RPM, Volume 14, Number 15, April 8 to April 14, 2012

The Power of United Prayer


By   Andrew Murray    


"I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:19-20
One of the first lessons of our Lord in His teaching on prayer was: Not to be seen of men. Enter your closet; be alone with the Father. When He has taught us that the meaning of prayer is personal, individual contact with God, He comes with a second lesson: You not only need secret, solitary prayer, but also public, united prayer. And He gives us a very special promise for the united prayer of two or three who agree in what they ask. As a tree has its roots hidden in the ground and its stem growing up into the sunlight, so prayer needs equally for its full development the hidden secrecy in which the soul meets God alone, and the public fellowship with those who find in the name of Jesus their common meeting place.

The reason why this must be so is plain. The bond that unites a man to his fellow men is no less real and close than that which unites him to God; he is one with them. Grace not only renews our relation to God but also to man. We not only learn to say "My Father," but "Our Father." Nothing would be more unnatural than that the children of a family should always meet their father separately, but never in the united expression of their desires or their love. Believers are not only members of one family, but even of one body. Just as each member of the body depends on the other, and the full action of the spirit dwelling in the body depends on the union and cooperation of all, so Christians cannot reach the full blessing God is ready to bestow through His Spirit unless they seek and receive it in fellowship with each other. It is in the union and fellowship of believers that the Spirit can manifest His full power. It was to the hundred and twenty continuing in one place together, and praying with one accord, that the Spirit came from the throne of the glorified Lord.

The marks of true united prayer are given to us in these words of our Lord:

1. Agreement as to the thing asked.

The first is "agreement" as to the thing asked. There must not only be generally the consent to agree with anything another may ask, there must be some special thing, some matter of distinct united desire; the agreement must be, as all prayer must be, in spirit and in truth. In such agreement it will become very clear to us what exactly we are asking, whether we may confidently ask according to God's will, and whether we are ready to believe that we have received what we ask.

2. Coming together in the Name of Jesus.

The second mark is the coming together in the Name of Jesus. Our Lord teaches us that the Name must be the center of union to which believers gather, the bond of union that makes them one, just as a home contains and unites all who are in it. "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." That Name is such a reality to those who understand and believe it, that to meet within it is to have Himself present. The love and unity of His disciples have infinite attraction for Jesus: "Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." It is the living presence of Jesus, in the fellowship of His loving praying disciples, that gives united prayer its power.

3. The sure answer.

The third mark, is the sure answer: "It will be done for you by my Father." A prayer meeting for maintaining religious fellowship, or seeking our own edification, may have its use; this was not the Savior's view in its design. He meant it as a means of securing special answer to prayer. A prayer meeting without recognized answer to prayer ought to be an exception. When any of us have distinct desires in regard to which we feel too weak to exercise the needful faith, we ought to seek strength in the help of others. In the unity of faith and of love and of the Spirit the power of the Name and the Presence of Jesus acts more freely and the answer comes more surely. The mark that there has been true united prayer is the fruit, the answer, the receiving of the thing we have asked: "I tell you, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."

What an unspeakable privilege of united prayer this is, and what a power it might be. If the believing husband and wife knew that they were joined together in the Name of Jesus to experience His presence and power in united prayer (1 Peter); if friends believed what mighty help two or three praying in concert could give each other; if in every prayer meeting the coming together in the Name, the faith in the Presence, and the expectation of the answer, stood in the foreground; if in every church united effectual prayer were regarded as one of the chief purposes for which they are banded together, the highest exercise of their power as a church; if in the Church Universal the coming of the kingdom, the coming of the King Himself, first in the mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit, then in His own glorious person, were really a matter of unceasing united crying to God--Oh, who can say what blessing might come to, and through, those who thus agreed to prove God in the fulfillment of His promise.

In the Apostle Paul we see very distinctly what a reality his faith in the power of united prayer was. To the Romans he writes (15:30): "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." He expects in answer to prayer to be delivered from his enemies, and to be prospered in his work. To the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:10-11), "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers," their prayer is to have a real share in his deliverance. To the Ephesians he writes: "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel." His power and success in his ministry depends on their prayers. With the Philippians (1:19) he expects that his trials will turn to his salvation and the progress of the gospel "through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ." To the Colossians (4:3) he adds to the injunction to continue steadfast in prayer, "Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message." And to the Thessalonians (2 Thess 3:1-2) he writes: "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men." It is everywhere evident that Paul felt himself the member of a body and that he counted on the prayers of these churches to gain for him what otherwise might not be given. The prayers of the Church were to him as real a factor in the work of the kingdom as the power of God.

Who can say what power a church could develop and exercise if it gave itself to the work of prayer day and night for God's power on His servants and His word, and for the glorifying of God in the salvation of souls? Most churches think their members are gathered into one simply to take care of and build up each other. They do not know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, that by prayer the Church on earth has as its disposal the powers of the heavenly world. They do not remember that Jesus has, by His promise, consecrated every assembly in His Name to be a gate of heaven, where His Presence is to be felt, and His Power experienced in the Father fulfilling their desires.

We cannot sufficiently thank God for the blessed week of united prayer with which Christendom in our days opens every year. As proof of our unity and our faith in the power of united prayer, as a training school for the enlargement of our hearts to take in all the needs of the Church Universal, as a help to united persevering prayer, it is of unspeakable value. But very specially as a stimulus to continued union in prayer in the smaller circles its blessing has been great. And it will become even greater, as God's people recognize what it is, all to meet as one in the Name of Jesus, to have His Presence in the midst of a body all united in the Holy Spirit, and boldly to claim the promise that it shall be done of the Father what they agree to ask.  

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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