One dare not say, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I can pray as well at home as at any church!” Such thinking fails to see the nature of the church corporate. It reveals a shallow and narrow ecclesiology. Christ established a community – a body of individual members, but collectively a whole; a temple of lively stones; an army of disciplined soldiers. Our quest is not a mere private matter, it is a mission only accomplished by community. Community is one of the witnesses we offer a watching world. It is our humility, our unity, our collaborative efforts, our mutual journey, our love for one another. Let it be said of us as Tertullian suggested, “My how those Christians love one another.” “Without church, we have more of a private fantasy than real faith…real conversion demands that eventually its recipients be involved in both the muck and the grace of actual church life.” That is true, “Because the search for God is not a private search for what is highest for oneself or even for what is ultimate for oneself. Spirituality is about a communal search for the face of God – and one searches communally only within a historical community.”
Christianity is essentially communal; it is not a solo journey. In an age of hyper-individualism, faith is privatized. We may attend church, sit in a group of people, but nevertheless, perceive our worship as private, personal, with the group around us being almost irrelevant. Detached, solitary Christianity is impossible. The love of God cannot be legitimately disconnected from love of others, though we try!
Occasionally someone will say, “For me, prayer is a very private thing! I don’t pray in public. I don’t like to attend prayer meetings. Prayer is too personal to be shared or experienced with others.” Nonsense. We think we can restyle, redefine every aspect of our faith. We are blindly pretending. Gods shaping our own religion, and yet, doing so, even unconsciously, with the blueprints of our secular age. Eugene Peterson said,
Privacy is our attempt to insulate the self from interference; solitude leaves the company of others for a time in order to listen to them more deeply, be aware of them, serve them. Privacy is getting away from others so that I don’t have to be bothered with them; solitude is getting away from the crowd so that I can be instructed by the still, small voice of God, who is enthroned on the praises of the multitudes. Private prayers are selfish and thin; prayer in solitude enrolls in a multivoiced, century-layered community: with angels and archangels in all the company of heaven we sing, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.’
Peterson says, “We can no more have a private prayer than we can have a private language. A private language is impossible…All speech is relational, making a community of speakers and listeners. So too is prayer. Prayer is language used…in a community of the Word…We can do this in solitude, but we cannot do it in private. It involves an Other and others.”
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
 Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 69.
 Eugene Peterson, Earth and Altar, 16.
 Ibid, 16.