When I was in college, I joined the synchronized swimming team. I loved to swim and thought the sport might be a fun, new experience. Over the months of practice, I learned to keep myself afloat with just my hands, to dive without a ripple from the surface of the water, and to turn in graceful spirals while upside-down underwater.
But the skills themselves were not the most difficult part. The greatest challenge was synchronizing myself with my teammates. Sometimes we would have nearly thirty women in the pool, all attempting to do the same thing at the same time. If we oriented ourselves to what we each thought the others were doing, our timing lagged and our formations were skewed. Measuring our movements against other moving people always made practices a disaster, and the coach became understandably frustrated.
But if we all paid attention to fixed markers outside of us—the beats of the music and our place in the pool—we ended up perfectly aligned and received the applause of our coach.
Agreeing with Jesus
So, too, when we pray together, we can only be agreed when we orient our desires toward something outside ourselves. The unmoved and unmoving reference point for our gathered prayers is not a physical location (Christians have neither Mecca nor temple) but a person.
We unite in Jesus’s name—through his merit, at his bidding, under his authority—and with the assurance of his presence. Abiding in him and meditating on his Word (John 15:7), we bring our hearts into agreement with Christ. Like swimmers in a pool, aligning our requests to Christ causes to agree with one another and allows our united prayer to receive the Father’s affirmation.
This is what Jesus promises in Matt. 18:19-20: “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.”
Agreeing with One Another
This promise here appears in the primary context of church discipline, but we can also make a secondary application to prayer. Here, Christ promises to be with us, and the Father promises to answer us when we pray together. The glorious theme of this passage is agreement: the assembled believers agree with Christ (“for where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them”); the believers agree with one another (“if two of you agree”); and the Father agrees with their united prayer (“it will be done for them by my Father in heaven”). Like strands of a rope, these three threads of agreement are inseparable.
Tertullian called praying together “a holy conspiracy,” and so it is. With humility and thanksgiving, we conspire together with one another and with Christ to approach the Father.
Even the tiniest group has Christ’s promise of fellowship: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matt. 18:20). We gather in his name, with his brothers, proclaiming his praises, and asking for things that please him. Then, by his Spirit, he will be there too. When a handful of people pray together, Jesus will attend every time. And the Father will not deny the requests of a prayer meeting where Christ is also praying.
Our prayer meetings have the power of Christ’s presence and of his intercession so that anything that pleases Christ, anything that fulfills his purpose, anything that glorifies him, anything he commands or promises or loves, we ask with one voice together with Christ in confident expectation that the Father will answer.
Brothers and sisters, how could we stay away?
Megan Hill is a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter who has spent her life praying with others. She serves on the editorial board for Christianity Today and is a regular contributor to Her.meneutics and the Gospel Coalition. This excerpt is adapted from her new book, Praying Together, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
Publication date: April 11, 2016