M’Cheyne on Prayer Meetings
“No person can be a child of God without living in secret prayer; and no community of Christians can be in a lively condition without unity in prayer. In Daniel’s time you see how it was. (Dan. ii. 17, 18.) You see what Jesus said to his disciples on it (Mat. xviii. 19), and what a sweet promise of his presence and a gracious answer he connects with meeting for prayer. You see how it will be in the latter day (Zech. vii. 21), when meetings for prayer, or, at least, concerts for prayer, shall be held by different towns. One great rule in holding them is, that they be really meetings of disciples. If four or five of you, that know the Lord, would meet together regularly, you will find that far more profitable than a meeting open to all. In an open meeting you are apt to become teachers, and to be proud. In a secret meeting you feel all on a level, poor and needy, seeking water. If a young man, acquainted with any of you, becomes concerned about his soul, or a lively Christian is visiting any of you, these may be admitted; but do not make your meeting more open.
“The prayer-meeting I like best, is where there is only praise and prayer, and the reading of God’s Word. There is then least room for frail human nature to pervert the meeting to an improper end. It is well to read regularly through a book of Scripture, or at least to fix the chapter the evening before, that it may be prayed over in secret, before coming to the meeting. If you only read, then two chapters may be read, and then two members pray at a meeting. Each member would take his turn. Let there be no presiding of one over another, for all are brethren. When a godly minister, or elder, or experienced Christian is visiting you, he should be invited to take the whole service.
“Many meetings are not contented with merely reading God’s Word, they fix upon some verse or two as matter of conversation, and each one gives his opinion round. Some take a question of the Shorter Catechism each evening, and speak on it in the same manner. Some propose cases of conscience, and how Christians ought to act in different cases. Now, I never forbid any of these where the members prefer this; still, I must confess I feel the danger to which they are exposed. You require more grace to be kept humble and meek, and loving, if you engage in this service. You are exposed to the danger of differing from one another—disputing, seeking admiration and pre-eminence, to all which you know . . . your hearts are naturally most prone. If you choose any of these, the first appears the best, that of fixing on a verse or two of the chapter read. But do seek meekness in speaking together upon it. Meet weekly, at a convenient hour. Be regular in attendance. Let nothing keep you away from your meeting. Pray in secret before going. Let your prayers in the meeting be formed as much as possible upon what you have read in the Bible. You will thus learn variety of petition, and a Scripture style. Pray that you may pray to God, and not for the ears of man. Feel his presence more than man’s. Pray for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church of Christ and for the world—for the purity and unity of God’s children—for the raising up of -godly ministers, and the blessing of those that are already. Pray for the conversion of your friends, of your neighbours, of the whole town. Pray for the sending of the gospel to the Jews, and to the Gentile nations.”