “mutual affection and endearment” is what is called for in the New Testament among believers (eg 1 Cor 12). The coming together to pray for and seek God’s work in extraordinary ways produced this type of unity.
Another benefit of earnestly praying for God to send spiritual revival is the personal introspection that will occur. The person who is praying for God to send His Spirit and for others to turn away from sin will ask if they are “flourishing in their heart” as well.
Local churches should consider putting more emphasis on praying for the specific working of God to advance His Kingdom. Once a church has been praying that with her leaders, then other sister churches should be invited for specific times and seasons of prayer to see God work in our day. What might God do if we pray the promises of God back to Him in the 21stCentury, in America, and around the world?
Article by Caleb Nedimyer