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The Ordinary (and Extraordinary) Practice of Communal Prayer


For years, a group of moms would meet at the church I pastored in Michigan to pray.

These moms attended different churches, but their kids went to the same school. They would gather at my church (which was near the kids’ school) each morning, usually before anyone else was there. And they prayed together. We eventually gave them a key.

It didn’t have an immediate impact on me. I’d think it was neat and then move on with my “very important” morning. Yet over time, day after day, I watched these moms gather—no matter what was happening in the world or our churches—and pray. And I came to realize they knew something I didn’t yet: How extraordinary it is to pray together.

We typically reserve communal prayer for Sunday mornings. But here are two truths that should challenge us to push communal prayer beyond that limit.

  1. Community is not just the people we go to church with, but the people God has placed next to us.
  2. Prayer is something Jesus taught us to do and exhorted us to do unceasingly, not just in a church context.

Mash those two truths together, and you get a beautiful picture of how God works in the mundane.

Products of Our Time and Place

We are a highly independent culture. We value our space, privacy, and autonomy. And as a result, we often forget that it takes a village, or community, to see true flourishing. We need the reminder that the good life is one rooted in deep relationships.

All over the world, there are communities of Christians who practice this better than us. I was able to witness this recently. On a Wednesday, during a mission trip to Jamaica, in a half-built church, there we were American and Jamaican Christians, gathered in the heat of the night to pray.

We were singing, dancing, holding candles, and praying. Praying that God would move mightily to bring more people to himself. Praying that this future church would be filled with humble believers. Praying that Jesus would overcome the evil in the community. That night was the best part of the week.

What is Different about Communal Prayer?

Individual prayer is an important, powerful, formative practice. But there is something different about communal prayer. The two work together in our lives and communities, but the Bible reveals unique things that happen when we pray with others:

  • Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there.” What a delightful promise and reminder. God says, “I am there with you when you gather in my name.” Jesus intercedes in our private prayers, yet he promises to be with us in a special way when we are gathered together.
  • In Nehemiah 9, we find the Israelites repenting and confessing, reminding themselves of God’s story through prayer. Our communal prayer expands his redemptive story in ways our private prayers don’t, allowing us to encourage one another and opening our eyes to see what God is doing around us.
  • The book of Acts tells the story of God’s mission to his people as the gospel moves through the world. In Acts 13:1–3, we see a gathering of Jesus’s followers in Antioch who were worshiping and fasting when the Holy Spirit directed them to commission Paul and Barnabas to bring the gospel to the Gentiles as a part of this movement. Our communal prayer unites us on a common mission to see the gospel spread.

What Does Communal Prayer Do?

What’s the impact? What does communal prayer do in our lives? Here are four results of our communal prayer and what it does for our individual and collective faith.

1. Petitions broaden our perspectives.

Group prayer naturally extends our time. Among fellow Christians, we explore a diverse range of global needs. Unique perspectives and concerns emerge, highlighting issues we hadn't thought about alone. This broadens our petitions, embracing more circumstances and people. Our empathy and intercession deepen, unveiling often-overlooked matters.

2. Thanks deepen our appreciation.

When praying together, gratitude gains depth. We aid each other in spotting beauty and grace in unnoticed places. Witnessing others' appreciation for life's small wonders enhances our own. Our gratitude for God's abundant gifts grows, and we discern His touch in life's minutiae. Shared thankfulness becomes a celebration of His goodness, fostering unity and joy.

3. Confessions transform our attitudes.

Praying together confronts our need for repentance through the vulnerability of confession. In this safe space, we are reminded of our imperfections and our eternal need for Christ and forgiveness together. Confession becomes a medium for transformation as we find the courage to confront and address our brokenness, fostering grace and understanding among fellow Christians.

4. Laments strengthen our walks.

Through prayer, we face the challenges of this world together. We provide solace and reassurance that we are not alone in our grief in the darkest of times. Instead, united through the blood of Christ we lean on each other to find strength in our shared journey, knowing that the Holy Spirit guides and uplifts us. We navigate the tumult together, holding onto our shared belief that God’s love and grace will sustain us and bring us comfort.  

It may seem overwhelming, to think about starting to do pray with a group of people. Don’t worry, you already have all the pieces: people around you, prayers to offer God, and a space to do it.

Try inviting two other people into a space and pick something to pray about (you can use the categories above—Petitions, Thanks, Confessions, Laments—as a framework). Then, just pray.


Does prayer feel intimidating? A piece of ancient wisdom may be the key to cultivating a refreshed, rich, pray-filled connection to Jesus in your life. Find out more in this article by Patrick Miller.