“Where Two or Three Are Gathered” . . . and Other Bad Interpretations

Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I sat quietly as a young lady led us in prayer. It was hard. I had to bite my tongue.

Wait . . . I have a confession to make: In the past, I have been hyper-critical of what people say and how they say it. I used to evaluate everything everyone said in a sermon or prayer. I think it was the residual seminary-know-it-all. Back then, if you went off even in the slightest, I would become hara (Heb. “red nosed,” “angry”). But I have learned to set aside my hara. I get it. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Other people are not perfect. I try to be like my hero Martin Bucer, who taught that there are very few things to become hara about. Today, during public prayer, I am not so critical. (It can get kinda long and boring, but that is another subject).

So I sat there praying with this group of people, saying my “umms” and shaking my head at the appropriate times (I hope). Then something made me hara. I tried to brush it off, but it was too difficult. She said the unthinkable . . . I cannot believe she used this verse. It was manipulative, irresponsible, and downright misleading. What was her crime? She used the “where two or three are gathered in my name . . .” trick. She misused Matthew 18:20. Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek. She did not really have any ill-intentions. She was just following the folklore about this verse, which she had probably heard herself countless times in the past. We have all done it so don’t get smug. Let’s look at the verse.

Matt. 18:20
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

It happens all the time: Prayers which invoke the presence of Jesus during the gathering . . . well, so long as there are “two or three.” What does this mean? Does it mean that Christ is more likely to answer your prayer? Does it mean that Christ’s actual presence is in the middle of your prayer circle . . . a ghost, phantom, or floating entity? Maybe he is there holding our hands. And which is it, for goodness’ sake? Two, or three? The idea is this: we have to have more than one person to get this mystical real presence of Christ invoked and some people have made a sacrament out of this.

However, this is not what this verse means. And I do get somewhat red-nosed about this because it can mislead us about the power of God and our prayer life.

Matthew 18:20, like every other passage of Scripture, has a context. When we look at the context we find that the pericope (single unit of thought) in which this verse occurs starts in verse 15:

Mat 18:15
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Notice, this is the section dealing with how to engage a brother or sister in Christ who has sinned against you. The first act is to go alone and discuss the issue. It is emphatic that one does not spread the details of another’s offense before you talk with him or her one on one. Notice the numbering system here.

The passage continues:

Matt. 18:16
“But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

Here is the second step. If your brother or sister does not repent of their sin, then you are to get some witnesses. Now, these people are not your wingmen who are coming to back you up just in case things get ruff. They are objective parties who are going to listen to both sides of the issue. But notice here the numbering: this is where the “two or three” phrase is first brought into the picture. This is a reference back to the Mosaic law:

Deut. 17:6
“On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”

This is a system of accountability. God’s law has never allowed for the conviction of another without a “fair trial.” In Matthew, we have the same situation. There is a brother or sister who has been charged with an unnamed offense. God says if you cannot take care of it on your own, get some others to listen to each side. The final act, if the previous encounter was unfruitful, is to bring it before the church (pastors, elders, etc). If he or she is deemed guilty by the church and still does not repent, disassociation is necessary. Why? Because the case has been brought through a process that God approves of. “Two or three” have gathered in the name of Jesus (i.e., seeking his will) and Jesus was among them (placing his stamp of approval on the decision made). Now, this does not mean that we are to see this prophetically, as if the process guarantees that the outcome is always going to be true. Jesus being in their midst simply means that this is a God-ordained process.

So, to be brief, this passage has to do with church discipline and Christ’s approval of a process, not to do with some special presence of Christ in prayer gatherings.

But one of the reasons why I got hara about this the other day was because of how misleading this can be. When we say that Christ is present in our midst when we are praying with two or three others, we imply something terrible about personal prayer: that he is not present when we pray alone. This is not true. Christ’s presence cannot be any greater in one situation than another. He does not hear you better when you have others with you. He is not more inclined to listen to your cries as long as you have a couple of buddies holding your hands saying “umm” and “amen.” There is simply no way to have more of Christ’s ear than you do right now. He is in your midst now because, being omnipresent, he is always in the immediate presence of everything in all creation.

“Lord, you promised that when two or three people are gathered in your name, you will be in our midst. Well, here we are. Because of this we call upon you to bless us and answer our prayer.” This prayer is the very essence of idolatry. Now, take that statement in the context of my realization that we all commit idolatry more often than we realize. But this misunderstood prayer invokes the presence of our God through a formulaic incantation, which is empty of any power and resembles the manipulative schemes of a polytheistic system which is continually dependent on the physical presence of their gods if blessing is to occur. We are not limited to such. Our God is bigger than that. So think again before you pray in such a way.

140 Responses to ““Where Two or Three Are Gathered” . . . and Other Bad Interpretations”

  1. Great thoughts, as always. :)

  2. One of my pet peeves, too

  3. CMP,

    You quoted:

    “Lord, you promised that when two or three people are gathered in your name, you will be in our midst. Well, here we are. Because of this we call upon you to bless us and answer our prayer.”

    Then you concluded: “This prayer is the very essence of idolatry.”

    I submit to you that accusation is just as bad on the other side.

    I had a prayer ministry for 25 years. I never once invoked that verse as a talisman to think that several people praying together was the magic formula. I don’t anyone that does consider it that way, who is serious about prayer.

    Someone once called me a ‘professional intercessor’, and said he couldn’t pray without my intervention, as if I had the magic wand. I quickly assured him I didn’t. Wish I did. I could change the world.

    My point is we can’t automatically assume the person who brings that verse up that verse is somehow invoking a magic formula either, in favor of corporate prayer.

  4. CMP, this use of ‘two or three’ has popped up a few times recently in my mind as well and started to bug me, so I’m glad to read your take on the subject. Yes, mbaker, I agree that we cannot automatically assume that anytime someone brings up the verse that they are assuming they are drawing on some mysterious power. I suggest at least three misappropriations are taking place: First, people will parrot what they’ve heard at church or some prayer gathering because it resonates with them on some level not fully understanding the context as CMP outlined, so it becomes a flippant repetition. Second, they’ve heard it enough that they’ve meditated on it, yet not studied it, and it becomes formulaic for them because it references prayer (might be restating the first). Third, it was said by the Lord himself, so WE MUST be able to claim it for ourselves. The third, I would argue, are being serious about prayer.

  5. “She said the unthinkable . . . I cannot believe she used this verse. It was manipulative, irresponsible, and downright misleading. ”

    Do you think she was purposely doing this or just ignorant? Those are some pretty strong words.

  6. Debra, no. It was dramatic overstatement based on my conclusion. She was well meaning. But this does suppose that we can manipulate the Lord. Hope that makes sense.

  7. The whole concept is similar to how you need ten males to form a minyan (quorum) necessary so that a Jewish temple can meet.

  8. “I submit to you that accusation is just as bad on the other side.”

    MBaker, I take your criticism to heart. However, I don’t think it is an overstatement when we realize what the second commandment is all about. It is simply saying that we cannot control the Lord. The prayer that invokes his presence is what God is trying to prevent in the second commandment in two ways: it is twisting his arm as the physical requirements guarantee an outcome (ie his “presence” in their midst”) and it is calling upon some sort of spacial presence.

    But, I hope you see how I qualified what might seem to be an over the top statement by informing the readers that idolatry is a sin we ALL often commit, from holy water to not cursing only in churches. But this needs another post by itself!

  9. Thank you, Michael. I chose to share this with my pastor, and church page, neither of which is familiar with your typical irenic style. Of course, the dramatic overstatement is the part that stood out the most, which would easily happen to those not familiar with your writing. Having read your writings for years I suspected you were being hyperbolic, but wanted to get confirmation that indeed this was the case.

    Just a suggestion, not everyone who reads your blog is going to be familiar with your customary style; therefore, they may take everything that you say at face value. They could easily perceive you as someone seriously lacking in grace, as in this case, when in reality you are anything but that. Maybe a caveat for your potential new readers might be helpful? at least it would be for me when I share your stuff. lol

    In answer to your question “does this suppose that we can manipulate the Lord?”, no. I’ve always felt a sense of arm twisting when that scripture was use in that fashion, but then again, I never took the initiative to look at it in context myself. A good reminder to never assume, always check context.

  10. Thank you for making this clarification to one of the most abused verses in the NT. It is amazing how the lack of contextual reading leads to what amounts to the Christian equivalent of an “ueban legend.” Well parsed!

  11. Thanks Debra. I changed it some. Can you take a look and see if you think that the changes will take away the sting you mentioned. If not, please suggest how I might change it further. You are wonderful for thinking of others and how they may need this!

  12. Dear Michael,
    Thank you so much for writing this. I really appreciate your speaking the truth in this blog. I appreciate the way you boldly make such a strong case based on evidence with the little bit of space you have. I especially appreciate your willingness to speak so straightforwardly (with gentleness and respect) among the many who believe that any kind of disagreement with the majority of Christian beliefs is argumentative and promoting divisiveness. I am not at a place right now where I can read lengthy theologicle articles and books, yet I crave something with substance, that isn’t just fluff. I really enjoy my daily one minute dose of the Credo House blog. They really hit the spot. And if I disagee, they challenge me to search the Scriptures for myself and examine the evidence. Question: What do you believe is the right thing to do when you encounter someone praying this passage out of context in this way?

  13. I guess I see this errant belief of Matthew 18 as a need or desire to control our lives.

    I’ve recently started to recognize certain christian interests as a means for us humans to have some sense of control over our outcomes.

    Charismaticism is the fastest growing form of Christianity today. I believe its growing so fast because it seems to offer the practitioners some sense of control over physical outcomes in their lives.

    While the prosperity gospel message is still relegated to certain quarters of christianity, ‘prosperity lite,’ as it has been termed, is quickly becoming mainstream. This message, again, offers its practitioners some sense of control (through money and thought) over materialistic outcomes.

    I suppose even the heady pursuit of intellectual mastery of the gospel through theology can be an attempt by us humans to capture some form of control over God, and thus, outcomes in our lives.

    The more we can make God “known,” i.e. planned and predictable, the more we can game the system to our benefit. (And I would bet real money those who have done this have encountered the Masters ability to totally frustrate and stop our play time.)

    We so desperately want this control over outcomes because we want to manage and secure our safety. We want to feel good, not bad. We want success and not failure. We want life, not death.

    What we have been taught about God and christianity, to me, has been lacking the ability to rightly empower us spiritually. It is lacking, in my estimation, because we totally have no sense of what it means to be spiritual. We are material. Totally unlike God, right now. He is invisible. Unseen. Unheard. Untouched, if you will. If in worship we get goosebumps we might say the spirit is present. Thats our extent of contact.

    To engage God we must do so through faith. Not a mechanism given to security and stability. In this absence we search for “christian” means of control to make us feel safe.

  14. Thanks, Michael: this issue is in need of more correction across denominational lines.
    Another misused concept is from Mat. 17:20 – faith can move mountains! At its worst, this can take the form of invoking “power” from within to do one’s personal will.
    As scripture warns, witchcraft is as the sin of rebellion . . .

  15. You’re welcome, Michael. It was not easy approaching you regarding this, not because I think you unapproachable, but because I do not hold a college degree; however, I know it has always been your desire to communicate what is on your heart and to do so with complete transparency.

    I have actually asked my pastor to look at it again, since I feel his opinion would be more helpful by giving you the perspective of an outsider. That said, I think your additions are good, but it might be helpful to add as a preface to the statement in question with…”My initial reaction was it was manipulative, irresponsible…” or “My initial knee jerk reaction was… ” . I sought my husbands opinion and he says that you sound contradictory by ascribing ill motives at the start then saying later “of course she meant no ill-intentions.”

    Please know, I appreciate the real thought provoking topic of this post. I would think someone with your extensive knowledge of scripture hears verses misused all the time, and can only imagine how frustrating that is when your entire ministry is geared toward helping the layman become more theologically literate. I too would probably become “hara” at times if in your shoes.

    Thank you for being receptive my comments. It really is appreciated.

  16. Michael Patton, so, in the proper context, “there I am among them” , translates as approval? Like, “I’m authorizing this, I’m in”? Nothing to do with “here I am”? Nothing to do with Christ responding to a group effort? Is “there I am among them” literally translated “I’m approving this gathering” or is it a figure of speech? Like some might respond today with,”I hear ya, I’m with ya on that” and yet they may be miles away and not literally with us? Or do we know it simply means “I authorize” this meeting, this gathering because we know from other scriptures He is present to hear individual prayers?

  17. Exactly. It is like we would say if I were not present and I say “I’m with you” when you make a decision. Christ is “siding” with those who have gone through the process.

  18. I hope you spoke to this person about your thoughts on prayer and that verse and didn’t just blog about it. If so, I wonder how it went over. Was the person surprised, upset, embarrassed, did they disagree, etc.

  19. No, I did not. The time has to be right for such things. But the Credo House will provide many indirect ways to confront this. They may even be reading this blog. But as so many of you know, I change stories enough so as to keep people from knowing it is about them.

  20. Doug,

    i wondered the same thing. This lady must be so discouraged and embarassed reading this that she did something horribly wrong, and has been castigated publically when I’m thinking perhaps she was only trying to simply pray for everyone, and just unknowingly made a theological boo-boo at the end.

  21. MBaker. Read the last statement. You should know me better than that.

  22. Michael,

    I did read it, but my question is why did you make this one person a public example when you could have so easily expressed it objectively as theological point of view as well?

    I think we should just tell it like it is, and skip the personal stuff. Would have been so much more effective , IMHO, to say that many people do this erroneously, which I do absolutely happen to agree with you there.

  23. My pastor basically stated you could have written the entire article, made your very VALID point, and never even mentioned the woman. Emphasis his.

    I must agree at this point. Your message would have been more effective having left it out, instead some are stumbling over the example, causing you to come across as judgmental. Sorry, Michael. Sometimes drama will bite you in the butt, just ask my teen.

    As for me, it’s time to go read those passages again and let what I’ve learned here sink in, so I don’t drive someone to becoming hara myself. ;o)

  24. But, then again, as any good preaching class would teach you, you have to provide real life illustrations in order to create and substantial the need. These illustrations of this being abused abound.

    I use a real life one, as I so often do in my blogs, in order to create a narrative. This, theoretically, draws people into a story, which is very important if you want to gain their attention (which is very hard to do these day…as it is with me).

    But, the sting is taken away, I hope, by realizing that this illustration is simply an agglomeration of many many abuses, and does not have any one representative. There is absolutely no way that someone reading this would think it is about them.

  25. I’ve been reading this conversation with interest.

    Sorry, Michael, but it sounds to me like if your “real life illustration” has been changed so much that there is no way that any one could know that it is them you are talking about, it is more of a fictional story you are telling us then a real life example!

  26. What an odd place these conversations in the comments can go.

    But I do love this stuff. Rhetoric, pedagogy, didactics, and homeletics is such an important subject that rarely receives the attention it needs.

  27. So Michael, it seems like you have quite confused several people here, including me, and caused a lot of concern by telling a story as if it were actual fact when in reality it was much more fiction then a real life example or illustration.

    It seems like there must be some way to catch people’s attention that isn’t as loaded as this approach obviously is.

  28. Well, I would just keep in mind that most of the direct examples will be ipsissima vox (the very voice, idea), not ipsissima verba (the very words). Kinda like Matthew does with Christ. But rest assured that the illustrations are not made up even if, in order to keep from offending someone, these maybe be representative of real life situations I have experienced.

    Again, this is quite a tangent that does not need such extensive review. I seriously doubt that those reading it are without their own examples of the abuse that this post speaks about.

    In teaching, you must remember that often the entire lesson and argument will be built upon the historic details. But more often than not, the examples can be parabolic and representative in historic situations. A good book on this kind of stuff is Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me.

  29. Now, I could tell you the exact story that brought this blog to life. It happened two weeks ago. It was at the Credo House. And the people involved (along with the girl) do read this blog. I could also detail out the times when I have heard this statement in prayer (sometimes by a girl), but is a detailed summary necessary for the illustration or my integrity? No. If it were, only those with a photographic memory could use personal illustrations!

    But, again, this should not disturb you. And if it does, I suppose you will have a lot of trouble with the Gospel writers and their redaction of Christ words. This is turning into quite a good illustration itself for my teacher traing course!!

  30. And I won’t use any names! Might even say it was a guy and replace the blog with the classroom! Nah, that pushes it a bit far for me ( unless I come straight out and say such)

  31. We are getting to that point. But remember, 95% don’t read comments and of the 5% that do, very few read this far down (esp when the conversation
    Is so tangential).

  32. I guess some of us here are of “the old school” that figured that when something was told as factual, it was indeed factual. Unless, of course, there was some indication given that made it clear that was not the case.
    You know a, “While this account is based on fact, the names and details have been changed to protect the innocent,” kind of a thing.

  33. You know what else I’ve learned from this post? That people tend to really get “hara” over that which they are most passionate about.

    Michael, you’ve always been transparent with your own life in order to help others understand your message, even when it’s not wrapped up in a nice, spotless little package. I appreciate your efforts. You often broach troublesome subjects many dare not talk about due to the difficulties faced when doing so. I’m thankful you are willing to engage and hang in there, even when it’s tough to do so.

  34. Michael,
    You could just as easily have been talking about me, years ago, when I was praying aloud with a group. I learned the “incantation” from others praying the same way, then explaining to me that it means something about there being more power in numbers (or something). It wasn’t until I began to seriously think about that definition with what Scripture teaches, and studied it in context, that I realized they were wrong/I was wrong. I asked God for foregiveness.

    I appreciate that you used a real life example, fiction or not, to present this post. It IS more personal that way. Kind-of like including the heart, and not just the head. Similar to, explaining what athiest believe, as opposed to a conversation that my daughter had with an athiest the other day (really happened). The topic went from just being a subject, to being a person.

  35. Read that book Cheryl. You will see that even when you think you recall the facts, they are not quite so accurate. But, you can rest assured that I have heard this prayer prayed many times.

    (And please don’t jump all over the Gospel writers for agglomerating the stories of Jesus, especially the sermon on the mount. They don’t know what “old school” means) ;-)

  36. No, they agglomerated the events and sayings of Christ. But let’s not go down this road any longer. It is quite silly and bordering on a sinful waste of time and energy.

  37. For two days now I have read and taken into consideration all the comments regarding you, Michael, referencing an unnamed female using scripture incorrectly in prayer. I’ve been trying really hard to put myself on both sides of the fence. I have put myself as the female in question based on the timing and all the other data presented. I squirmed a little. But was relieved that you took the hit for being “hyper-critical” and even said it was a confession. I didn’t read it as a gift. Confessions are usually about one’s flaws or sins. If you had not prefaced it as a confession, I know it would not have gone down well with me. Then it would have been condescending. You even criticized yourself saying “residual seminary-know-it-all”. Good characterization. We all have residual of something or another. Like lime deposits left by very hard water. Mostly clean except for that little bit of residue. I also love that you said “I get it. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Other people are not perfect”. If we’re growing, we all eventually get that revelation. You even stood up for this girl, “Of course, she did not have any ill intentions. She was just following the folklore about this verse, which she had probably heard herself countless times in the past. We have all done it.” Uh oh, I see a problem. Just prior to that you accused her with “She said the unthinkable . . . I cannot believe she used this verse. It was manipulative, irresponsible, and downright misleading. What was her crime?” You used the words to describe her as manipulative, irresponsible and misleading and she’s a criminal. WOW! It’s so over the top what you describe, could that possibly have tongue in cheek? I take it that way. I take it that you were making fun of yourself and others like you that get so, I don’t know, legalistic, Pharisaical while keeping score during a prayer? I thought you were making jabs at yourself and exposing your own character flaws and less her own.

  38. OK, so I got cut off. Carrying on…Maybe what happened was you mention at the top of your story about your former weakness of cringing at others’ misuse of scripture during prayer and that became the focal point for some. I assume you wanted for us the most was to understand scriptures that has been so taken out of context and misapplied that we weren’t getting it’s full benefit, if at all? I think your confession is a worthy topic because, I think, so many of us to that. For me it was getting over critiquing the praise team. Coming from a very musical, performing family, it was hard. Only took me a few years but I’m passed it now. Point is, that would make an excellent post. And the main theme you intended here, was concerning those scriptures you mentioned. Perhaps mixing the two cost each subject matter to get lost? Sometimes that just happens. As far as mentioning real life situations to drive home a point, I think it is only wrong if you are truly condemning the other where he/she has no way of defending his/herself or making fun of him/her. I don’t think you did either. I think the emphasis was on what a jerk you used to be. I think you mentioned she represented many of us. The hero pastors of today all use real life examples. But never in a cruel way. I can tell it bothers you that anyone might think you would be so cruel. Don’t worry about it. It was just bad writing.

  39. By the way, back to the main topic, I researched the thoughts of some other theologians on these scriptures and how they are misused. One in particular was fully in harmony with what you translated for us. He made two points, 1) the two or more witnesses method was God ordained and 2) because it IS God ordained, meaning it is His will to manage it with the two or more witnesses, and they are (the 2 or more or however many showed up) seeking to be obedient and do His will in this very important matter, He will do what is asked. That is where “there I am among them” comes into play. He is the CENTER of what they are praying about because He instructed them to handle it exactly that way. That prayer and the order in which to handle that particular matter is His idea, His concept, His commandment. He’s in the thick of it, He’s in the middle of it. His handwriting is all over it. He is with you all the way when you are doing His will. He always hears our prayers but isn’t always “with us” on it. Not every prayer flied with the assurance that it will be answered. In this case, Jesus says, you can count on Him with this one. We must be in His will not He in our will.

    The other thing that was brought out was that the two or more witnesses had to be objective witnesses to make sure that fairness was extended to the accused. Perhaps the accuser was not telling it rightly? That could happen and probably has. There are probably many church members that have targets on their backs. Thank goodness that there is a fair way to get to the bottom and both sides be heard rather than tossing someone out on their ear because of maybe some jealous deacon.

    to be continued….

  40. Lastly, the point was made that if the accused was indeed guilty, once his sins are exposed, no point in hiding out as most of us do when we’re leading guilty, unrepentant lives. Once the sin is out of the dark and into the light and you can’t run from it, you stand a good chance that you’ll be relieved it’s out and be ready to be blessed with wisdom, love and counseling. Fear and worry of being exposed it now a non issue. No more dodging others or hiding out. The monster under the bed isn’t so scary or controlling anymore. So this person pointed out how this made way for the accused to be restored. Isn’t that wonderful God made such a way?

  41. I don’t doubt Michael’s sincerity at all, and hopefully he knows that, otherwise I wouldn’t even read his site, much less bother to comment on it, but I do think, however, this article was a bit too ad hominem, despite the changes he made to it after it was called to his attention. Somehow the theological implications of the misuse of that verse by so many others in the church got lost in the comparison between his ‘red nose ‘ and the young lady.

    We don’t know her motives, whether it was a theological boo-boo or a deliberate attempt to influence God. I agree with Debra’s pastor that it was already a valid complaint bout the misuse of this verse in the first place, without using the young lady as the bad example.

    So I agree with the exegesis he presented but not about the method, because since he hasn’t talked to her personally, so we really can’t tell what her motives really were. That’s my major objection.

  42. Well, there is a real need to make sure we interpret scripture within it’s context. Using an example is how writers or speakers often help us relate. It carries more of a punch when we can identify than to merely say,”many use this scripture incorrectly. So let’s take a look and understand it’s context.” Double yawn. Funny thing is, I did wonder if that girl was me? Not literally and yet, literally….someplace else, in another small group. And funnier still, I thought about all my uh huh, yes Lord, and a little umph during others’ prayers. I do that. But is it insincere? I think I checked out OK there. It doesn’t happen until I start to really medicate on the prayer. But it was worth questioning. I don’t know who writes blogs or books that are non fictional and don’t use real life stories with real people. And many pastors wing it…meaning they suddenly think of a story/example to help listeners relate and they don’t have time to mix it up and change all the characters or town or year or anything. I think discretion has to be used. But I also say trust must be there. Do I trust my pastor to know that his example will not be about anyone who has recently visited our church or even visited our church at all. Do I trust he is confident when he uses an example that the person in question won’t be near to be offended? Yes, I trust him. I think Michael asked for that kind of trust. Was he asking too much of us? I really understand everyone’s concern. Honestly, I do. I just can’t see a writer/pastor/public speaker not using real people as real examples to be share with others. Especially when using a real person he makes himself the butt of his own joke (aka criticism). Plus, the fact that we recall these people and the circumstances means, for better or worse, they have some sort of influence on us. Still, let’s remember that Michael said “she” was a fabrication of many he’s heard misuse those scriptures. Did we need the example? How will we ever…

  43. How will we ever know for sure?

  44. I say we should pray about it. After all, when two or more are together in his name… :)

  45. O i have heard this used so flagrantly. You are so right. the first thing i wondered was, ‘then what about those personal times of prayer?’
    I decided to read the rest of the verses.
    It is not about prayer or prayer meetings or any sort of gatherings at all!
    OUr human hearts are so afraid we cling to any quick promise and fix…..(even in our politics say); and yes, it also smacks of idolatry – the making of God in our image to suit our needs!

  46. My conclusion then is why bother to gather in weekly corporate prayer if praying alone is just as biblical and God listen just the same. Why waste the brethens’ time in gathering them together for prayer meetings since as you say there is ‘no magic’ in it. Just send the prayer items each week and let each pray in their own homes, their own way and their own time.

  47. Fern Nichols founder of Moms in Touch (now Moms in Prayer) lists this scripture as a promise. I too seek to know the truth from scripture and have had discussions with various pastors about prayer, praying of one accord, enjoying two or three gathered together in Jesus name, etc. Truth can become an idol so I pray that God will help me to put Him first and not put being correct first. I know that God hears us if we have confessed our sins if we are the only one praying. But I remember the scriptures where many disciples are gathered together praying. A need to gather together in prayer is a good thing and picturing Jesus listening is good too. We were made for fellowship with Him and others. I love it when people all over the world are praying—we bear one another’s burdens. It is such a joy to share the answers with all those who have labored in prayer. So that scripture is in regard to church discipline but there are others that encourage gathering together and Jesus has promised He will never leave us or forsake us. He prays for us too.


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