The Power of Praying Together. Experiencing Christ Actively in Charge
By Oliver W. Price
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
14.2 (Fall 2003) : 348-350
This stimulus for better church prayer meetings is by the General Director of Bible Prayer Fellowship in the Dallas, Texas area, and pastor of Metrocrest Bible Church there. The late John Walvoord, former President of Dallas Theological Seminary and author of many books, wrote the Foreword. The back cover has commendations by Tony Evans, Howard Hendricks, Irwin Lutzer, Sammy Tippit, Elmer Towns, and others. Chiefly, the 13 practical chapters seek to rekindle passion in believers to attend and have spiritual prayer meetings with a strong sense of Christ’s presence and control.
Price emphasizes four truths to help transform dull prayer gatherings: (1) claim Christ’s presence by His Spirit; (2) trust Him to take charge in each heart; (3) be willing for Him to change each participant as He desires; and (4) permit Him to bring all into harmony with the Father and with each other (12). The author concentrates on these because he sees the need of the hour as Christ’s obvious presence and active leadership (14). He recognizes the urgency of private prayer, but chiefly looks at prayer with others.
Readers will share Price’s alarm about many not wanting to attend a church prayer session, and will agree that it is unfortunate when a church is said to have prayer-meeting members and members of other kinds (20). Each chapter ends with review questions whose answers help readers reflect on true values. Also, exercises can help readers practice prayer with family members at home and others at church meetings.
Some distinctions are problematic. An example is the citing of Armin Gesswein’s idea (cf. the latter’s book, With One Accord In One Place [Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1978] 13) that in Acts one does not read of “the church prayer meeting,” because “The church was the prayer meeting” at the beginning. With great respect for prayer’s cruciality in the church, the church is far more than a prayer aspect; also, in Acts 12, the whole church gathered to pray for the imprisoned Peter. Another arbitrary opinion is seeing Acts 1 as the only chapter in Acts without “acts” or “action” episodes (39). The believers, even while waiting (trusting), were acting in prayer by applying Scripture as Peter took the lead in replacing Judas in accord with God’s will. Later, Price strikes a better note by saying that in Acts 1, “As they waited in prayer, they were acting [note the word] on the basic truth that without Christ they could do nothing” (40). Indeed, they were doing something, acting fruitfully and not in the spiritual nothingness of being unfruitful (cf. John 15:5).
Another problem appears amid good things in the book. Somehow the author restricts praying in Jesus’ name to ideal situations of knowing in advance that a request is “completely in harmony with His sovereign will” (75). So, praying in Jesus’ name is limited to cases where God answers “yes,” and cannot also include “wait” or “no” scenarios. A problem is that many mature Christians at times gain “no” answers as screened by God’s wisdom and love, and can submit thankfully to God at such times realizing that His infinite mind knows better. They can err, God never can. Was not Paul praying in Jesus’ name, even three times (2 Cor 12:7-9), though God did not remove his “thorn” but taught Him a sufficient grace? Later (after p. 75), Price on p. 80 seems to take a different view; here, he says that those praying in Jesus’ name may need to “wait” for God’s timing. Also, in other prayers by those seeking God’s will for His glory, what name are they praying in as best they know at the time? Readers will need to wrestle with this.
Another puzzle is the troubling wording, “Worship is the highest form of prayer . . .” (145 ). All God-honoring prayer is in essence genuine worship in aspects such as praise, intercession, petition, and confession. So, does the author mean to say that “Worship is the spiritual essence present in any God-approved prayer”? Price later on acknowledges that “For the dedicated believer, all of life is elevated to the level of divine service” (182). All can be worshipful.
Among the book’s many good emphases are believers’ asking Christ to take charge (chap. 7), to change themselves and others (chap. 8), and offering a sacrifice of praise (chap. 11).
All in all, this work can be a catalyst for better praying alone or in groups. It is by a man long devoted sacrificially to all-out effort to honor Christ and help His people. Any who earnestly desire to improve times before God’s throne and assist the church can profit in some or even great measure by teachable receptivity to this book’s many good teachings.