THE NEED TO AGREE IN PRAYER
Jesus, before He was betrayed and arrested, felt a strong need to have with him Peter and the Zebedee brothers in prayer. They fell asleep and Jesus ended up praying alone. Three times, Jesus found them sleeping, rather than watching (Mt. 26:37-45). Without prayer, the disciples were unprepared to face the events that took Jesus from them. They had not agreed on Jesus’ intention to suffer and die. Their own agenda was in the way of understanding their Lord’s mission. They disagreed on what they wanted. The earliest need to agree was with Adam and Eve and they agreed doing the wrong thing. It was the man’s helper, who made the wrong choice, and the man did not forsake her and the two faced life together, whether it was good or bad. The Creator had joined them and no one was permitted to interfere in their oneness or union (Gen. 2-3). A lesson Jesus reinforced and both men and women have continued to disregard God’ major command for married couples (Mt. 19:3-9). It is sad and harmful to man’s existence to break agreements.
I believe, that Jesus, deliberately, used the smallest possible group to illustrate the need to agree on some basics. “I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them” (Mt. 18:19-20). Paul appealed to the Corinthians, ”Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (II Cor, 13:11; RSV). Thomas Carlyle had a friend by the name of Sterling. The two spent the day together and at the end Thomas entered this comment in his notes, “Spent nearly the whole day with Sterling, and in everything except opinions we agreed perfectly” (Wa. 2082). A man, in his late seventies, no longer qualified for life insurance; yet, physically he was very healthy. The agent inquired about his secret. The man’s answer was, “Well, when we got married we decided that when my wife got angry she would go to the kitchen and when I got angry I would go outside. Yes Sir, the outdoors surely agreed with me” (TH. 347).
This not what we are about, namely nothing. This is the philosophy to agree to disagree and not to agree to get something done. One would assume that at least, in prayer, two people could agree on one thing that could be beneficial. What does it take to agree to get things done? The biggest hindrance is selfishness. I meet the other person with a basket full of my own requests and so does the other person. And as long as the world turns around ourselves, we do not come to the real reason why we meet in the first place. We ought to leave our personal needs in our closets, and concentrate on a common cause that has been decided by our silent partner who happens to be present. It is He (Christ), who has called the meeting for prayer in the first place. And the reason was, and still is, how we can win people over for their salvation (Mt. 18:18). In many ways, we are like infants picking the toys that are the least useful to us. For Paul’s Romans, food and drink got in the way of their salvation (Ro. 14:19-21). He begged the Corinthians to grow up (I Cor. 13:11). For this reason alone, our prayers should begin with, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The reason we have to agree is not to get God the Father interested in our project, but to get ourselves together on what needs to be done. God knows what we need before we ask Him (Mt. 6:8). We, on the other hand, may know that someone requires our help, but we do not know how to go about it or what that person may need. In that case, two minds working together are better than. Our main reason to get together is not just to pray, but to come up with a solution that will answer, perhaps someone else’s prayer or request. God answers prayers through us; particularly, when we go out two by two to spread his news and help those in need (Lk. 10:1-17). When two people agree to do the will of God together, the results can be very phenomenal. The seventy-two that Jesus sent out two by two were overjoyed with their success. In fact, Jesus had to calm them down and remind them that what they had done has put their names in heaven (Lk. 10:17-20).
It is rewarding when two people agree on what they are doing together. To begin with, they find satisfaction over which they can rejoice and celebrate. The seventy-two were not doing work to save themselves, but to save others and that is why their deeds brought joy into their lives. Without someone performing good deeds, no one can get saved. The Prophet Isaiah exclaimed, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet that bring good tidings, that announce peace, that preach good news, that bring salvation, that say to Jerusalem (the people), ‘Your God reigns’” (Isa. 52:8). We are saved for the purpose of doing good works. In fact, God reshaped us in Christ so that we can do the work He has prepared for us before we were born (Eph. 2:10). The first Christian missionaries were Paul, Barnabas and John Mark. It was disagreement that sent John Mark home and that rift dissolved the partnership between Paul and Barnabas. Paul found Silas more agreeable and Barnabas paired with John Mark (Ac. 13; 15:36-41).
Paul was not an easy person to agree with. He had an overpowering conviction because of his experience with Jesus the Christ on his road to Damascus (Ac. 26). In Corinth, he learned that he could not continue to disagree with the other leaders like Peter (Gal. 2:11-16) or John Mark (II Tim. 4:11). Paul could no longer shake the dust of his feet among believers who disagreed with him and move on (Mt. 10:14). He had to unseat himself and give credit to others. His persistence split the congregation in Corinth into four groups, following Apollos, Cephas, Paul and Christ. He wrote two additional angry letters to this infants that disappeared. Paul had to admit that his conscience was clear, but that did not excuse him from the division he had caused (I Cor. 4:4). It was a memorable experience, because a new Paul emerged and he gained back his credit for having started the Church in Corinth. He set an example for many of us, who go about insisting that we have the truth by the tail.
“Ask yourself, ‘who is Apollos and who is Paul?’ They are servants that helped you believe, and the Lord gave us that task. I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. It does matter who plants or waters, because God makes it grow with our help. You are God’s handiwork and we are His workers that have built you into a congregation for which we shall be rewarded. God has been gracious to me and let me be the one that laid the foundation, which is Christ, and others have continued to build on Him. Now it is up to you to continue building your life on Christ because you will e tested as if by fire and anything that is not genuine will burn up. God turned you into a temple to house His Spirit and if you defile yourself, God has no choice but let you go” (I Cor. 3:5-17; Wc).
It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who is being credited with the phrase, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” but it was Jesus Christ who put it into practice, centuries before the words of Tennyson were hung on walls. His life began and ended in prayer. He lived and framed the blueprint of prayer. To us, His most important prayer was that we all become one as proof that God really has sent his Son into the world to unite us (Jn. 17:20-23). Payer can be the first step in bringing harmony into marriage, the family, the community, the nation and the world. Prayer can be the bridge between a husband and wife, a parent and child and a friend and a foe. All it needs is a chance to agree. To do so, we must do what the writer to the Hebrews suggested. Believers that hang on to doctrines and definitions live on milk and are in danger of losing their faith (Heb. 5:11-6:3).