From where come wars and fights among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?…
1. The comparatively small numbers who sustain it may help to account for the comparatively slight and partial results of social prayer. As every power must be stronger in its collective than in its separate existence, in its aggregate than in its individuality — and will have augmented force in the degree of its increasing accumulation — efficacious as is solitary prayer, social prayer has a heightened efficacy; and if "the prayer of one righteous man avail much," the prayers of many avail more. When, therefore, we "forsake the assembling of ourselves together" — when we leave them to be sustained by a limited and variable attendance — what wonder is it if we find that in proportion as they lose in social force, they die in spiritual effect? There is yet another affecting consideration. When all the inhabitants of a certain district are summoned for the purpose of sending a petition to the legislature, but only a few respond; the inference is, that, whatever may be the feeling of a few individuals, the community itself is indifferent to that petition, and it is, therefore, set aside as a thing of utter insignificance. On the same principle, when a Church is summoned by its executive ministry to weekly meetings for prayer, and only a few members attend, is it not a fair inference that the Church itself is indifferent to those prayers? They may, indeed, be earnestly presented by individuals, but the whole society is not identified with their presentation; and if God dealt with us, as man deals with man, we could not feel surprised if such prayers of the Church were rather regarded as an assertion of its indifference, than an expression of its strong desire.
2. Want of agreement in spirit, on the part of those who meet to pray, may sometimes hinder the success of social prayer. If, while one prays aloud, the rest are prayerless; if, instead of pouring their desires along the channel of his language, they are the listless victims of unsettled and dispersive thought, before God there is no prayer meeting, but only one solitary prayer. Let every man, if possible, sign every petition — sign it with his individual mind — and make it his own, or else let all the non-consenting multitude separate, each man to "mourn apart," and to offer his sacrifice in solitude.
3. Much of what frequently enters into the exercise of social prayer, is no prayer at all, and is therefore followed by no definite results. Shall the Church only be in earnest when in sorrow, and do we require persecution to teach us how to pray?
4. Another cause of ineffectiveness may be the frequent want of suitable gifts on the part of those who lead the devotion. When alone with God, the language of silence, or of confused, broken, almost silent speech, tell all that need to he told; but it is different in social prayer; there, the "gift of utterance" is required, and the prayer utterer, like the preacher, must; find fit words, and seek the gift no less than the grace of prayer.
(C. Stanford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?