Recently we met with a group of pastors, to talk – and to listen – on the topic of HOPE Heals (Houses of Prayer Everywhere). They were really helpful. They were not shy. They spoke candidly about the mid-week prayer meeting in their churches.
One described how the Wednesday night group was enthusiastic, though small. One acknowledged that the prayer meeting idea had kind of raveled out at his church and he thought he’d wait and try to resurrect it at some future time. Another said that there were only a few – older folks – coming and when he tried to suggest some ideas to revitalize it they wanted him to leave it alone – so he did. A handful meet on their own as usual. They seem to be happy.
One younger pastor, fairly new to that field raised the issue of a new generation of believers who aren’t really dialed in to a mid-week meeting of any kind. They’re busy; young family; heavy schedule, and it just doesn’t work. He admitted he felt guilty trying to convince them to insert another “meeting” in their week.
It got me thinking. There’s nothing biblical about the church meeting together on Wednesday night. Or any night. The first communion service was held on Thursday evening. The church met to hear Paul preach on a Saturday night. Other than that and the clear record of the New Testament that the church met for worship on the Sabbath there isn’t a lot of counsel on when it ought to meet.
The mid-week prayer meeting is a relatively new idea. It’s mentioned occasionally in the religious history of late 1700’s America. Then in the 1800’s D L Moody held noon-hour prayer meetings in conjunction with his evangelistic campaigns. In 1857 and 1858 an awakening occurred that some would call the Prayer Meeting Revival.
Here’s how it happened. On September 23, 1857, Jeremiah Lamphier launched a weekly noon-hour prayer meeting for businessmen in a third-floor classroom of a church in New York City. No one showed up for the first half hour; six men straggled in to pray the second half hour. Twenty people came to pray the next week; more than thirty attended the weekly prayer meetings the following month.
Secular papers began to publicize what they called the Fulton Street Prayer Meeting late in October. By early November it had become a daily prayer gathering with some 200 people from a wide variety of denominations attending each day. Other prayer meetings sprang up across the city, and by the following April 10,000 people were gathering daily to pray. These developments proved to be so significant that even the secular press began publishing regular updates of the blossoming prayer movement and its spiritual impact on the nation.
Here’s my take-away: It doesn’t matter what we call it or when we schedule it, the fact is that God has never freed us from the assignment that He counts on His church coming together to pray.