All Prayer is Corporate Prayer
In these times of social distancing I hate to begin a blog post (my first after such a long delay!) with the now cliche opener “in these times of social distancing,” but, well, when the shoe fits… So, without further ado:
In these times of social distancing I’ve been thinking a bit about the corporate nature of prayer. I was reminded again today of how Witsius exposits the “our” in the opening of the Lord’s Prayer. Why does our Lord tell us to pray “Our Father?” The question is all the more pointed when we consider that the Lord’s Prayer is framed as a “secret” prayer in contrast to the kinds of “public” prayers prayed by the hypocrites (Matt. 6:5-6).
Witsius reminds us that all prayer is essentially corporate prayer:
’Our Father’…expresses likewise Charity towards our neighbour, whom we include in our prayer as a partaker, either actually or prospectively, of the same grace and adoption with ourselves…. It means that, wheresoever the person praying happens to be situated, even though he may happen to be alone, he must always pray in the plural number.”
Witsius is encouraging us to make our prayers plural, and that is certainly salutary. But it’s also important to remember that when we pray we are always praying to the “Father,” which in turn implies that prayer is always familial. The rest of the family is implied in our prayer to the Father, who has many offspring. We should seek to pray in the plural, but we can also remember that our prayers are already plural.
Prayer is thus always a kind of gathering, even when it is private. All prayer is corporate prayer, for in it we inevitably include our family, our neighbors, our church, Christ’s kingdom. When we approach the Father, it is always and inevitably alongside our many sisters and brothers.
How can we stay connected in these isolating times? Continue to pray.