Justification for a 36-Hour Prayer Vigil - Answering the Questions of Whether We Pray to Be Seen by Men and Whether Group Prayer is Better

Our church is in the midst of 36 hours of straight prayer.  We have created a prayer room for people to pray in.  We have rotations so the room is not empty and people have signed up for the slots they would like to fill.

One individual that I asked if they would sign up answered that they would not because they do not want to pray to be seen by men.  I knew this would be a view that some would have, but this person has been the only honest one to express it with me.

Before I get into my answer to that thought, let me express that the prayer event is going extraordinarily well.  People seem to be encountering God and are excited about it.  That was what it was designed for along with helping to transform our church and local community for the Lord.  God is in the prayer answering business; we are in the asking business.  God is always there; we just need to open our eyes to see Him.

So here is what I replied to the individual who expressed his concerns about praying to be seen by men.  He told me that he did not need to come to the room to pray.  I could just tell him what to pray for and he would pray for those things.
There are lists and prayer requests written all around the room, so it's not that easy.  I have no idea what other people have put up as prayer requests.  I made nearly 50 prayer requests and posted them.  Also, there is a prayer walk to pray around the church and many other things in the prayer room that are not replicable as only prayer requests. 

Also, biblically the church prayed together a lot.  There is nothing wrong with what we are doing as you imply.  I don't know anyone that signed up to be seen by men.  We're trying to bathe our church community and town community in prayer for 36 hours straight.  There is power in collective, unified prayer.  Power that this church hasn't seen because they have not done it.

As a local church, we haven't been a praying church, and prayer is one of the key elements of the early church as expressed in Acts 2:42.  This is an attempt to get that prayer fire started.  I'm glad you pray a lot on your own.  We need that.  We are attempting to develop an environment of corporate prayer because we need that too.  What we need to do as a church to reach this community for Jesus cannot be done by our own strength; it must have God and that starts with prayer. 

There is a place for group prayer and prayer events in a church.  When the Bible was talking about being "seen by men" in prayer it was talking about people who would make public displays of prayer with the intention of the prayer being seen by men, not prayer influencing God.  In this case, people are praying alone in a room.  No public display there.

How would we balance the examples of group prayer with avoiding being seen by men?  We could go so far to avoid being seen by men that we would never have any corporate or group prayers.

You don't need to feel forced to do it.  I just wanted to give you the opportunity in case you missed it.  If you change your mind, you can still sign up.  You can sign up anonymously so nobody will know it's you if you are uncomfortable with people knowing you signed up.
He then replied that what we are doing is not group prayer.  It's just people praying one at a time at the building.  I replied: 
You will need to ask those who experienced the room and ask them if it was a worthwhile experience.

Would it be better for two or more to gather together and pray? It would be good, but you would have to ask the people who participated if it would be better. I think both have their place and serve different purposes. Unfortunately, our last group prayer meeting that we attempted ended with just me and one other person's wife showing up on the fourth week of it. It ended there because I am not going to spend an hour in prayer with another person's wife without their husband there. About four months before that, the group prayer meeting ended with only one other person besides Lindsay and me showing up. It's my duty as a minister to try to create something that will remedy this problem because giving lessons about it, reading books about it, and preaching about it has not been working.

There really hasn't been a desire in our church for group prayer, and the group prayer is usually boring. That was part of the motive behind the prayer room. It is nearly group prayer. When people read through the praises and requests people have written on the walls, whether it is group prayer or not, it is a real unifying and uplifiting experience. I hope people catch an excitement for prayer because our church's success depends on an excitement and passion for prayer being among us. Most people don't spend an hour in prayer and this encouraged them to encounter God in a way they have not before or do not regularly. I hope the experience helps their prayer life flourish and become more passionate.

It's my responsibility to create programs and ministries to help people in this church grow. As I sit here in the church during the last hour that someone is in that room and evaluate the comments people have made to me as a result of their experience in that room, I would have to say it was successful. There are things I will tweak to make it better next time, but it served the purpose of helping people encounter God and fostered a passion in prayer.

So we can disagree on whether it was done to be seen by men or whether it is as useful as group prayer. To me, those are irrelevant discussions because I saw people who had encountered God, felt His love, and have a growing passion for Him. To me, that is what I do all this for.

The second part of our mission statement is that we would share the passions of Jesus. I think this program helped people to grow in that. That's why it was done. It could have completely failed. I was concerned about that, but on this side of it, I am thankful.
It is my hope that God would spur in everyone's hearts a passion for Him during this time.  I want them to feel His calling on their life, the peace He has for them, and the joy of His presence.  I want to be a praying church.  It does appear to be working.  May God continue to bless this endeavor.