One of the biggest questions that I keep being asked by people across Everyday Church right now is: What is God teaching us as a church through Covid-19? The past few months of not being permitted to meet together in person have been so difficult for many of us that it’s only natural for us to find ourselves grappling to find clear meaning to this season. As leaders, we have spent lockdown seeking God like never before, asking the Lord to reveal what he is trying to say to us as a church through Covid-19. We are therefore going to post a few thoughts over the next few weeks, but we don’t claim to be the only ones who can answer this question. If you are part of Everyday Church and you sense something that God has been saying to you then you can write a blog in this series too. It’s called Everyday Voices (plural) for a reason! Today, I want to start with what I believe God is teaching us about corporate prayer.
Last Sunday, we thanked Muriel Martin for leading a corporate prayer meeting for the past 16 years. What a hero in the Everyday Church family! Muriel has long understood the importance of corporate prayer – that is, of us praying together. She has not only modelled this for us by leading our lunchtime prayer times every Wednesday for 16 years, but she has also been praying in the background for us to understand more widely across the church what she has understood about corporate prayer.
It isn’t that we haven’t understood this in the past. It’s just that it’s so easy for us to become busy with other things. We’ve been praying by ourselves each day, but we’ve looked at our busy church diary and we’ve concluded that there simply isn’t time and space for daily, sustained corporate prayer. That’s one of the things that I believe God has wanted to rectify through the coronavirus lockdown. As so many of our church meetings were swept from the diary, we found the space to orchestrate a daily prayer gathering on Zoom every day. As we have met this way, day in and day out, for seven months, we have discovered some of the enormous value of corporate prayer. It’s as if Muriel’s prayers have finally been answered!
Praying together helps us to pray better. I have been praying by myself for many years but, if I’m honest, I have good days and bad days. There are days when prayer gets crowded out of my agenda, and there are days when I make the time to pray but find myself struggling to know what to pray for and to have the energy to pray for it. That’s been one of the biggest highlights for me about beginning my day for the past seven months with dozens of other people from across the Everyday Church family. There are days when I know what to pray for and I am full of energy to pray for it – on those days I can help my brothers and sisters to pray better. There are days when I’m tired, confused and flagging in my prayers – on those days I find that my brothers and sisters lift my spirit and help me to pray better. Even the great church leader Martin Luther discovered this to be true. He observed that “At home in my own house there is no warmth or vigour in me, but in the church, when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”
Praying together helps us to receive answers to our prayers. A loving husband will always answer his beloved wife’s requests, but we are not the Bride of Jesus as individuals. We are the Bride of Jesus as a church family. That’s why Jesus tells us that, while our prayers as individuals are powerful, there is an added power that comes when we gather together for corporate, united prayer together. He tells us in Matthew 18:19-20 that “I give you an eternal truth: If two of you agree to ask God for something in a symphony of prayer, my heavenly Father will do it for you. For wherever two or three come together in honour of my name, I am right there with them!” (the Passion paraphrase).
Prayer together helps us to experience the presence of God as we pray. Those two verses in Matthew aren’t just about answered prayers. They are also about experiencing the presence of God while we pray. If you had told me at the start of lockdown that I would sense the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit whilst sitting in front of my computer screen during a Zoom call with some church friends, I would probably never have believed you – but that’s precisely what happened to me this week as Mauro and Alice led us all in prayer. Our corporate prayer gatherings during lockdown have helped me to see why the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is preceded by a statement that “They were all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14).
Prayer together helps us to experience breakthroughs in spiritual warfare. I am trying to keep a record of some of the answers that we have received from God to our prayers together during lockdown. Some we are aware of already, while others are still works in progress, but we are definitely growing in our awareness of Deuteronomy 32:30 – that one person who prays can put a thousand demons to flight, but that two people who pray together can put ten thousand demons to flight. Did you get that? Two thousand between them if they pray on their own, but ten thousand between them if they pray together!
Lastly, prayer together helps us to come to unity together as a church family. I have lost count of the times that those who have joined us for our corporate prayer meetings during lockdown have remarked to me that “I feel more connected to church now than I did when we were able to meet together in person!” I can personally testify that this is definitely true. There’s nothing like praying together to unite brothers and sisters together from every venue of Everyday Church in London, and from our international online congregation too.
Now I wouldn’t want to suggest that our church Prayer Room on Zoom is the only way that we can do all this. I know that many people are meeting up to pray in many other ways too. Even as I write this blog, I can hear my wife Ruth on a Whatsapp video call praying with one of her friends from her Life Group. Corporate prayer is happening everywhere! But the Prayer Room on Zoom is a direct result of lockdown and it remains one of the easiest ways for you to join us in corporate prayer. You can join us at:
8:00-8:30am every single morning – this is our easiest prayer time for you to join, because it’s short and there are lots of us there. You can blend into the crowd and get caught up in our prayers.
1:00-2:00pm every Wednesday – this is a longer time of prayer where we have greater opportunity to spend time listening to God and leading our prayers off in different directions as he leads. It is also one of the easiest prayer times for anyone to join us. We’ve scheduled it to allow office workers to join us during their lunchbreak, for people working from home to fit it into their diary, for stay-at-home parents to join us before school pick-up time, and for retired people to join us and to train a younger generation in how to pray. Oh, and although it’s an hour, you are welcome to drop in and out for less than than that if you’re having a busy day. Just come for as much or as little as can.
8:00-9:15pm on the first Sunday evening of each month – this is our ASK prayer meeting, where we Ask, Seek and Knock on heaven’s door together. We have live worship and an opportunity for people to prophesy so that we can sense together what God is saying to us as a church. It is also the place where most of our important church news is shared. Our next ASK prayer meetings on Zoom are on 1st November, 6th December and 3rd January.
Whenever else you want to gather! – the fourth time that you can join us is perhaps the most exciting of them all. We have set up the Prayer Room on Zoom as a 24/7 meeting place so that if anybody in the church wants to gather with some friends to pray then they can use this space to do so. We would love to have a group of early birds gathering to pray together long before the 8am crew arrive, or a group of night owls gathering to pray together late at night while many others are in bed. We have set up a few prayer times as leaders, but this is our space as a church to use together. So, if you would like to use the Prayer Room on Zoom at other times, then you are really welcome. Just tell your friends to meet you there, and let us know if you would like us to advertise your new time a bit more widely.
The Prayer Room on Zoom is meeting ID: 972 4867 2336. If you need to know the passcode, just ask your Life Group Leader or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you there!
[All times are UK times, but we have people join us from all around the world. Wherever you live, we would love to include you in our Everyday Church Prayer Room on Zoom!]