I pray often. Many times a day. Alone.

I pray often with my wife.

Sometimes I say a public prayer at a church service.

What about praying in a small, intimate group? Have I done that? Well...not lately.

Yet, in times past I have experienced the most powerful prayer meetings in this kind of venue. Especially in college and also when I lived in Mexico with the men of the church there.

Yes, when I was a pastor we held Wednesday night prayer meetings. Just not too many people attended. And the deacon chairman and I prayed before the church services, etc.

Yet, in this writing, I am talking about prayer meetings that last as long as the Holy Spirit directs. Does that sound strange to you? If so, that is not a good sign. It means that we are still infants in Christ and have not reached the full measure of faith.

Why don't churches emphasize small group prayer vigils? Have we allowed too many program-driven venues to consume the available time? Some pastors actually discourage it. They fear it is really a meeting to talk about how to fire him. I've been told this more than once by pastors.

But I will tell you, praying together with others is the most difficult thing for Christians to commit to doing. Satan does every trick in the book to stop Christians from praying.

The flesh is weak and recoils from seeking God in open-ended praying. It is just more pleasing to the flesh to meet only in larger groups where one sits, is quiet, and listens to a Bible lesson. The prayer requests are voiced. Then a few pray and the pastor closes.

God does hear sincere petitions. The people who pray are blessed. Yet is that the most effective and powerful prayer that a church body is capable of giving? If that is what our churches are then we might as well be the Shriners or some service club meeting.

Remember, we Christians have adversaries, namely Satan and our flesh, who always conspire to block prayer, especially group prayer (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, it is difficult to get a group of Christians together for nothing but praying in mind. We're busy "doing church" which is more sitting than doing for ninety percent of church attenders. The language is telling. "Doing Church." That's us. That's not God.

One would think it would be so easy to get a group of Christians together to pray once a week. That doesn't seem to be true. If you want to do the present matra, "Go be the church," then doing good to your neighbors, building bridges that lead to sharing your salvation testimony and the plan of salvation, will be fulfilling that mantra. But that mantra is a fad started by whom? I don't know, do you? You do not have to be the church. You must be Jesus.

To build a salvation bridge can only be done by the work of the Holy Spirit. And being plugged into the will of God and to the Holy Spirit involves prayer. Personal praying is indeed mandatory. Yet, group praying is very, very powerful and effective in unusual ways.

And group praying is modeled in the Bible by the first church in Jerusalem as the primary activity that produced the preaching and evangelism.

What would happen if your church suspended all regular "services" and just had people praying around the clock? Ahh, I can hear it now: "Then why would we pay a preacher? He only works one hour a week anyway! And how would we take the offering? And how could we invite our friends?"

These are all questions about human activity. What we need is to get out of the way and let some God activity begin. Praying is what moves God to action. Then you will see God drawing people to your fellowship where they will hear your teaching and fall down and confess their sins.

In unhurried group prayer, unusual things happen. We get new insights. We are made aware of unconfessed sins. The Holy Spirit makes the presence of Jesus known to our hearts and it is palpable. And this is why you and I and our Christian friends are afraid of real earnest praying. (It is so difficult to get a group of Christians together to simply pray.)

These spiritually driven things happen when Christ's followers come together not to make these things happen, but to simply seek the face of God and speak to Him. Yet always, always, the results of group prayer become evident during the prayer time as well as later.

Where should a group pray? Somewhere private, uninterrupted, and quiet.

Pray in a car...

Or at a sand bar!

Pray in a church,

Or pray on a perch,

Pray in a home,

But don't pray alone,

Pray with close friends!

Let prayer never end!! [1 Thessalonians 5:17 --NASB]

I'm not talking about praying at the church on Sunday mornings or evenings when the "regular services" happen. I'm talking about in our leisure times when we are not working or committed to something else.

We need an unhurried approach to group prayer. And a group prayer meeting has a set beginning but not a set end. The Holy Spirit decides that--He really does. Everyone knows when it's over! Yet people are free to come and go during the meeting. Where the Spirit is there is liberty (2 Timothy 3:17, KJV).

You can sit in a circle on the floor or in chairs. You can sit in a living room or on a Gym floor. You can pray in the country under a tree.

We have distractions galore fighting against group prayer. We have so many opportunities in this civilization of ours to stay busy. There are our favorite TV programs and our clubs and our gym appointments and, and, infinitum. Yet our real barrier is the flesh.

Some also let embarrassment at not being skilled at saying a prayer hinder their attendance at group praying. Some are afraid that they will be judged in how eloquent they are in prayer--you know--getting the "Thee's" and "Thou's" right.

They seem to think prayer is like making a speech. Baloney. Believing that right grammar and eloquence is what is important in true praying, instead of speaking from the heart and soul to Jesus in your own way, might not be praying at all! And I did say "might not be." The point being made is that true prayer--effective prayer--comes from the heart and is consistent with Truth. God's Word is Truth.

God hears the heart and so do those brothers and sisters listening. And they can tell if it's your heart talking, or if it's just your head talking and "saying a prayer."

To pray in a group one must not only get over self-awareness but also must be aware of the presence of God and of Jesus Christ. They are the Ones with whom we are talking with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

So how does prayer in a small group get started and progress? The setting is important. Private and quiet places with access to bathrooms and water are good. Safety is important and a place to park everyone's cars. And for the very nieve (and believe me, I have had some unbelievably nieve questions ask me as a pastor) no, you don't have to be on your knees in the knelling position all night.

Let us say that we have a group of 4 to 8 Christian friends. The first 30 minutes might be chatting and sharing what God has done in the last few weeks in the lives of those gathered. Someone might make a request for the group to pray for a need or issue. Then, someone may dim the lights and perhaps keep on a lamp or light candles. Someone reads a Scripture that meant something to them. Then someone prays.

Prayer may start by thanking and praising God. Next, prayer may continue with praying for others by name and perhaps saying a prayer for a need in one's own life. Then a period of silence might be experienced for a few moments. Then another person will pray. At some point, a person may say, "I need to confess something and ask for prayer." Everyone listens, encourages, offers to help, etc. And the confession should never leave the group, but this is only possible in a group of very close friends who are mature. And yet, the confessing soul may not even care if someone shares it because finally, he is unburdened and free.

Someone may start singing a hymn and the group joins in the singing. Then a testimony. Next, a person reads a Scripture verse or two and follows with prayer. The topics will often be varied and many yet sometimes it will be one theme.

Next, someone scoots on their knees to a corner and begins praying alone. No one bothers them and the group continues to pray.

The group gets quiet for a few minutes. No one is uncomfortable.

Then someone starts singing a hymn and all join in. The hymn ends and then another period of silent prayer. Someone may have to leave at this time, so they don't make a fuss. They simply quietly get up and leave.

In a while, the person who scooted to the corner comes back and says, "I have a testimony," or "I have a confession." And they share. The group responds appropriately with encouragement or advice or more prayer for that person.

The prayer meeting takes on a life of its own because all are focused on Jesus and His Father. The presence of the Holy Spirit is "felt" or "manifested" or "moving." God is real. Why should that surprise you? If it's not real to you, you are what I call a "still-born Christian." On the day of your "conversion," you said all the right words with your mouth but not with your heart.

So you see, I miss group prayer in my own life. And I encourage you to initiate a group prayer meeting with earnest Christians. Groups of Christians praying together during the week is and should be the heart of the local assembly of believers in Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of All. Even the local assembly should be full of prayer as well as singing and preaching and sharing.

You do not need permission to pray. As a Christian, you are commanded and encouraged to pray without ceasing. We all pray constantly, talking to God as we move through life.

You only need a small group--not more than 10--a group of maybe 4 to 8 willing brothers or sisters. You need a quiet place to meet. You might need a small light if you want the lights dim for the right atmosphere. And you want serious believers in Jesus Christ who want to talk to Jesus.

We need to start some serious group prayer. May God help us.##

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Updated: Mar 15

In the beginning, God had two very significant trees. The First Man and the First Woman, Adam and Eve, were living in lush beauty and the paradise called the Garden of Eden. One special tree was named the Tree of Life. A second tree was a dangerous tree called The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

God was walking daily with them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were told by God that they were permitted to eat from the Tree of Life but forbidden to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. However, they did not eat from the Tree of Life. They ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In doing so, they broke a face-to-face, direct command of God. I believe the Scriptures bear evidence of God being genuinely sad and hurt when we, as being one in the flesh with our first parents, choose Satan.

Here is the biblical account from the Christian Standard Bible, Genesis 3:17-19:

17 And he said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’:

The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

God must have been not only angry but terribly hurt. I'm not sure that we ever think of God as having feelings or emotions. I mean, He's God. He's like an emotionless being who rules without feeling. Right? Yet somehow, I think God has emotion. In fact, the Bible attests to God's emotions. For instance, in Exodus 4:14 we read:

"Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses, and he said, “Isn’t Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, he is on his way now to meet you. He will rejoice when he sees you."

God was very patient with Moses, yet there were times when Moses pushed it.

It is interesting that in the Book of Exodus, when Moses was on the Mountain of God, which was located in that bare desert land with a treeless mountain of rugged terrain because of that curse of sin upon the world, Moses asked to see God. God didn't meet with him face to face as He did Adam and Eve. God only let him see His backside. Why? Because we are banished from direct fellowship with God. Things are not what they were meant to be.

It is not coincidental, that when Jesus was on His way to Golgotha, He spent time praying in another Garden, the Garden of Gethsemane:

"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” Matthew 26: 36-38, (CSB).

God had a garden on His mind when His Son was going to the place to redeem Adam and Eve and all their children. God remembers the Garden of Eden. God has emotions. What our Primal Parents did to Him in a garden broke His heart. He remembered the incident with great pain. He hurt so badly that when the Lamb of God, "who takes away the Sin of the World," prayed His last prayer for assurance, He sweated drops of blood, and not little drops. God saw His Son, Jesus Christ, not only as Jesus but as Adam and Eve.

Next, after the mock trial and inhuman beatings, He was taken outside the gates of Jerusalem just off the main road to a hill. There, stripped naked and beaten, He bore the punishment of Adam and Eve's Sin. Adam and Eve were unclothed when they sinned. God's wrath and God's hurt were taken out on His only begotten son.

Isn't it interesting that the death of the Last Adam took place on a tree? Not a living tree, but a dead, splintery tree. How many ways are there to execute a man? God chose a tree. It was not a healthy tree in a beautiful Garden, but in an ugly, smelly, public roadside, a roadside where all kinds of Spiritually dead humanity trampled on the highway.

What's the connection to the hurt in God's heart from the episode in the Garden of Eden to the crucifixion of His son on a tree? It was death on a bare tree. The beautiful, tasty fruit of the Tree of Life that Adam and Eve refused to eat, which would have given them eternal life, was now a dead tree of blood on which a substitute to the fruit of life hung.

To regain Eden and Eternal Life, we must eat of this tree, the one on which Christ Jesus died.

Take a bite and live. It's easy. Believe, ask Jesus to come into your heart and soul and lead you back to Eden.

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A man once asked, “Why did Jesus die so young? Why couldn’t He have lived to be an older man before He died? Think of all the good He could have done if He lived as long as Moses!”

The preacher looked at the man and answered:

Think about the kind of death He died compared to the death Moses died. Moses died on a mountain and the angels buried his body. Jesus died publicly and was abandoned by the angels and lastly, by His Heavenly Father. However, before he was hung on the cross, this happened:

Before Jesus was arrested, he had been up since before dawn, probably eighteen to twenty hours. He prayed at Gethsemane and sweat great drops of blood. Then he was arrested by a mob and taken for trial. His disciples abandoned Him.

He was questioned and harassed through the night. He was pushed, mocked, slapped, and stripped naked. The Roman soldiers beat Him with a flagrum, a short-handled whip. The whip was made with strips of leather and pieces of bone and iron balls were woven into the strips. It was intended to rip open the skin and expose the muscle and weaken the victim. It was not intended to kill.

Next, Jesus was paraded through the streets of the town where He received stares, jeers, spit, and perhaps things are thrown at Him. He was required to carry His own cross to the place of crucifixion. When he collapsed from exhaustion, someone else carried the cross as He continued to walk.

They laid Him on the cross at Golgatha hill, stretched his arms, nailed each with an iron spike. Then they nailed the feet. The soldiers picked up the cross and let it jolt into the hole in the ground. They filled the hole and left him to die on the main road, naked, outside the city walls for all to watch.

They crucified two thieves on each side of Jesus. One of them mocked Jesus. The other repented believed in Jesus and was saved from eternal hell and death. Those two thieves were a depiction of the whole human race. Whenever the story of the cross is shared or preached some jeer, yet a few are saved.

When Jesus died the record says that He released His Spirit from His own body. Jesus was always in charge. He deliberately died for you and me to save us from the fate of humanity. Humanity has already been sentenced to eternal death. Humanity gets to stay with the world’s usurper god, Satan. Jesus and His death are our only hope of the Life God always intended for us.

You asked why Jesus did not live as long a life as Moses. I wonder, could a 120-year-old man have endured all the suffering that the mid-thirty-year-old Jesus endured—even before he got to Golgotha Hill?

I think not. Moses might have died after the flogging. I know I would have. ##

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