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Corporate prayer is like digging a ditch

My friend Mike Betts has written a new book on corporate prayer. I’ve had the privilege of helping out a bit with it. It’s there to give a little bit of weight to our prayer initiative which I encourage you to check out and to consider joining in with. The next prayer night is the 15th November and the book is being launched to coincide with that. So this week I’ll be sharing some brief extracts from the book in the lead up to the launch.

Mike opens the book with a reflection on the story of three kings going to war and calling on the prophet Elisha.

He said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley full of trenches.”For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts.This is but as light thing in the sight of the Lord.

2 Kings 3:16-18 (NASV)

The world we live in can easily cause us to lose our focus on God. It is so vital that as we gather to pray and seek God that we come with worshipping hearts. Worship is vital in the context of prayer. We must not separate worship from prayer. Often in meetings that we call ‘prayer meetings’ we will find much greater unction (which is a great old word for zeal and passion) in our prayers together, when we have said, as Elisha did, ‘bring us a minstrel’.

I can you hear thinking, ‘I thought this book was about prayer’ but if in prayer we want to hear the voice of God for the urgent matters of our day, it is so important that our focus is not on those urgent matters but on God – that we come acknowledging His Lordship, His Sovereignty and His majesty. Having a prayer meeting well served by capable musicians is in my view vital to all else that happens. I wonder what Elisha would have done if the ‘minstrel’ had not been there? As we together figuratively cry out ‘bring us a minstrel’ something changes in our perspective and faith rises. Before lifting up our voices together in prayer, we lift them up together in praise. It is a great perspective changer vital to fervent, believing, collective prayer.

An army in a desert without water is an army in trouble. The food (cows, sheep & goats) would die of thirst and the soldiers would be weak and vulnerable. So the problem these three armies have, before they even face Moab in battle, is that they have no water. Elisha says “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley full of trenches.’

They were to prepare for God to move by digging trenches in a flatbed valley so that when God brought water all was in place for his activity to be effective. Elisha was saying ‘you have to do something in preparation for when God moves’. This is exactly what corporate prayer is like. It is preparing for a move of God.

Let the image shape our thinking regarding collective prayer. Prayer, like digging a ditch, requires significant effort. It is hard work. It is about turning up at the prayer meeting after a hard day at work. It is walking out the house at some unearthly hour in the morning when it is cold dark and you can hardly remember your name let alone focus on eloquent prayers. It is giving the half night of prayer, it is raising a sweat figuratively and saying in effect ‘God as we are digging these ditches in prayer we trust you that you are going to fill them up with water!’ If God said to us, ‘dig some ditches and I will move in revival power across your nation’, my guess is that though it would be hard work, we would do it because of his promise. We have the equivalent promises with regard to our effort in corporate prayer.

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