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(This is a Bible study, so you will need to look up the references in parentheses if you want to get the full meaning of this article.)

We Jesus Christians do not have prayer meetings where people pray out loud and other people listen. Jesus told us not to do this (Matthew 6:5-6). But we do believe in praying. Sometimes it is good to pray with other Christians (Acts 21:5-6). When we pray together, God likes this (Matthew 18:19-20). We can do this in several different ways without disobeying Jesus. We can pray together by saying or singing a special prayer in unison. We Jesus Christians often do this before a meal. Some churches do it by saying the Lord's Prayer together.

We can also pray together in a meeting where everyone prays in their own words at the same time. It is not easy to do this, because some people may not pray and they will listen to the people who do pray. This is why this kind of prayer meeting should not happen in a public meeting (1 Corinthians 14:23). We have found that this kind of meeting is most effective when there is a crisis and people are praying more or less "in desperation".

In a prayer meeting where we are asking for something from God, what we say in the prayer itself may not be as important as agreeing on what it is that we all want (Acts 2:1). What we call discussion prayers can do that. They may sound more like a business meeting than a prayer meeting. If someone wants to ask God for something, he or she can tell the rest of the group about it. People in the group say if they want the same thing. They talk about how much they want the same thing, and whether or not there is something that they would want more. The prayer may be changed several times before there is full agreement.

Such discussion helps us to pray more wisely (James 4:3). It is important in a meeting like this for each member to be honest about how much they want something. It is not good to ask for something from God if you do not want it with your whole heart. (James 5:16)

We have found from prayer meetings like this, that in the end, the prayer is almost always the same. What we discover that we want more than anything is pretty well summed up in the Lord's Prayer. We want God's will. We want more love for others. We want forgiveness for ourselves. We want to be protected from evil. We want God to know how much we love him. We want God's provision for his people everywhere. And we want the whole world to honour and serve God too.

By far, our most common prayer meetings have been "listening times". These are times when we do not ask God for anything except for him to tell us what his will is for us (Matthew 6:10).

First, we explain to any visitors or new members what it is that we are going to do. Then we all sit quietly and wait for God to speak to us individually. During the period when we are waiting, we try to stop thinking about anything. We should not do this for anyone except God. If we do it for God, he will not let an evil spirit come into our mind while our mind is blank. Only his Spirit will speak to us (Luke 11:9-13).

We should ask God to speak to us like this when we go to sleep at night too. He can protect us from bad dreams (Isaiah 26:3).

When you are listening for God to speak, you should pay special attention to anything he puts into your mind. Sometimes he will say something that you do not want to hear. Sometimes he will use pictures to speak to you, like happens with a dream. (See also Dreams.)

If you do not understand what he is saying, you will be less likely to fight against it in your mind. That is one reason why the message is often hidden in symbols to begin with Then, later, when you think about it and when you share it with others in the meeting, you may come to understand more fully what it was that he was trying to say. Sometimes you will have only part of the answer to what he is trying to say, and another person in the meeting will have the rest of it. That way, God works through more than one person at a time, teaching us to listen as a group as well as listening as individuals.

During a listening time, after the short period of silence, you will be asked if you received any sort of a message. Even if you do not understand what you received, you should share it with the others. Together we can work at understanding what God is saying.

God can, at times, tell us something really powerful and life-changing, but most of the lessons that we receive in listening times are just bits of advice and encouragement for that particular day. When God tells us something, no matter how small, it is for a reason. He expects us to alter the choices that we make because of the directions that he gives to us in listening times. Do not listen to God and then go straight out and forget what it was that he said (Romans 2:13).

You can listen to God at any time. You do not need a formal prayer meeting before you can do this. You can listen to God by yourself or with someone else. Every day you should have a "quiet time". Be ready to receive anything that God wants to tell you at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

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