In Judaism a minyan is a quorum of ten or more adults assembled for a religious obligation such as public prayer. According to the famous 12th century Jewish rabbi Maimonides, “The prayer of the community is always heard; and even if there were sinners among them [i.e., the minyan], the Holy One, blessed be He, never rejects the prayer of the multitude.”
A thousand years earlier, Jesus prayed with his disciples (John 17:1-26), sometimes with a small group (9:28), and sometimes alone (Matt 14:23). On at least one occasion Jesus emphasized how important it was for his disciples to pray “in the closet” (a secret place) where their words could be between themselves and God alone (Matt 6:6).
Later, the Apostle Paul prayed for many (Eph 3:14-21)– just as he often asked many to pray for him (1Cor 1:11).
Today, we pray in similar ways. In groups, with a few, and often when and where no one can hear the cry of our hearts but God.
Let’s think together about the choice we are faced with when we are trying to decide whether to keep something between ourselves and God, or whether to let as many as possible know about our need. Do we believe that the more people we can get to pray, the more likely we are to get the answer we want? Are those with more praying friends more likely to get what they are asking for? Or in asking many to pray for us are we hoping that there will be at least one person who has favor and power with God?
Sometimes I’ve had a hunch that, in asking for prayer, the real audience we are looking for is not so much God– but the people who might be able to help us.
It seems to me that some of our reasons for wanting others to pray for us reflect well upon God–while other reasons don’t. The idea that God is influenced by numbers seems questionable. Can we really persuade him by getting enough people to petition him in our behalf? Is that a motive encouraged by the Bible?
Or is our willingness to take the time to thoughtfully pray for others a way of getting the attention off ourselves, onto the tears and laughter of others, and then, most importantly, onto the God who is the real source of our daily needs?
Recently I’ve been intrigued with a motive that seems to explain why Paul encouraged others to pray for him. It seems so unselfish. In his first letter to the Corinthians he suggests if many people see God answer prayer, then many people will be able to share in the joy and thanksgiving for what God has done. Specifically, Paul wrote, “You also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2Cor 1:11).
Would you agree or disagree that Paul’s motive seems to rise above the idea that the more people he could get praying for him, the more likely he was to get God to do something for him? Would you agree that there is a time to pray in “the closet” about things that are between us and God alone, and there are times to include those who share our life in the issues that affect our shared faith, hope, and love?