How encouraging it is to hear the people of God gathered together for prayer! I’ve enjoyed many opportunities to come to the throne of grace with brothers and sisters in Christ in my local church. We grow stronger as a church when we gather to acknowledge before God and others our weakness and need. Corporate prayer provides us a means to support and comfort one another through times of sorrow and trial and to celebrate and magnify God’s praise in times of joy and triumph. It is good to hear testimonies of God’s grace in the lives of others, their petitions for prayer, and their thanks for answered prayer.
Unfortunately, it has become a trend in many churches today to no longer meet for designated times of prayer. Often the reason involves good intentions. We want to accommodate busy schedules and support families in their desire to spend time together. But while eliminating a weekly prayer service may be convenient for some, it is detrimental to all. We miss out on wonderful opportunities for Christian fellowship and growth by not regularly entering into the prayers and praise of others.
We need to pray more together as God’s people, and we need to pray that God would stir us to pray. It’s not just that we don’t pray enough; we don’t have a deep enough sense of our need to pray. Pastor and hymn-writer John Newton expresses this well in his hymn “Great Shepherd of Thy People, Hear.” The hymn is drawn out of the benediction in Hebrews 13:
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20–21, ESV).
The hymn itself is a beautiful prayer to pray at the beginning of a prayer service and to remind us of the value of such times of corporate prayer. Jesus is the Great Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep and who lovingly leads us and guides us by His Word. Newton bids us to believe God’s Word and pray in faith, asking God not only to hear our prayers, but to give us hearts to pray. The words to Newton’s hymn and a link to the music are provided below. May his hymn be an encouragement for us to pray and a reminder that we have a God who delights in hearing and answering the prayers of His people.
Great Shepherd of Thy People, Hear
1. Great Shepherd of Thy people, hear;
Thy presence now display.
As Thou has giv’n a place for prayer,
So give us hearts to pray.
2. Show us some token of Thy love,
Our fainting hope to raise;
And pour Thy blessing from above,
That we may render praise.
3. Within these walls let holy peace,
And love, and concord dwell;
Here give the troubled conscience ease,
The wounded spirit heal.
4. May we in faith receive Thy Word,
In faith present our prayers,
And in the presence of our Lord,
Unbosom all our cares.
5. And may this Gospel’s joyful sound,
Enforced by mighty grace,
Awaken many sinners round
To come and fill this place.
“Great Shepherd of Thy People, Hear”
Words by John Newton (1725–1807)
Music by Tom Wells, 2001
Words ©Public Domain
Music ©2001 Tom Wells (Used by Permission)
Tom Wells (Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas) composed the tune for this hymn. Download free sheet music (PDF), including a guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune SCOTT for classical guitar.