I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means - Part 2

One of the passages you hear most often when it is time for corporate prayer is found in Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." In fact, as a teenager, this was one of my favorite ways to start a prayer.

Lord, we know that where two or more are gathered, you hear the things we pray...

No wonder I wasn't motivated to have a quiet time by myself!

I love corporate prayer. I love the fact that I'm a part of a church who prays together a lot. But it isn't because I believe God hears us better if there are two or more of us. I do not think it means what you think it means...

Matthew 18:20 can't be separated Matthew 18:15-19 which tells us what to do when a person sins against you - not church-wide prayer gatherings. If your brother sins against you and won't make things right after you go to him individually, you should take "two or three witnesses" (Matthew 18:16) as unbiased observers according to the Old Testament Law in Deuteronomy 19:15. If your brother will not make things right in the presence of two or three unbiased witnesses, he should be put out of fellowship in hopes that he will realize his wrong and repent (Matthew 18:17).

As a result, what you have in Matthew 18:20 is a warning to unrepentant brothers more than a comfort for prayer gatherings. Jesus reminds unrepentant brothers that two or more unbiased witnesses represent Him; they're gathered in His name. If they agree that the brother needs to repent, God is on their side.

Corporate prayer is vital for our growth, fellowship, and discipline together as a church, but it isn't because God is mystically more present when we have a quorum. God hears and answers our private prayers (Matthew 6:6) as well as our corporate prayers (Matthew 6:9) in a powerful, personal way. One is not more significant than the other.


Andy Rodriguez said...

Good post Chris. Yet again a reminder why teaching hermeneutics in the local church is one of the most helpful things we can do. Let's help those we serve read the Bible for what it actually says rather than pulling out a verse to make us feel good when prayer night attendance is low! Keep being a voice for why historical background, literary context, grammatical structure, Greek, etc., actually matter.

Hope you are doing well, sir.