We’re singin’ harmony!
“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”Matthew 18:18-20 NKJV
Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:30 NLT
When I first staggered into the Faith movement, I was very green. My years of addiction and self-indulgence had ill-prepared me for church life. In that first year, I heard a lot of teaching on the subject of “the prayer of agreement.” Taking Matthew 18:19 out of it’s setting, the teaching was that if I could find someone to “agree” with me, then God was obligated to do whatever we asked. Agreement was defined as believing exactly the same thing, standing on the same verse, even speaking the same words after we prayed. We both had to “stay in faith” to see the victory.
Now I know I’m going to make someone mad here but bear with me. The outcome of this teaching was often disappointment. One great benefit was that I always had a scapegoat! If I got you to agree with me about something, but then it didn’t happen, I could blame you! You obviously didn’t actually agree. Your faith must have been too weak, not matching my own great faith. Or maybe you made a bad confession, actually saying out loud something that didn’t reflect that you believed we had received our answer. My prayer went unanswered, but at least I wasn’t to blame!
The more I thought about it, the less it made sense. If I have faith for the answer, why do I need you to agree with me? No one seemed able to provide a reasonable explanation. Mark 11:24 indicates that I can use my faith to receive my requests. If I don’t have faith to believe for my healing, I don’t want someone of like doubt to agree with me! I need to either find someone to help my faith or to pray for me using their own, greater faith to pull me up higher. Here’s the conundrum: If I have faith to receive on my own, all you can do is hinder me. If I don’t have faith to receive, then I need someone who has more faith to pray with me and for me. Please, don’t agree with my unbelief!
As time went on, I began to see some debatable practices based on the “prayer of agreement” model. I was taught to carefully examine someone before I allowed them to pray with me about anything. If they say they “agree” with me, but aren’t actually believing exactly as I do, then their unbelief will hinder my prayer. If they fail to confess the right thing, God won’t answer! In reviewing the New Testament on the subject, I couldn’t find one place that indicated such a practice. Indeed, Paul repeatedly asked the churches, young, old, Jew and Gentile to pray for him. He seemed to think that was a good thing. Surely, he didn’t think that all those who heard these requests read publicly would be of equal faith and equal knowledge. (Ephesians 6:18-19; Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Philippians 1:19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philemon 1:22; Hebrews 13:18)
Another interesting teaching concerned public worship. As you may know, in our Charismatic churches we sang many scripture choruses, and also allowed people to sing in other tongues (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). One wonderful man of God claimed that when we worshipped together as a church, we should all sing in tongues or in English, but never mix the two. If someone sang in English while I sang in tongues, there was no agreement and God wouldn’t show up. I believe in being in one accord, but that is simply not true. Paul encourages the full gamut of praise when we gather together: psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. A heart of gratitude is the key, not a formulaic group chant. (Ephesians 5:18-20: Colossians 3:16)
Though most of the people who taught these things were decent, Jesus-loving people, they were wrong. There is power in agreement, and there is certainly weakness in division, but the idea that God will do something simply because 2 of us get together and apply the formula is absurd. When someone says, “will you agree with me?”, I don’t give them a sermon on the question of agreement. Many people who say “agree with me” are using a kind of charismatic code to say they have some issue looming in life. They don’t want to be guilty of unbelief, so they say, “Can I get you to agree with me for a good report?” What they mean is, “I have strange symptoms. I have tests tomorrow and I’m afraid it’s gonna be bad.” Our job is to help them, not lecture them.
If someone asks me to agree with them and I sense they really have concerns and want help, I try to remember several things:
- They may have some question about their own faith. If they have already prayed and believed, then they don’t need my agreement. If not, then they need me to pray for them, or at least encourage their faith. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Never assume that you know what they are praying for. Many people don’t have faith to be instantly healed. They may be asking for a good outcome for their surgery or their course of treatment. Find out what the request is before you charge off asking for something beyond their grasp or desire. (James 1:19)
- Ask if they have a Scripture that they are believing. If not, I can’t be sure I agree. If so, then I can pray with them as they release their faith according to the will of God. Whether my “agreement” helps or not, I don’t know. I do know that if I can get them to pray according to God’s will as revealed in His Word, then that will definitely help them. (John 6:63)
- If they don’t have a scripture but seem sincere, I give them a little encouragement from Mark 11:24 and Romans 10:17. Find a scripture that promises what you need. Meditate on it until faith rises in your heart. Then come back and let’s pray in faith together.
- After we pray, I continue to pray for them until the issue is resolved. I thank God that He heard us when we prayed (1 John 5:14-15), and I pray that the individual will have a spirit of wisdom and revelation concerning what God has done (Ephesians 1:15-23).
I know that for some of you this is hard to swallow. I get requests to “agree” all the time. It has become a code-word in our movement. We all have an innate desire to have someone else in tandem with us when we have needs. That’s normal, and God encourages it. So, what does the bible actually say about the subject? There is definitely power in united, faith-filled prayer. There is also no doubt that being in an atmosphere that is torn by strife and discord is a hindrance to faith’s operation. (James 3:16)
In Matthew 18:19, the Greek language used the word “sumphōnéō.” You probably see the similarity to our word “symphony.” Greek scholars tell us it meant to agree to or give support to a proposition. It might mean to make an accord, as in a business arrangement or a treaty. It always means to be harmonious. Think of an orchestra playing a piece of music. Many different instruments play different notes, but there is no discord – there is harmony. Everyone is playing their part in the same song, moving together in concert according to a plan. There is one Conductor who oversees them all, keeping them together as they follow Him. The Amplified Bible takes note of this idea:
Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:19 AMP)
We agree if we are both in favor of what tis being proposed. We agree if we are in one accord, not in division, expressing or harboring reservations about the will of God in the matter. We agree if we are in harmony, exercising faith in the same direction, even though we may not both be at the same level of faith. With these ideas in mind, read the next verse:
For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as My followers) in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them. [Exod. 3:14.]
(Matthew 18:20 AMP)
Notice the verse starts with “for.” Jesus is telling them that because His presence is in their midst, they will see the answer to their prayer. This kind of agreement, a harmonious gathering of those who follow Him, drawn together by a desire to serve Him, to represent Him, and to worship Him brings His personal involvement in the proceedings. We have one purpose and one Conductor. We are all playing from the same sheet of music. In that atmosphere the Church exercises a kind of authority that no evil can resist. The symphony of light drives out the darkness. We experience the healing power of the Presence!
Next Steps: The power of Christian community is immense. This is a good time to reprogram your thinking about attitudes and actions that promote agreement and prevent division. Before our next installment,
- Go back over the list above about getting in agreement with others. What can you apply to yourself?
- Review the scriptures in this lesson. Foe each one, identify one thing it teaches you about how faith works in your life.
- Read all of Matthew Chapter 18 several times. Make a list of the topics Jesus was teaching His disciples. How does the central passage in verses 18-20 fit into what Jesus was saying in this teaching?
In our next lesson we will dig deeply into the power of agreement and the power of His Presence. God wants you healed and so do I.