If we intend to have a prayer group and believe that the group will benefit us (and the kingdom of God), especially in regard to united prayer, then we need to find and hold to Biblical principles concerning groups. Matthew 18:19-20 I think is a good passage to consider. We will give our attention now to this passage.
When we consider these verses we must make note, first of all, that according to the context, the agreeing talked about here is by the church members and it is for the purpose of expelling one who has refused to repent of sin. This is the whole reason for the coming together to pray in His name.
But it seems to me that this principle of agreeing in prayer extends beyond church discipline; for verse 19 says, “…that if two of you agree on earth about anything…”
According to Wesley Duewel’s study on this passage, the agreeing and praying together “…is for every practical matter of kingdom business.” Here, Duewel notes that “Jesus used the Greek word pragma, from which we get our word pragmatic.” Hence, he translates it to mean “every practical matter.”
Jesus is not inventing a new truth here for only the problem of church discipline. Jesus has taken a well known kingdom principle, the principle of gathering and praying in His name, and has applied it to this problem of church discipline. Therefore, this principle of prayer in His name, which includes agreeing in prayer, is applicable to all our needs, and Jesus uses it here for this need of discipline.
As we approach the truths of these two verses, we will first discuss the key to united prayer, which is to pray in His name. Next, we will discuss what happens when we pray in His name—mainly that Jesus’ presence will be there with us as we pray. Third, we will discuss how the Holy Spirit moves us together and causes us to agree.
Praying in Jesus’ name (“where two or three are gathered together in My name”). The act of gathering together and praying in Jesus’ name is the key to finding unity in prayer. We could say that it opens the door to all else that is necessary to finding it.
Now this is what it means to gather and pray in his name: first of all, it means that we gather as true Christians who bear His name and who represent Him. This infers that we must represent Him well, that we must surrender our will and our identity and choose His will and pray according to His will.
Secondly, it means that we are giving God charge over us, that we are placing Him as the head over us.
Thirdly, in addition to representing Him and surrendering our wills to Him, gathering and praying in His name also means to live and pray in harmony with His Spirit—which is to make every effort to develop a love relationship with Him, for we are His bride, and He is our loving Husband. Likewise, when we pray in the name of Christ we are, in fact, declaring that we are His and He is ours. Moreover, all that is His we can claim as ours because we are His bride and we share His name (Gal. 4:7). And it is also true that because we are His bride, all that we are and all that we have is His.
Claiming His presence (“I am there in the midst of them”). Praying in His name will guarantee for your group that His powerful, gracious, and glorious presence will come into your group. Yes, He will manifest Himself in such a way that you will have no doubt that Jesus was there. He will make Himself more personal to you—more real. You will actually feel His presence; and with each prayer offered and with each scripture quoted you will hear His voice.
If praying in his name is the key to unity, finding His presence is our hope and our focus. It is the zenith of what praying in His name really means. Thus, when you struggle to pray in His name, as if you were climbing a mountain, when you finely get to the top and take your rest, that, you could say, is like the experience of finding His presence. And it need not be a short experience. We can be there in His presence for as long as we are able to pray and be gathered in his name, for when we are there in His name, doing His will and pleasing Him, He marvelously shows Himself to us. The focus of prayer then is not to bring all of our requests to God to get them answered, rather it is to see and enjoy Jesus.
Likewise, the focus of the church (and each prayer group and Bible study group that operates under and as part of the church) is to experience Jesus Presence. In fact, as Oliver W. Price points out, “Christ’s special presence is…essential for the life of the church. When He departs from a congregation it dies.”
Agreeing together (“that if two of you agree…”). When we come together (in a group) and pray in Jesus’ name, He comes to us and unites us together with Him and His Father. And He unites our prayers with His prayers and His Father’s prayers so that we all agree together. In this wonderful unity of mind and spirit, Jesus creates in us a power that releases us from fear, so that we are able to pray from our heart—to pray the things that God puts on our heart in front of the group. He also gives us the power to love others in prayer; and He gives us a growing desire to pray for the needs of others.
When you come together for prayer I would encourage you to make a list of all the things you want to agree on. If God has worked in your hearts so that you are all surrendered to Him, you will be amazed at how many things you will be able to agree on.
This post is an excerpt from my book Joy of Prayer.