I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately on the subject of corporate prayer. Many in my church are going through a difficult time as we seek a new senior pastor, and we are trying to draw together and be unified in prayer. I’ve come to the realization that this does not come as easily as might be expected. After much consideration, I’ve concluded that part of the problem may be that many of the people in my church have active individual prayer lives, but have never really learned what it is like to pray together communally. I am praying, and thinking, and wrestling with ways that I might help us to draw together in this way as a local body.

Paul Bassett, in Holiness Teaching, observes how John and Charles Wesley “came to their understandings of God, themselves, and their world, and how these related and should relate, in the context of corporate and private devotion.” Bassett quite rightly notes that for the Wesleys, all of this was set within the specific context of Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. I’m neither advocating nor expecting that my Nazarene church is going to start using the Book of Common Prayer, but Bassett has me hooked when he describes the nature and importance of corporate prayer in the lives of the Wesley brothers.

“Prayer included what we would call meditation. So a regular part of prayer was the reading, or listening to reading, of Scripture and other devotional literature. Reading was done slowly and clearly in order to allow for reflection. And it was thought best if the whole community could join in much of the reading …

This is the perspective that nourished John and Charles Wesley. Very early, they disciplined themselves to engage in corporate prayer at least twice a day. Each carried forward a rigorous schedule of daily private prayer as well … The services of morning and evening prayer and the service of Communion abounded with scripture readings, prayers and declarations promising sanctification and perfect love to believers, and exhortations to seek it in this life.”

This certainly gets at what it is that am I spending so much time wrestling with in my own private prayers and devotions. Maybe some of you readers — whether clergy or laypeople — that have some experience in teaching a church how to pray corporately could chime in. What are your thoughts or suggestions?

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