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Prayer groups and fellowship

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Perhaps you have experienced, as I have, one of those strange prayer times in a Church of the “frozen chosen” where the fellowship was so frigid you felt like you needed an Alaskan parka just to ward off spiritual hyperventilation. The prayers froze and shattered on the floor, getting nowhere near the ceiling. This is so not what a Christian prayer meeting is to be like.

The best prayer groups are those that understand koinonia, the biblical idea of fellowship. When we fellowship we must fellowship around something, we must share something together. A car club, a bowling team, a social organization all have an object as their goal for coming together. Some purpose draws them together. This is also true of Christian fellowships.

Christian communities, however, have fellowship that is unlike other communities. What they share is not fleeting but eternal. Their fellowship is not merely social or intellectual or entertaining. (Though these things are not necessarily absent.) What is unique is the sharing of their ongoing life in Christ. They talk about it. They sing about it. They plan their lives with the object of their fellowship in mind. They share about their experiences in Christ. They find this encouraging and up-building.

But there is more to koinonia. In the midst of their fellowship they experience Christ together. Their fellowship is not merely horizontal – it is vertical. This makes it a kind of triangular fellowship. As believers are fellowshipping with one another they are also communing with their Lord. They fellowship with each other and with God at the same time. This enabling by the Holy Spirit sets their fellowship apart from any other kind of fellowship on earth. Theirs is a shared divine experience. God can speak to them both vertically and horizontally (through brothers and sisters in Christ).

When we pray together God may speak to us directly (vertically) or he may speak to us through our fellow believers (horizontally). That is, God may speak to them and give them a word for us. It is a triangular communion. The First Letter of John was written so that “you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1:3)

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