As a young Christian, I took Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6:6 to pray in secret literally. But the translation of the Bible I read at the time was the King James Version, which said, “enter into thy closet and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.” I took that literally so I went into my bedroom, climbed into my messy closet, and prayed in the dark!
However, Jesus’ teaching did not forbid public prayer. The plural wording of the Lord’s Prayer (“our Father,” “our daily bread,” “our debts”) implies corporate prayer (Matt. 6:9, 11, 12). After His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promised Holy Spirit (v. 4). Verse 14 tells us how Jesus’ followers occupied themselves during this waiting period when it says that they “all joined together constantly in prayer.”
Although we do not have a record of what they prayed for, Luke provides two important details. Believers not only prayed in private but also prayed publicly together. The fact that they “joined together” shows that this was corporate prayer. Luke also implies that the disciples did this over a prolonged period when he says they prayed “constantly.” Perhaps the disciples attended regularly scheduled prayer services at the temple during this waiting period. But they also met for prayer in the upstairs room of the home where they were staying (v. 13). There were no church buildings to meet in at that time. Corporate prayer builds church unity and helps its members get to know one another. It is also a good way to teach new believers how to pray. If you feel nervous about praying in public, you might begin by listening and agreeing silently as others pray aloud.
>> Corporate prayer does not have to take place in a church. You can pray with your family at
mealtimes or invite friends to your house. Have someone begin and close the time with an
“Amen” or Scripture verse.
Lord, the difficulty with corporate prayer is that we often get distracted, wondering how our prayers sound to others. Help us focus on You, even when others are listening.