In physics, critical mass refers to the minimum amount of material needed to start and maintain a nuclear reaction. In general, it also refers to the minimum amount of “something” – people, money, petitions – to gain momentum and achieve a desired effect. In other words, if I gather enough “somethings” then I can accomplish what I need.
This is perfectly illustrated in the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears A Who. Horton the elephant, with his big ears can hear the tiny Whos that live on a speck of dust, but no one else hears them and they think Horton is crazy. In order to make themselves be heard, the Whos start making as much noise and shouting as possible, but they are not heard until the tiniest baby Who lets out a small “Yap.” That Yap when added to all the other noise is just enough – critical mass – to break into Horton’s world and be heard. Horton was right! The Who world does exist!
It seems to me that Christians sometimes treat prayer in the same way. I need to generate a critical mass of people praying before God hears and responds to my prayer request. It is not enough for me to pray individually, but I need a bunch of people. It’s as if we don’t think God will take us seriously until we meet this elusive critical mass of prayer.
But clearly, this not Biblically correct. The Bible is full of stories of individual men and women who prayed by themselves and God answered them. We are even encouraged to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). So why do we think that we need to marshal more and more prayer support to get the answers we want or need? Why do we ask others to pray for us? Why do we send our prayer requests in to a prayer chain or intercessor group?
I don’t think the purpose of corporate prayer is about convincing God that we are really, really serious, or because we are too insignificant individually to be heard. I think the point of corporate prayer is to spread the fame of the Lord as far and as wide as possible. Let me explain. The more people are praying, the more people will see (or hear about) the answered prayer and the more praise God will get. His fame as a good and faithful Father will spread – as it should. Sure, WE benefit from an answer to prayer, but He receives the glory and worship He deserves. Look at how Psalm 145 puts it:
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:1-7)
People will be talking to each other and to other generations about the works to God and He will be greatly praised.
So go ahead and enter your secret prayer room to pray to your Father in secret but when you are done get on the phone, text, social media and enlist an army of prayer supporters so that you can all speak of His wondrous works and awesome deeds. And generate a critical mass of praise!