Hill, Megan. Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016. 158 pages. $12.99.
I was thirteen when my family started attending church, and my parents went all-in. We didn’t just go to church on Sunday mornings, but on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights as well. Wednesday nights were church-wide prayer services. You were handed a prayer list when you entered, and then my pastor would take prayer requests. After everyone was done sharing, several people would pray out loud, and then the pastor would share a short message.
I still remember how much I disliked those prayer services at first. Sometimes people shared meaningful requests, but sometimes their requests were trivial or barely disguised gossip. I didn’t know any of the names on the prayer list. I was scared that someone would ask me to pray out loud. When some of the people prayed they rambled and seemed to pray for everything they could think of. Most of the other people there were much older than me, and I couldn’t help but notice that most of our church didn’t come.
After a few months, though, I started to connect with others in the service. I began to care about what was happening in their lives, and I noticed that they seemed to care about what was happening in mine. When I got saved these saints were more excited than anyone else at my church, and many of them took time to encourage me. As I began to figure out what prayer was and why it was important, I realized that I had learned how to talk to God by hearing them do it. Praise God my parents made me go and keep going! Few things have been more formative in my life than those Wednesday night prayer services.
Megan Hill recounts a similar experience in Praying Together. She grew up as a pastor’s daughter, attending prayer services for as long as she could remember. As a college student looking for a new church she walked into a prayer meeting where she was the youngest person by about fifteen years. What could she possibly have in common with all these people? Yet corporate prayer, pouring their hearts out together before God, drew her into that group. Her experience led her to write this book on what corporate prayer is, why it is so important, and how we can do it.
Hill’s book is divided into three parts. In Part 1 she lays out the biblical foundations of corporate prayer. She explains how prayer is based on a relationship with a Trinitarian God who draws us not only into a relationship with himself, but into relationships with other believers. Praying with others believers is a duty, but also a way God accomplishes his purposes. Part 2 explores what God does in our lives through corporate prayer: increasing our love for others, discipling us so we know how to pray, and accomplishing revival. Part 3 explores how we can pray together as churches, families, and friends.
We have a tendency to individualize our relationships with God, including prayer. We think that as long as we pray privately that is enough. Corporate prayer, like a lot things in church life, can be awkward, boring, or messy. It requires us to open ourselves up, to submit ourselves to others, to care about people and things we might not otherwise care about. So many of us don’t do it, and we miss out on all the things God wants to do in our lives, in our churches, and in the world through the unified prayers of his people. Corporate prayer is something that we are supposed to do and need to do. Hill’s book is a great reminder of why that is and how we can do it.