Day 163: Matthew 18:18-20

And so I tell all of you: what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.

This is really a restatement of Day 147 when Jesus handed over the keys to the Kingdom of heaven to Peter and told him that heaven and earth are one.  Jesus tells Peter that what is done on earth also happens in heaven.  It is a profound statement, and in total contradiction to what people of Jesus’ time believed about God’s Kingdom, which is also referred to as the New Age or the Messianic Age.  They believed that the Kingdom of Heaven would suddenly manifest itself sometime in the future, but Jesus said that it is already here, already evolving, already being shaped by what we do on earth.  He says that everything we do here is also done in heaven.  If you want heaven to be good, then you have to start doing things according to God’s will right here, right now.  He states it as a simple fact.  A better world isn’t going to drop out of the sky – we have to build it here brick by brick, by loving God, by loving each other, and by coming together with others in prayer.

Early on Jesus gives us instructions about how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount (Days 40-42).  At that time he tells us that prayer should be private and meaningful.  He also offers us the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how we should pray.

In the Sermon on the Mount he said prayer should be private.  I am very grateful for this scripture where Jesus tells us that praying together is also a good thing because I love to pray with other people.  My husband introduced me to group prayer at his church in Chicago.  When I joined the group it was just him (the pastor) and three elderly people – Floyd, Sarah, and Wesley.   We met in a little circle of chairs around a candle in the Fellowship Hall.  The service was based on a traditional evening prayer model so there was a little liturgy and a little singing, followed by extemporaneous prayer by those assembled.  I always remember Sarah praying for God to “protect us in our comings and goings.”   I also remember how Wesley would pray for “our talented pastor.”  After John and I married he added “…and his equally talented wife.”   We both looked forward to that weekly blessing.   We prayed about everything from situations taken from world news to the concerns of our local congregation.  It truly became part of the fabric of my life.

Me lighting a candle before Evening Prayer.

Me lighting a candle before Evening Prayer.

When we moved to the suburbs we couldn’t find a church with group prayer so we started up a couple of gatherings.  One is an evening prayer service where about 7 of us gather weekly to pray for the church, its members, and its concerns using traditional Lutheran prayers.  It also includes a time of free prayer.  The Church Council joins us once a month to pray before their meetings.  They say it has made a big difference – there is less conflict and the meetings end earlier.

The other prayer service is based on the “Harp and Bowl” model with continuous music accompanied by intermittent spontaneous scripture reading, spoken prayers, and prophetic words.  There is no teaching, no preaching, no explanations, no liturgy, and no contextualization.   Harp and Bowl prayer was introduced by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City where they have been worshipping continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since 1998.  Imagine that!!!! The term Harp and Bowl is derived from Revelation 5:8 where heavenly beings offer the Lamb (Jesus) their “harps and bowls filled with incense”. The “harp” refers to music and worship songs and the “bowls” are the prayers of God’s people.

Just this week we started a new prayer opportunity in our church called “Stay and Pray” where we get together after every worship service to pray with people for their individual concerns.  It’s important to do this because many of the people who come to a church for the first time are experiencing some kind of crisis and it’s a great way to reach out to them and show them that we care.

All of these prayer groups are a great blessing in my life.  You come in tired and stressed, and you leave peaceful and enlivened.  I guess that’s because Where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”  Yes, Jesus is right there with us along with the angels and all of the rest of the company of heaven – healing us, making things right, and carrying away our burdens so we can take on the burdens of others.  As far as I’m concerned, prayer meetings are a little taste of heaven here on earth.

What does this scripture say to you?

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