This article gives twelve purposes of prayer meetings and eight ways of implementing prayer meetings.

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2004. 5 pages.

The Purposes and Implementation of Prayer Meetings

According to John Brown of Haddington, prayer and fellowship meetings serve the following purposes:

  1. To promote and increase the knowledge of the truths, ordinances, and works of God (Col. 3:16; Ps. 111:2).
  2. To express and exercise mutual sympathy among the members (Rom. 15:1-2; Gal. 6:2).
  3. To provoke and encourage one another to holiness and virtue, in all manner of conversation (Heb.10:24-25; Eph. 4:15-16).
  4. To communicate one another’s gifts and graces to mutual edification (1 Pet. 4:10; Eph. 4:12-13).
  5. To render (members to be) faithful and friendly watchers, counselors, and reprovers of one another (1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 3:13; 10:24).
  6. That (the members) may join together in prayer, praise, and other spiritual exercises (Matt. 18:19- 20).1
    Brown’s list summarizes the scriptural foundation of prayer meetings. There are additional purposes for prayer meetings:
  7. Praying together is often the means God uses to initiate or increase revival.
  8. Praying together increases the commitment of believers to the kingdom of Jesus Christ at home, throughout the nation, and around the world.
  9. Praying together provides an important spiritual oasis in a busy week. R. J. George writes, “It comes midway between the Sabbaths to arrest the rushing tide of worldliness, and to draw the Christian apart from the exacting cares of this earthly life; and it makes him “to sit in the heavenly places with Christ.”2Prayer meetings cultivate a tender, devotional spirit, as well as quiet, inner strength in the midst of trials.3
  10. Praying together increases unity in the church. As Johnston says, at prayer meetings, “unity has its birth-place; here it is cradled; here it is trained; here it becomes a three-fold cord; here is the centre of the unity of the church; for here is the soil — the genial soil beside the waters — where unity strikes deeply its roots, and whence it draws its life-power to bind together in comely brotherhood.”4Peter Masters puts it this way: “In the prayer gathering, preoccupation with ourselves as individual believers slips away, and we become a group of people longing for the blessing of others, and for the prosperity of the cause. In the prayer gathering we are refined and honed as a united body of people. It cements unions, and promotes respect. We hear each other pray; we subordinate ourselves to each other; we appreciate each other. We feel, as the old saying goes, one another’s spirits, and we are warmed and deepened in oneness and regard. To adopt a well-worn phrase, the church that prays together, stays together.”5
  11. Praying together utilizes the spiritual life of the church for the good of all the church’s ministries. When members are called to exercise their Spirit-empowered gifts in prayer, the spiritual power generated from the prayer meeting pervades all of the other ministries of the church. Thus, the prayer meeting serves as an important connecting link between the Spirit’s power and human instrumentality.6
  12. Praying together increases the Christ-centeredness of believers. David Bryant writes, “Prayerfulness is the natural response of a heart that is fully caught up in all Christ is to us and for us, over us and within us, through us and before us and upon us. Christ defines our agenda in prayer. Christ opens up the door to heaven to present our prayers. Christ gives us unity in himself even as we pray. Christ is the ultimate answer to all our prayers. In other words, prayer and the supremacy of Christ must forever walk together.”7
  13. Praying together provides an education in prayer for the entire church. Believers grow in the gift of prayer as they hear others pray. They learn to appreciate specificity in prayer, passionate pleading, Christ-centered wrestling, and fresh modes of expression. Iron sharpens iron. Young believers learn from older ones, and older believers are encouraged by the sincere petitions of the younger.8
  14. Praying together demonstrates our complete dependence upon God’s sovereign power and gracious blessing for all His ministries and all our work in His church and kingdom. It is a corporate recognition that without Christ we can do nothing and that with Him we have large expectations. Praying together helps us turn our eyes heavenward to the God of the harvest who has promised great things. It focuses our minds on large-scale blessings.9

Implementing Prayer Meetings🔗

Here is a suggested order and time schedule for a con­gregational prayer meeting:

A consistory-appointed leader opens the meeting with the singing of a fitting Psalm, a short Scripture reading, and a short meditation packed with succinct, heart-warming truth, designed to awaken the lethargic and to edify the spiritually hungry. George advises, “Aim to have the remarks practical, experimental, and devotional, rather than doctrinal or controversial.”10The entire opening, including the meditation, should not exceed fifteen minutes. The leader should normally speak the meditation in his own words, though he may on occasion choose to read some edifying com­ments by a biblical author.

For the next five minutes, the leader collects prayer requests. These should focus on the glory of God and the coming of His kingdom. They may include prayers for the needs of church individuals and families, specific churches, one’s denomination, the nation, evangelistic endeavors, or a church ministry. The leader then reads the list and encourages people to pray without lengthy pauses and with sufficient volume so others can hear.11Private or trivial prayer requests should be avoided at a public gathering. Nothing can dampen a prayer meeting so quickly as long pauses, inaudible prayers, and trivial requests.

People should be reminded that all prayer needs the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Prayer should be offered in the right spirit: humble repentance, humble confession, humble petition, humble earnestness, humble thanksgiving, and humble praise. And all prayer should be uttered in the name of Jesus Christ, outside of whom no prayer is truly answered.

After about an hour, the pastor or leader should close with prayer. If the period of silence after a given prayer becomes excessively long, the leader may choose to end the meeting a bit sooner. The meeting could conclude with the singing of another Psalm or doxology.

Suggested rules and practical guidelines🔗

  1. The consistory should supervise the gatherings and select the person who shall lead the opening devotion for each meeting. A subcommittee could be appointed to implement the prayer meetings, but the consistory should retain the final word.
  2. The consistory should provide church members with guidelines for prayer meetings. Those guidelines should include a short list of the purposes of prayer meet­ings. The document should encourage the entire congregation — including children — to attend these prayer meetings.
  3. The consistory should stress that only professing members of the congregation may lead the gatherings and pray aloud at them. That will prevent problems that could arise if visitors pray without knowing the guidelines of the meetings.
  4. The location, time, and other specifics of prayer meetings should be clear. These details should be printed in the bulletin. The pastor should pray for them regularly from the pulpit, emphasizing their importance to the congregation. He should regularly and warmly encourage the entire flock to attend these meetings, elevating them above every other church activity and ministry. These meetings could be held in various places in the church, providing the acoustics are good and the seats are comfortable. If a microphone is used, people should be told how close it should be held to the mouth.
  5. People should have a humble and affectionate manner towards each other throughout the meeting. That means avoiding issues, questions, or controversial expressions in prayer, as well as terms that are difficult for the average member to understand. Prayer time should not be used to preach or explain doctrine or correct someone. A prayer meeting is not the place to debate or argue. Prayer meetings are only edifying when they focus on common prayer needs.
  6. People should pray for things great and small. They should pray for the glory of God, the growth of His people, the conversion of sinners, and worldwide revival. They should pray for their ministers and missionaries and theological students to be anointed by the Holy Spirit, for their office-bearers to be faithful, for the church to live in unity and peace, and for every church ministry and outreach to flourish and bear fruit a hundredfold. They should pray for the elderly, the lonely, the sick, and the youth. They should pray for troubled marriages, broken families, and prodigal sons and daughters. They should pray for govern­mental leaders, for the forsaking of national sins such as abortion and Sabbath-breaking, and for a return of biblical truth and morality in the land. But they should also pray for smaller, personal prayer requests, focusing on one or two of them — preferably those that have not yet been addressed — so that their prayers, as a general rule, do not exceed five minutes. Those who are prayed for should be mentioned by name. Their specific needs should be addressed, much as Paul did in Romans 16 and in other epistles.12
  7. People in a congregation have various gifts. At a prayer meeting, they should remember that God does not value prayer according to how eloquent or skillful they are, but rather, according to the heart. No person should be reproved for halting or stumbling in prayer. Rather, we ought to bear with each other’s weaknesses.
  8. People ought to pray privately prior to these meetings for the blessing of the Holy Spirit. They ought to ask God for the blessing of Spirit-wrought, Scripture-based revival. As Spurgeon said, “Let us not waver through unbelief, or we shall pray in vain. The Lord saith to his church, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it’ ... We want a revival of old-fashioned doctrine, a revival of personal godliness, a revival of domestic religion, a revival of vigorous consecrated strength.”13


Erroll Hulse writes, You can tell with a fair degree of accuracy what the church is like by the demeanor or substance of the weekly prayer meeting. Is there genuine evangelistic concern? If so, it will be expressed in the prayers. Is there a heartfelt longing for the conversion of unconverted family members? If so, that is sure to surface. Is there a world vision and a fervent desire for revival and the glory of our Redeemer among the nations of the world? Such a burden cannot be suppressed. Is there a heart agony about famine and war and the need for the gospel of peace among the suffering multitudes of mankind? The church prayer meeting will answer that question. Intercession in the prayer meeting will soon reveal a loving church that cares for those who are oppressed and weighed down with trials and burdens. Those bearing trials too painful or personal to be described in public will nevertheless find comfort in the prayer meeting, for there the Holy Spirit is especially at work.14

Edwin Hatfield concluded his sermon on prayer meetings by saying that those who conscientiously and habitually participate in them usually “experience more sweet and pure delight in (their) very exercise,” “grow more rapidly and steadily in grace,” “become the most devotional, active and useful Christians,” and “become the life and soul, as it were, of the Church.”15What about you? Is that not what you want to be?

Do you support your church’s prayer meetings with secret prayer and with your presence? Have you grasped their purposes and value? Do you agree with Matthew Henry who said, “When God designs mercy, He stirs up prayer”? Do you believe that God is sovereignly pleased to tie together revival and prayer? Do you understand that the success of your minister and missionaries is intimately bound up with your prayers?

Do you realize the value of attending the prayer meeting together as a family — the value of teaching your children verbally and by example that just as your own family is bonded together by praying together, so the church family grows and stays together by praying together? Teach your children that, beside the actual worship services on Sunday, no church activity is so important as the congregational prayer meeting. Train them to know that true Christians — not politicians or the worldly powers that be — hold the key to the future of the family, the church, and the nation through the instrumentality of private and corporate prayer.

If every God-fearing family in every God-honoring church around the world took the congregational prayer meeting seriously, what impact would that have around the globe? If God agrees to do what two or three ask in accord with His will, what will He do if thousands and millions ask in accord with His will? I believe that Scripture and church history teaches us that the future of our children, our family, our church, and our nations depends on God’s people storming the mercy seat together. Prayer is the normal means that God uses to shower His heavenly blessings upon the earth.

If your minister were to announce that at your forthcoming prayer meeting, the apostle Paul would appear, the entire congregation would attend. That, of course, will not happen, but something more important will: the Lord Jesus Christ will be there. He is the silent and yet not silent guest at every prayer meeting where two or three are gathered in His Name. He promises not to miss one. He will hear every lisping prayer. He takes them all to heart.

We customarily record our appointments on our calendar. Will you not mark your church prayer meetings on your calendar as engagements of the highest priority for your entire family? Will you not prepare for them, and try to bring a friend or two with you?

In Hints and Thoughts for Christians, the nineteenth-century pastor John Todd wrote two chapters titled, “How to Make Our Prayer Meetings Dull” and “How to Make Our Prayer Meeting Interesting.” To make a prayer session dull, he, in effect, says: “Suppose the meeting is tonight. Don’t pray about it today. Try to find some excuse for staying away. Are you not very tired? Aren’t you coming down with a cold? If you do go, arrive late. Feel no responsibility to pray. If you do pray, see how long you can be. The world is full of things that need prayer. Bring them all in. Or else, use your prayer time to scold those who are present. Then, after the meeting, criticize in the presence of your family those who prayed.”

Making the meeting interesting takes more work. Here’s a summary of what Todd suggests,

Let the prayer meeting live in your heart. Consider a Scripture or a thought or two that can be profitably offered up in prayer. Pray for the meeting in your family worship. Pray that Christ will be manifested in the meeting. Pray that the Holy Spirit may be present to warm, cheer, and animate every heart. Feel responsible for it. Make it a solemn duty, a habit, and a privilege to be there. Above all, pray at the meeting. Participate. Let your prayer be short and diverse. Don’t harp on one string. Avoid praying for that which has already been mentioned. Be hopeful and expectant; believe Christ when He promises to be in the midst of even two or three gathered in His name.16

Dear friends, let us treasure prayer meetings. Let us engage in them with all our heart, remembering that revivals usually begin with prayer meetings. As one divine put it, “The Holy Spirit loves to answer petitions that are appended with many signatures.”

Let us keep praying. Let us pray without ceasing. God is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Who can tell what He will do?


  1. ^  Brown, Christian Journal, 18-19.
  2. ^  R. J. George, Lectures in Pastoral Theology, Second Series: Pastor and People (New York: Christian Nation, 1914), 30.
  3. ^  Thompson, The Prayer-Meeting and Its Improvement, 19, 27.
  4. ^ Johnston, The Prayer-Meeting, and Its History, 77.
  5. ^ The Power of the Prayer Meeting, 15-16.
  6. ^ George, Lectures in Pastoral Theology, Second Series: Pastor and People, 30-31.
  7. ^  Edwards, A Call to United, Extraordinary Prayer, 24.
  8. ^ The Power of the Prayer Meeting, 16.
  9. ^ Ibid., 15.
  10. ^  George, Lectures in Pastoral Theology, Second Series: Pastor and People, 39.
  11. ^ Spurgeon, Only a Prayer-meeting, 20.
  12. ^  Erroll Hulse, “A Lively and Edifying Prayer Meeting,” Reforma­tion Today, no. 95 (Jan-Feb 1987):22.
  13. ^  Spurgeon, Only a Prayer-meeting, 9.
  14. ^  “The Vital Place of the Prayer Meeting” (Pensacola, Fla.: Chapel Library, n.d.), tract-3, opening page.
  15. ^ “The Social Prayer-Meeting,” in The American National Preacher 8, 18 (1844):177-80.
  16. ^  Hints and Thoughts for Christians (New York: American Tract Soci­ety, 1867), 99-110.

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