Biblical directive or social engineering?
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.”
The other day, someone said to me that “we are called by God to pray in groups.” But, are we? Where is that written (literally)?
It's well known that you can use the Bible (or pretty much any text) to “prove” anything you want. I can't find the source, but I once heard someone say “people use the Bible to prove stuff they've decided on anyway.” Now, who would benefit from all of us being told that we should pray/worship in church? Obviously, it's the churches – or, more specifically, the church administration.
It's true that you can find New Testament passages describing people praying together; I'm certainly not disputing that. However, there is a big difference between folks wanting to pray together and being told that you have to. This anti “lone wolf Christian” sentiment comes to us through the church hierarchy, tracing all the way back to Paul.
Perhaps not shockingly, I do not accept Paul as divine. I know, no Christian will ever say that Paul was divine, but he is often treated that way. The reason is that “orthodox” (small “o”) Christianity is based on Paul's teachings because Paul was a very good marketer and salesman. He started a lot of churches, and one can reasonably say that without Paul, Christianity would never have survived. So, kudos to him.
However, Paul was not divine, nor was he infallible. All you have to do is to read Acts to see that he was in fact at loggerheads with Jesus's own disciples. And, not just about conversion of the gentiles either. Paul recognized how to make a good pitch that “sticks” – and one aspect of this is social engineering. If you want people to stay in line, just give them a bunch of other people around them who are staying in that line.
So, ask yourself this: If you wanted to know about how a car works, would you ask the engineer who designed it or the salesman at the dealership? I'll take Jesus's directions over Paul's any day of the week.
Take Jesus at his word; pray in private if you want. You are not commanded by God to go to church.