Churches go through seasons when they need intentional corporate prayer. It can be prompted by a variety of circumstances, some which grieve the hearts of the congregation and others which enliven the vision of its members. I have observed churches go through a season of prayer when they are in the midst of senior pastor transitions. Following the significant moral failure of a pastor, churches may initiate a season of prayer for healing and direction, or when a church senses God leading them to a new vision and are ready to see God begin a movement among them, they may go through a season of intentional corporate prayer.
At First Baptist Church, we are entering a season of intentional corporate prayer over the summer. Over the past couple years, we have sensed God leading us to be more purposeful in the way we love, care and reach our downtown neighbors. There are over 20,000 people that live within a half-mile of our building, most of whom do not know the life saving message of Jesus Christ. The majority of people that live near our building are young urban professionals, but many others are at or below the poverty line and need to receive love, care and a message of hope. Collectively, the members of our congregation have thousands of neighbors, co-workers, family, friends and other relationships in our spheres of influence that we desperately desire to know and follow Jesus. Not to mention that we all, the people of our church, need the continual revival of God's Spirit within our own hearts.
As we continue to pursue a vision for God to move in our own hearts, among our downtown neighbors and among the many people whom we come into contact with on a daily basis - people whom we love and care for deeply - we have recognized our need to enter a season of intentional corporate prayer this summer. A primary avenue for this is to meet in five prayer meetings throughout the week, and pray through the book of Acts. As we hear from God through His Word, and as we speak back to Him in our prayers, we are asking that God would do something remarkable in our church family and in the lives of our neighbors.
As you read this, whether you are part of the church family at First Baptist or part of another congregation, here are three reasons why churches need seasons of intentional corporate prayer.
God Loves when His People Pray
Prayer can be a bit of a mystery. We have a God who is fully and entirely sovereign. A God who has complete foreknowledge and has chosen us in Christ before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). But yet, a God who invites His people to pray. In the Scriptures, we see God respond to the prayers of His people, specifically when they pray in ways that are consistent with His will and desires.
For example, in Exodus 32, after the Israelites had acted with great dishonor toward God in making the golden calf, God tells Moses that He is going to consume them, and begin afresh with Moses (v. 10). In response Moses petitions God to relent from his wrath, and argues back to God in prayer, using God's words and desires as a buttress for his prayer. It says that God "relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people (v. 14)."
Space does not allow for a full exploration of the relationship between our prayers and God's sovereignty and foreknowledge. But from a human perspective, God responds as Moses petitions Him on behalf of the Israelites. Moses prays in a way that is consistent with God's will and desire, and God responds. God loves when his people pray, and He responds to our prayers. When we want to see God do something in our congregation, something we believe is consistent with His will and desires as revealed in the Scriptures, then we ought to pray and ask God. Like a father who delights in the opportunity to provide good gifts to his children (Mt. 7:9-11), God loves when His people pray and ask.
Prayer is an Acknowledgment that We Cannot do it on Our Own
When we bow our knee before God, we recognize that we cannot do it on our own. We need God's help. Whether we are needing to select a new pastor, heal from a broken situation or see a new vision come into reality, we cannot do it on our own, and it is important for us to recognize our insufficiency. God's grace is sufficient, but on our own, we are not. In Peter's exhortation to the churches, he wrote:
 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:6-11)."
Prayer is an act of humility before God. When we pray, we intentionally position ourselves under his authority, and cast our anxieties upon Him. God restores, not us. When broken relationships need restoration and healing, we cannot do that on our own, but God can. God strengthens. Youths grow tired, and young man stumble, but "those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31)." When we get tired, and fear we do not have the energy for the task, God gives the strength. God is the one who heals broken hearts and gives strength. But most of all, God is the one who draws people to Himself and saves forevermore those who were once perishing. God gives new life to those who once walked in darkness. We cannot bring that sort of life transformation, but God can. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we cannot, but God can.
Prayer Helps us Give all the Glory to God
Early in the book of Acts, Peter and John were on their way to the temple and along the way healed a lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-10). All the people were "utterly astounded" at what had happened. When Peter addressed the crowd he said:
[12b] “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?  The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.  But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all (Acts 3:12b-16)."
I love their answer. And it is so helpful for me to hear. It was not by their power or piety that this man was able to walk again. Peter is quick to point out to those listening that it was the power of Jesus that made this man strong. When we go through seasons of prayer, it can help us to remember to give God the glory for the work He does. To say with confidence that Jesus is the one who did the miraculous. God is not limited by our lack of prayer and He can do something extraordinary among us whenever he chooses, but when we go through a season of intentional corporate prayer, it helps us give God the glory when he does chose to act on our behalf.