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The power of praying together

Corporate prayer is the key to revival, says church planting veteran

Recently retired church planting veteran David Jones has a drop-everything-and-pray approach to congregational prayer. When the Welsh-born Presbyterian minister is asked about the role of prayer in his 40 years of church ministry, Jones invokes the words of Dutch Christian, Corrie Ten Boom: “Prayer should be the steering wheel, not the spare tyre.”

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“Nothing can be achieved without prayer, so it should take priority over everything in our church programs,” says Jones, who certainly practiced what he preached.

When scheduling prayer meetings, Jones took the radical step of cancelling every other church activity that week – including the Sunday service.

A congregational prayer meeting was a key to success in all five churches he planted and the two he revitalised – from inner city London, where he worked for 12 years, to 20 years of parish ministry in Tasmania and, finally, at Ann St Presbyterian Church in Brisbane.

David Jones

David Jones

When scheduling prayer meetings, Jones took the radical step of cancelling every other church activity that week – including the Sunday service. He says this raised the profile of the prayer meeting, making it “the place no-one wants to miss out on.” This approach saw numbers at the monthly prayer meeting at Ann St increase from a handful of faithfuls to around 80 people – almost one-third of all church members.

Jones gives this advice to church leaders: “Don’t let people push the prayer meeting to a more convenient time. There is never a convenient time for everybody, so just expect everybody to be there at the stated time, even if it means rearranging their schedules and missing out on their favourite TV programs.”

Noting the particular emphasis on corporate prayer in the early church, as shown in the Book of Acts, Jones explains, “In the history of the church there is a clear connection between extraordinary congregational praying and revival.” He gives the example in Acts 4, where, after Peter and John are released from prison, the whole church gets together to pray the words from Psalm 2.

“Nobody is missing, everyone is there – of one accord and of one mind to build a case together from Scripture and to plead with God to do what he has promised, and to exalt the name of Jesus.”

This requires in shift in mindset – from “praying for the work” to “prayer is the work”.

In the same way, Jones endorses “kingdom-centred” congregational prayer; that is, “focused praying for conversions” and for “the advance of God’s kingdom in the world”.

“It is so easy for us to slip away from that and become preoccupied with our own personal needs and struggles. Of course God cares about that and we should bear one another’s burdens in prayer, but … this message of the kingdom must be taken to every ethnic group and people from every tribe and language brought in. That’s what should drive our praying.”

This requires in shift in mindset – from “praying for the work” to “prayer is the work”.

“It’s possible for us to be carried along by the momentum of our own programs and ministries with a show of success, without prayer, so people don’t pray,” says Jones. “You can build a church like a McDonalds franchise and appear to be doing the Lord’s work, but is Christ building his church? We want instant results so we give up when we should prevail in prayer, looking for God to work.”

Jones gives one final piece of advice about congregational prayer: “look for and celebrate answers.” There have certainly been many astounding answers for Jones and his prayerful congregations.

He shares: “In the 90s in Hobart we saw God open a whole network of relationships with the gospel. This triggered off a church planting movement across two denominations in southern Tasmania, with many conversions. At the same time God raised up a whole new generation of leaders for these new church plants. And that movement was birthed in a congregational prayer meeting, where people were praying fervently and persistently for conversions and for the raising of new leaders.”

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