It was a case of serendipitous timing, at least from my perspective. I began to read Praying Together just as our church began its annual week of prayer, a week of nightly prayer meetings. And really, the timing couldn’t have worked out better. We gathered night by night to confess our sins, to express our gratitude, to ask God to save his people, to seek his favor on our church, to ask him to expand his work across our city and our world, and even to plead for an increase of our delight in him. And while we did all of this, I was challenged by Megan Hill on the beauty, the necessity, and the sheer goodness of praying together.
I try to read at least one good book on prayer every year. Of course, I already know a fair bit about prayer. I make time to pray every day, I believe what the Bible says, I have a well-formed theology of prayer—but I still find it difficult to pray. I am still a student, perhaps even an elementary-level student, in the school of prayer. And while I’ve read many books on the subject, this is the first I’ve read on praying together. “This book is a call to each one of us to consider the praying together we have done and are doing and hope to do: the childhood dinner-time prayers, the youth-group prayer vigils, the spontaneous prayer in dorm rooms and parking lots and at the back of the church, the planned prayer during Bible studies and prayer meetings and in the Lord’s Day worship service. … This book is a call to pray together and to keep praying together with renewed energy.”
It is divided into three parts. In the first, Hill lays the foundations of praying together, telling why we ought to pray not only as individuals but as couples, families, friends, and congregations. In the second part, The Fruits of Praying Together, she offers “a vision for what God says he does when we pray together and what he has done in the past when his people gathered before his throne. Both are glorious motivations for the work.” Then, at last, in The Practice of Praying Together, she explores the nuts and bolts of group prayer. She shows what this can look like for college students gathering in their dorms, families gathering around the dinner table, and churches gathering on Wednesday evenings. “It is my own prayer,” she says, “that the people of Christ’s church would again be like those saints of old who ‘devoted themselves to … the prayers’ (Acts 2:42).”
What Hill teaches is sound, biblical, and challenging throughout. Of course the book’s unique value is largely in its second half, for this is where she turns her attention from praying to praying together. She teaches the value of praying with the assembled congregation and argues for two things: substantial, elder-led prayer as a vital component of corporate worship and regular, public prayer meetings as a vital component of church life. Sadly, both have fallen out of favor in recent years. The pastoral prayer has too often been reduced to a quick checklist of requests while the prayer meeting has been displaced by more attractive programs. She also teaches the value of praying with prayer partners and groups—communities of prayer that can be large or small, formal or informal. And then she teaches the necessity of praying with family and guests, to have homes that are bathed in prayer. It is thorough, it is biblical, it is deeply challenging.
Here is something I’ve long observed: Every Christian wants to be part of a church that prays, but few Christians are willing to commit themselves to the work of prayer. Every Christian wants to be part of a prayerful congregation, but most are willing to let others be the ones who pray. Hill calls for every church, every church member, and every individual Christian to be praying together—together with the congregation, with friends, with family, with guests. Praying together (and Praying Together) is for you and for me and for all of us.
All who belong to Jesus, come and join us. You who are male and female, come. You adults and children, come. Invite the millennials—and the amillennials and premillennials too. Come, you who struggle to buy gas for your car, and you whose car uses no gas at all. Come, you who oversee charities and fund ministries, come sit beside this one whose mind and body are passing away but whose soul never will. Come together to this great privilege, this heavenly gathering, this means of grace, this vital task. Come. Brothers and sisters, let us pray.