Requisites to a Good Prayer-Meeting
We must begin the process of revival with personal prayer and devotion. However, as we grow, we also need the support and fellowship of one another. That is what the prayer meeting is for. It is a long-forgotten blessing, as most churches use their weekly “prayer meetings” more for Bible study or just group readings and socializing. There is nothing wrong with these things, but we must not neglect praying together as the body of Christ. We intend to arrange prayer meetings online when possible, and this article from the pen of inspiration provides vital instruction to help us do it according to God’s design.
Christians do not always make the public worship of God of sufficient importance. They do not realize their responsibility in the matter. The prayer-meeting, especially, is often dull, spiritless, and unattractive. But it need not be. Even where few love the hour of prayer, it may be made interesting and profitable. The presence of Jesus is not confined to large assemblies. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” he says, “there am I in the midst of them.” “If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven.”
We may rest with assurance upon these promises; but if we would have them fulfilled to us, we must live so that God can consistently bless us. If we consciously cherish envy, malice, or any evil in our hearts, our worship is only mockery in the sight of God. We must confess and forsake our sins; we must search our hearts, and see that everything is put away that grieves the dear Saviour; we must be living examples of the transforming grace of God. But when we have done all on our part, we may come to Jesus in humble faith; and he will hear our prayers, for his word is pledged.
If the prayer-meeting is made what it ought to be, it must be preceded by holy living. “The kingdom of God, and his righteousness,” must be made the first consideration. To meet the claims of God involves a cross. We are under obligation to honor him by a well-ordered life and godly conversation, and to do all in our power to win others to his service. And to do this requires self-denial. It leaves us no time to devote to selfish plans or pursuits. Frequently business matters receive careful attention, while the interests of the soul are made secondary. While this state of things exists, Christians can never have a convincing power with unbelievers, and the prayer-meeting will be destitute of the presence of the Spirit of God.
Let every one who professes to be a follower of Christ inquire, What am I doing for Jesus? “Ye are the light of the world,” said Christ to his disciples. Can you, then, feel clear in inactivity and indolence in the cause of God? There is no such thing as selfishness in religion,–no such thing as a religion that can be enjoyed without benefiting any one. The truth held in humility will commend itself to the minds and hearts of others. The faith which works by love, and purifies the heart, cannot be kept bottled up like some precious perfume. The light of the Christian is not to be put under a bushel, but on a candle-stick, that it may give light to all that are in the house.
Christian friends, will you consider how you can make the prayer-meeting interesting? You can do this if you will. Do not feel that God will care for the meeting, and you have nothing to do. He has given you ability, and he requires you to use it. In the plan of salvation, man must co-operate with God. He has duties to perform as well as hopes to entertain. In the first place, you are not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Be prompt and regular in your attendance. Do not let trifles keep you away from the house of prayer. Though there may be but two or three who meet together, be in your place at the time appointed.
Before leaving home, go to God in secret prayer. Plead with him for his blessing, and He who “seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” With your heart softened by the love of Jesus, go to the meeting, feeling that you are personally responsible for its success. If but few attend, you should feel under double responsibility. You are in the service of God, and should do what you can with your talent, tact, and skill to make his worship interesting. You bestow care and thought on business matters; you labor to make them a success. Would you do less for the worship of God? Are not eternal interests of far greater importance than those that are earthly? In this matter act like intelligent, rational beings. Do not so burden yourselves with temporal cares that you will have no life and energy for the prayer-meeting. God will work with your efforts; but he will not bless you in indolence and carelessness. He speaks to hearts that feel, to consciences that respond to his claims.
When you speak or pray, make an effort to speak in clear tones, loud enough to be heard by all. You do not address your family in a whisper, but in a cheerful, pleasant, audible voice; why not let the same distinct and agreeable tones be heard in the prayer-meeting? If you have never learned to talk aloud when speaking of Jesus, let this be one of your first lessons. If you have been in the habit of praying so that no one present could understand what you said, reserve all such whispered prayers for the closet. How can the prayer-meeting be made interesting, when the prayers offered and the testimonies borne are spoken in so low a tone that only an occasional word can be heard? Who can respond “Amen”? Who can be benefited by such testimonies, however good and fitting they may be in themselves? Who can know how to speak words of comfort and encouragement, or to help those who need help?
Many prayers and testimonies are as destitute of the Spirit of God as a dry sponge is of moisture; for there is no Jesus abiding in the heart. This makes the prayer-meeting cold and lifeless, and it is no wonder that children dread such seasons. Bring no dull, complaining spirit into the prayer-meeting. Do not compare notes to see how sorrowful a story you can tell. There is enough to talk about without raising one doleful strain. When we are willing to come as little children, conscious of our own weakness, and willing to be instructed by the Divine Teachers, our hearts will be filled with the love of Jesus, and we shall long to speak of his matchless worth. We shall cease to talk of self. Our trials will look so small that we shall forget to mention them. We have many blessings. Let us cultivate gratitude, and talk of the goodness of God.
We should individually know Jesus as a sin-pardoning Saviour. We should be able to testify to his compassionate love, and the virtues of the cleansing stream that washes away the stains of sin. Why not speak often one to another of the blessed hope held out before us in the great plan of salvation? Why not talk of the heavenly inheritance and of the rich promises of God? Jesus lives to intercede for us; then let us be glad. Let us come before the Lord with gratitude and praise in our hearts and on our lips. Let us, with rejoicing, speak to one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody” in our hearts to the Lord. “Whoso offereth praise,” says the Creator, “glorifieth me.” Let us not withhold the tribute that is his due.
Full to overflowing will be the heart that is transformed by grace. Divine love will be revealed in the manner, in the speech, in the life. The Christian will enjoy communion with his Maker; he will enjoy the precious privileges of his high calling in Christ Jesus. We want calm devotion; we want the courage and hope to be derived from worshiping God with his people; but we must also have activity and energy, for we have a work to do. “Ye are a chosen generation,” says Peter, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Let us who have experienced these rich blessings seek to draw others to the Saviour, that they may share the light that shines upon our pathway. Let us point them to Jesus, and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The highest commendation we can receive as Christian workers is to say that we present Christ lifted up on the cross as the object of supreme desire; and how can we do this better than by making religion attractive? Let us show that to us the worship of God is not drudgery and dry form, but spirit and life.
— E.G. White, Signs of the Times, December 4, 1884