3-Reasons Why Group Prayer May Fail
The Bible encourages Christians to pray for each other, and we often do so in groups. But group prayers often seem weak and go unanswered. This post will examine what the Bible says about group prayer and explains 4-ways to add power to your group prayers.
Have you ever been desperate for God to answer a prayer? Perhaps you asked all your friends and family to “Pray for me.” Maybe you made a group prayer request at church, saying “I need prayer.” But nothing happened; your prayer went unanswered.
There are many reasons why God may not answer our prayers, including:
- We have known sin in our lives (Psalm 66:18)
- We lack faith or are unsure of what we want (James 1:6-8)
- What we are asking for is counter to God’s Will
So, we ask others to join us in praying, hoping that God will answer them, even if He will not hear us. After all, Jesus said:
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
Despite Christ’s wonderful promise, our group prayer requests often seem to go unheard and unanswered, ending in disappointment. Why is that? Why do group prayers often seem to fail?
This post will examine 3 reasons why church prayer requests and other group prayers often go unanswered or fail to bring the results we want, and how to empower group prayer requests to make them more effective.
1. The Prayers do Not Agree
Have you ever been to a prayer meeting and heard other people praying for the same request? I have, and the prayers often disagree with each other.
For example, perhaps someone has been diagnosed with cancer and requests prayer for healing. Some people may pray for God to work a miracle in their body. Others may pray that God would give the doctors wisdom and skill in treating them, hoping for modern medicine to heal them. Still others may doubt healing is possible and just pray that God would just ease their pain and comfort their families.
Jesus said that if two believers agree in what they ask for, it will be done for them by God (Matthew 18:19-20). This promise does not apply when their prayers disagree. To access God’s powerful promise, we must be specific in our prayer, and all make the same specific request.
In the prayer for healing cancer above, if the cancer has run its course, the patient has made their peace with God, and is ready to go be with Jesus, then it might be appropriate to pray for a peaceful passage and comfort for their grieving family, but in this case that should be what all request, and prayers for healing should cease.
For group prayer to be effective, all must agree by praying for the exact same specific request.
If you are scheduled for surgery tomorrow, then it would be appropriate to ask for God to guide the surgeon’s hands, give wisdom and skill to all involved in the procedure, and to bless the outcome. But if you want a miracle then everyone should be praying for the same miracle.
When requesting group prayer, we must be very specific as to the exact prayer request and ask people to pray for that specific request. If anyone lacks the faith or desire to pray for that exact request, then it would be better for them not to pray at all than for them to pray something different.
Be Specific and Agree – For group prayer to be effective, all must agree by praying for the exact same specific request.
2. The people lack faith
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
In this passage, James referred specifically for praying for wisdom, but the principle applies to anything good that is in keeping with God’s Will. God is willing to give good things to those who ask in faith without wavering or doubts. Double-minded doubters cannot count on receiving their requests.
This passage also highlights the importance of single-minded agreement. Group prayer, especially church prayer, is praying as a body and a body must be single minded to pray effectively. A double-minded body has no prayer power.
As James said at the end of his epistle, “the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:15).
Double-minded doubters cannot count on receiving their requests
Mark 6:1-6 records that even Jesus was limited in what He could do in His hometown of Nazareth because the people around Him did not believe. “And He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6a)
The need for faith is why Jesus sometimes allowed only Peter, James and John to go with Him. The best example of this is the raising of Jairus’s daughter from the dead, recorded in Mark 5:35-43 and Luke 8:49-56. Both gospels record the father receiving a message not to bother Jesus because his daughter was already dead. To which, Jesus immediately responded that the father should not fear, “believe only, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).
When they arrived at the house Jesus said the girl was only sleeping, not dead. The mourners mocked Him with scorn, “knowing that she was dead” (Luke 8:53). Jesus made all the doubters depart. He only permitted Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents in with Him as He performed this resurrection miracle, raising the girl from the dead.
Mark 9:17-29 records Jesus casting out a demon from a man’s son. Jesus had just come down from the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. The man told Jesus that His (other) disciples had not been able to cast out the demon, and said: “if Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us” (Mark 9:22). By questioning Christ’s power, the man made it clear that his prayer lacked faith.
Jesus responded, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). Christ, the compassionate Creator, certainly could command the demon to depart, but He put the responsibility back on the petitioner. To receive his request, he must believe. All things are possible for those who believe.
The desperate father responded with an affirmation of his faith, then requested help in believing. I too have prayed his request, “Lord I believe; help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Then the man received his request as Christ healed his son.
All things are possible for those who believe
Mathew 21:17-21 and Mark 11:12-24 both record when Jesus cursed a fig tree. One of the reasons why Jesus cursed the fig tree was as an object lesson on the power of prayer when you have faith without any doubts. When His disciples marveled,
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
Prayer power comes not with numbers, but by the strength of a prayer warrior’s faith in God.
Be Selective – This advice may be unpopular because it could seem harsh or unkind, but your group prayers would be more effective if you followed Christ’s example of excluding mockers, doubters and those who are weak in faith.
To add more power to group prayer, ask only faithful believers to pray!
3. People have sin in their lives
David said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” (Psalm 66:18). “Regard iniquity” could also be translated as ‘cherish sin’, ‘consider evil’, or ‘harbor sin.’ The point being that if we know we have sin in our life and allow it to stay, then God will not listen to our prayers.
The iniquity could be pride, lust, covetousness, greed, unforgiveness or any other sin, but if we choose to accept sin in our life rather than repenting of it, then it breaks our fellowship with God and renders our prayers useless. The apostle John taught us the remedy for this: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Forgiveness to restore our fellowship is simple and free, all we need to do is repent and confess our sins. But those who value their sin more than righteous fellowship with God, forfeit answered prayers. When a person is living in unrepentant sin, then the only prayer God will listen to is confession of the sin and a repentant request for forgiveness.
Many prayer requests go to groups that may include unbelievers. Until a person confesses their sin and trusts Christ as their savior, they can have no fellowship with God. Those still lost in sin have no prayer power.
As James says,
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Prayer power comes from the strength of one’s relationship with God, so single out those who are righteous.
Seek Righteous Believers – We would be better off asking one righteous believer who has faith in God to pray than a whole host of carnal Christians or unbelievers.
Prayer power comes from the strength of one’s relationship with God
4-Ways to Add Power to Group Prayer
- Be specific in your prayer requests
- Agree – Everyone must agree to pray for the same specific request
- Faith – Only include those who believe God can and will answer your specific request
- Righteous Christians – Only include those who are maintaining fellowship with God by righteous living and routine confession of sin
May God bless you as you seek His grace with absolute faith!
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