The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Mar 12, 2016

Symphonic (corporate) Prayer

Normally I post academic material, but this week's post will be a bit more on the practical-pastoral level.

A week ago my church (and college where I teach) finished its annual "Victory Conference." This year's theme was "Prayer" (both individual and corporate), and was very beneficial spiritually. I'd like to briefly talk about how "corporate prayer" can resemble an improvised symphony (the "symphony" terminology is not original with me).

Note: very little of this material is original with me as far as concept. I am grateful especially to Dr. Jim Van Gelderen and the rest of the conference speakers.

Instead of "going around the circle" in prayer, a "symphonic" corporate prayer meeting involves members speaking up in prayer as the Spirit leads. The benefit is that nobody is "forced" to prayer, and this then leaves open the possibility for the Spirit to lead particular people to pray at a particular time. Here's how it can resemble a symphony, at its best:
1. There can be distinct "movements" where different members reinforce each other in prayer. For example, the first half-dozen people may be led to pray about a the sicknesses plaguing the church, and they build off of each other's previous prayer. Then somewhere we "switch" movements and begin praying about missions. There's no "rule" about who can pray about what, at what time, but quite often you can spot distinct "movements" of the symphony.
2. There is a unity to the prayer service: nobody is praying against their will, they all have a common goal in mind, and they usually end up complementing each other's role nicely. We have a couple rules: don't make this your private prayer time (i.e., "praying through your list," etc.); 2. be brief (this allows more to participate); 3. don't turn this into "preaching"; etc. The goal is to complement/build off of each other in prayer.
3. In theory (and, generally in practice, I believe), the Holy Spirit acts as the conductor who guides each person to contribute when they ought to. There are, of course, discordant notes (when two people unintentionally start praying at the same time), but usually somebody backs off and awaits their turn. Naturally the one thing that could derail the "orchestra" is when church members have bitterness towards each other that is not dealt with and manifests itself in their attitude.
4. Praise via song plays a major role, as well; anybody is free to start out with a song that everybody knows, and then everybody joins in (so it's not a solo! Also, one's ability to hold a tune has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they can start us all in a song).
Anyways, corporate "symphonic" prayer has been a blessing to me both in my current church and in my previous church in NC.
For more information on last week's focus on prayer, click here to take you to the "Bended Knee" conference homepage.
Also, for an academic discussion of corporate prayer, see Grant R. Osborne, "Moving forward on our Knees: Corporate Prayer in the New Testament," JETS 53.2 (June 2010).

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