The Few Can Have Power
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 18:19b (Holman) “. . .it will be done for you by My Father in
Jesus is emphasizing how powerful in the eyes of God a gathering of a few believers can be. Neither Jesus nor His churches are slaves to numbers.
In God’s eyes, two make a quorum. Two is a very small meeting. In fact, if any fewer, it wouldn’t be a meeting at all. Jesus probably mentioned this number because it was the smallest it could be, without being solitary.
May God help us learn the power of the few. Jesus counts hearts, not heads. Give Him (and me) one Elijah above 100 lukewarm worshipers.
God has always worked through a remnant, an inner core group. We ask many to gather to pray, not because we believe a crowd has power. We are rather trusting the few, the two’s who are rightly agreeing (v. 19a) and thus having power when praying. Another reason we pray corporately is that God will receive all the credit from everyone for a granted request.
I never felt it worthwhile to try to push for a huge crowd at a prayer meeting. When one is announced, the real pray-ers will come. Priming the pump brings to the meeting the carnal, who throw a blanket on the prayers.
When we come together we don’t need a roomful of self-centered pray-ers pleading for “Me, my four, and no more.” We are not to pray as if the world revolves around us. Weigh our prayers on the selfish/unselfish scales. Let them tilt to the unselfish. The Lord restored Job not when he prayed for himself, but after he prayed for his mean adversaries (42:10).
Let me clarify. It’s okay to pray for us, once we pray foremost and first about God and others. Jesus prayed for His own benefit. “Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me.” It was okay for Him to pray like this because His heart was leaning toward what He finally prayed, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (MK 14:36).
“God often hears the prayer of our prayers, and answers that rather than our prayers themselves . . . there is an inner soul within true prayer which is the quickening life of true supplication . . . . If I am asked what my inmost heart prays for, I should reply, the heart of my prayer is, “The will of the Lord be done.” Is not this the essence . . . of the prayer by which our savior taught us to pray? He bade us say, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Spurgeon).
We are free to speak boldly and daringly (for example, study Moses’ prayers) if the undergirding spirit of our every prayer is, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” It is the one request always granted. We stand on solid ground when our will has yielded, and conformed itself to, God’s will.
Matt. 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”
Jesus has been giving vital insights into the nature of the Church. It will be on mission, advancing into lostness (16:19), plus be marked by discipline (18:17) and powerful praying (18:19). Jesus now teaches us His Church will be characterized by our gathering together in Jesus’ name.
Verse 20 is one of the Bible’s most misunderstood texts. It is not justification for poor attendance at a church meeting, but deals with the church gathering to exert authority in the context of church discipline.
Church discipline is not lodged in the power of one. It must express the view of not only one individual, but of a group. So much for dictatorial Pastors and bullying lay leaders. At least two or three must agree. When I was young, a preacher-friend of mine publicly prayed God would kill his Deacon Chairman. Appropriately, the Pastor was never allowed on church property again. He handled a problem alone. This was not his prerogative.
But even numbers in and of themselves are not the end solution. The group must be gathered in Jesus’ name. The two or three must be meeting for the right reason. Jesus has to be the reason, the goal, the purpose for our gathering. Our intent must be to achieve His will. True prayer results from Jesus’ presence. He always grants requests prompted by Himself.
Our success never depends on numbers. Our highest achievements are due to the presence of One. Jesus is the greatest dignitary in a church.
He is, by His omnipresence, in all places at all times, but our text is promising a special presence, a coming to direct, comfort, challenge, and help. He is present among us in a favorable way, to be an obvious blessing.
This blesses Jesus as well as us. God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel” (PS 22:3). He rests when in the midst of His followers (PS 132:14).
Jesus frequents the few, wherever they gather in His name. A localized meeting place is not required. Jesus was seeking worshipers who would worship Him, not only on a holy mount, or in Jerusalem, but in spirit.
Whenever and wherever we gather to pray, the place becomes hallowed ground. Believers can readily and effectively meet anywhere.
In persecuting times, a cave, or cellar, or a catacomb has proved to be sufficient. This fact has been an unspeakable blessing to many believers when handfuls of them have been hunkered down under devastating abuse.
Standing back to back at the stake, Latimer and Ridley prayed. For Christ’s sake they burned with devotion as well as with fire. Be assured Jesus was there, more so, in fact, than anywhere else in the land that day.
The Covenanters, once their persecuted days ended, worshiped in beautiful church buildings, but they often looked back with deep nostalgia to the days when they were hunted, and the Lord had to come meet with them in small clusters. A preacher once longingly recalled reading his Bible text by lighting flashes, and preaching in the dark. Place did not determine the powerful presence. Two’s and three’s paid the only price needed to have Jesus mightily in their midst when they gathered in His name.
Don’t limit God to 11 a.m. Sunday. This time helps, but the appointed hour for corporate prayer is whenever two or three feel a need to pray together. Large worship gatherings are maidservants to smaller ones.
This truth can be applied by all believers, not only by missionaries or preachers or Pastors. Let’s dedicate to Jesus our living rooms (where countless churches have been birthed), kitchens (where the Sunday School movement began), dining rooms (eating meals together is an ultimate sign of fellowship), bedrooms (husbands and wives need to be prayer partners). Tell Jesus you want every square inch of real estate in your life to be sacred.
Don’t wait for a specified time or place to worship God. Also, don’t hitch your wagon to one form, style, or tradition when approaching God.
He who walks on streets of gold is not impressed with bricks, mortar, stone, or stained glass. He who hears the heavenly choir is not seeking to hear a particular style of song or worship. He before Whom angels bow is not highly impressed with any particular earthly ritual or style.
When seeking the best approach to God, look near to yourself to find it. Simplicity close at hand is where the best praying and worship begins. Complexity too often distracts our attention from God to accouterments.