In recent weeks, I’ve been working with my children on how to be more than one-dimensional in their prayer life. It’s really easy to fall into ruts when we pray. At times, we learn specific prayers and we repeat them over and over to the point that they become a mantra rather than an actual prayer. It’s important to realize that we should focus on people and upon God in our prayer. We would be wise to make requests and provide praises.
The Horizontal Prayer
As we look into the early church from Acts 2:42-47, we see that immediately they are gathered under the preaching of the Word and prayer. They prayed together and they prayed for one another. We can see later as Peter was imprisoned, the church was gathered together praying for Peter (Acts 12:6-19). It’s healthy for the church to pray for one another’s needs.
In the early church context, it was difficult and dangerous to follow Jesus. The church understood the importance of praying for the physical and spiritual needs of one another. The horizontal aspect of prayer has always been important among God’s people, and it’s vitally important today as well. We must not neglect praying for one another.
Consider the needs of the church:
- Are you praying for your pastors and deacons?
- Are you praying for the church’s missions ministries?
- Are you praying for the church’s discipleship ministries?
- Are you praying for the poor in your community?
- Are you praying for the sick among your church family?
- Are you praying for the salvation of the children of your church?
- Are you praying for the growth of the church spiritually and numerically?
The Vertical Prayer
Have you taken a look at the prayer sheet for your church in recent days? What does it look like? How much of your church’s prayer sheet is focused upon the attributes of God? Is there any point on the prayer sheet where the church is directed to praise God? It’s really easy to turn your church’s prayer meeting into a time where people only ask God to heal physical problems. There’s more to praying than asking God to heal uncle Joe’s bad back.
I’ve been instructing my children to spend time praying for others, but to finish by choosing one important thing about God and take time to not only recognize it, but to praise Him. In one prayer, it’s possible to end by spending some time focused on God’s mercy and praising Him for being a God of mercy. On another occasion, we could end our time of prayer by focusing on God’s justice and praising God for His promise to judge the lawless.
We need set times where we simply focus on God and praise Him for who He is, what He has already done, and what He promises to do in the future.
Consider the benefits of such praying:
- It’s edifying to be comforted by God’s attributes. Especially the attributes that are not communicable.
- It’s educational to spend time considering the bigness of God’s power and love.
- It’s worshipful to focus on God as He has identified Himself to us in Scripture — the Triune God who saves sinners.
- It’s joyful to look into God’s justice and have confidence that He will one day judge with righteous judgment.
Consider the words of J.C. Rye regarding prayer:
Prayer is the mightiest weapon that God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet that God commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry He has promised always to listen to, just as a loving mother listens attentively to the voice of her child. 
Prayer is one of the easiest areas of the Christian life to neglect, but it’s one of the greatest privileges that we possess as children of God. We would be wise to develop strong praying families who in turn make up strong praying churches.
- J.C. Ryle, The Duties of Parents.