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Prayer: The Promise of Praying Together (Matthew 18:19-20)

By Robert E. Coleman
Jesus manifests His presence in a special way when two or more of His disciples meet to pray. The promise is "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). In order for the promise to be realized, however, several conditions are laid down.

I. There must be agreement between the praying partners.

The word used here in the original is "sum-pho-na-o," from which comes our term symphony. It literally means "to agree in sound' or "to be in harmony," as may be heard in a symphony orchestra. Harmonic sound of two instruments is more beautiful than the sound of one, though more difficult to obtain. And the harmony, as well as the difficulty in achieving it, becomes greater as more instruments are added.

Is not this the value of united prayer? Knowing the noise that comes in discord, everyone must be at their best. We are made to sharpen our God-created personalities and gifts, in order to blend into symphonic sound. The harmonic whole becomes greater than its parts. Yet there is no diminishing of the unique contribution of each individual. In fact, by learning to blend with others, we come more to understand and appreciate our own uniqueness.

This can be seen in the union of two persons in marriage. God made us male and female to complement each other, while also teaching us interdependence. In this relationship, love finds its highest human expression, and if we realize the spiritual significance, we are enabled to comprehend more deeply Christ's love for His church.

Certainly here is a place unity in prayer can have a meaningful application. As husband and wife share their lives in the flesh, even so they should agree in prayer. In a larger dimension of unity, members of the family can become a praying unit -- the father praying with his son, the mother praying with her children, the family praying together in a circle of love. Our greatest privilege of spiritual unity is that most natural to us -- living in a symphony of prayer at home. In this fellowship every home should be a temple of God.

What can be experienced in these family relationships has its counterpart in fellowship of the church, when the body of Christ is "in one accord." If this is not true of the whole congregation, can we not start with a few? Jesus reminds us that we do not need a crowd. Just two or three disciples harmonizing in spirit is more beautiful than the assembly of a thousand that has no bond of union.

That is the point of the promise. Unity in prayer requires unity in spirit. Merely meeting together is not enough.

The immediate context of this passage relates to the correction of erring members of the church. Jesus addresses the need to discipline a brother who had sinned (Matthew 18:15-18). He tells us to personally approach the wrong-doer, and confront him in love; if the man will not listen, then we are to take a committee with us. Only when this has been done are we free to bring the matter to the attention of the larger congregation.

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