Mark, you are so good at quoting from historical figures that I’m a little taken aback by your throwaway reference to John Calvin. Since he had preaching services during the week, I’m surprised to learn that he advocated a mid-week prayer meeting: “Church history also gives us many good examples (e.g., Calvin in Geneva).”
Here’s a question, though. Say you are a congregation that already has two prayer meetings. Each one takes place on Sunday, one in the morning and one in the evening. These instances of corporate prayer, as you may have guessed, are part of the sanctification of the Lord’s Day. Are you advocating that we add another, for the sake of sanctifying Wednesday night (sure hope it doesn’t conflict with Hockey Night in Canada)?
Or what if you are part of a congregation that only has one service on the Lord’s Day — in the morning, for instance? Do you think a church should first start an evening Sunday service before adding a mid-week prayer meeting? Or is corporate prayer so important that Christians should leave their homes and offices for it, even though they may already pray in those non-church settings alone or with other Christians?
I am having trouble figuring out why you might advocate corporate prayer the way you do. For instance, you say that one reason is that people are too busy. But that’s the same argument that people use against a second service on Sunday. I can well understand that people have vocations that make attending church functions like Bible study, youth group, even catechism difficult. I can also well understand a session that is reluctant to add to a church member’s burdens, someone who already is committed to and practices keeping the Lord’s Day holy.
I don’t know why you don’t see the potential burden unless you don’t understand the doctrine of vocation. Isn’t it Reformed to think that someone is actually serving God by carrying out their civil, secular, professional, and family duties? If they perform those tasks on the Lord’s Day, then Houston we have a problem. But if they honor their callings during the week and cant’ attend a church function to which officers cannot attach a “thus saith the Lord,” are you really suggesting that to be truly holy and pious people need to pray together at the church building (instead of with their families or over the course of their work days)?
Maybe the problem is that you don’t appreciate the importance of Lord’s Day worship and week-day vocation.
Or maybe you simply have forgotten that all of life is worship (thanks to our southern correspondent):
The New Testament model for worship is not just about singing praises. It is living a life of service. It’s about far more than music. It’s helping your neighbor bring in the groceries, providing for the elderly, taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves, helping the poor and needy—these are all examples of biblical worship.
Actually, I’d prefer that you not follow this Framean understanding of every-square-inch liturgy, but you may want to recognize that your version of pietism is out of whack with the neo-Calvinist high intellect pietism. For neo-Cals, missing a mid-week prayer service is no problem since a believer must 24-7 be engaged in some means of grace. As you yourself have argued, grace can be a fairly expansive category that extends to God’s work of creation and providence. So if someone at church who is following Kuyper misses a prayer meeting because they are redeeming culture by watching Downton Abbey, which seventeenth-century theologian are you going to quote against them?