The following is from St. Cyprian's On the Unity of the Church:
Nor let any deceive themselves by a futile interpretation, in respect of the Lord having said, Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20 Corrupters and false interpreters of the Gospel quote the last words, and lay aside the former ones, remembering part, and craftily suppressing part: as they themselves are separated from the Church, so they cut off the substance of one section. For the Lord, when He would urge unanimity and peace upon His disciples, said, I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that you shall ask, it shall be given you by my Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them; showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. If, He says, two of you shall agree on earth: He placed agreement first; He has made the concord of peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully. But how can he agree with any one who does not agree with the body of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be assembled together in Christ's name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth. But the Lord speaks concerning His Church, and to those also who are in the Church He speaks, that if they are in agreement, if according to what He commanded and admonished, although only two or three gathered together with unanimity should pray— though they be only two or three — they may obtain from the majesty of God what they ask. Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I, slays He, am with them; that is, with the simple and peaceable — with those who fear God and keep God's commandments. With these, although only two or three, He said that He was, in the same manner as He was with the three youths in the fiery furnace; and because they abode towards God in simplicity, and in unanimity among themselves, He animated them, in the midst of the surrounding flames, with the breath of dew: in the way in which, with the two apostles shut up in prison, because they were simple-minded and of one mind, He Himself was present; He Himself, having loosed the bolts of the dungeon, placed them again in the market-place, that they might declare to the multitude the word which they faithfully preached. When, therefore, in His commandments He lays it down, and says, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them, He does not divide men from the Church, seeing that He Himself ordained and made the Church; but rebuking the faithless for their discord, and commending peace by His word to the faithful, He shows that He is rather with two or three who pray with one mind, than with a great many who differ, and that more can be obtained by the concordant prayer of a few, than by the discordant supplication of many.
The following is from Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XIV):
- The Power of Harmony in Relation to Prayer.
Again I say unto you that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them. Matthew 18:19 The word symphony is strictly applied to the harmonies of sounds in music. And there are indeed among musical sounds some accordant and others discordant. But the Evangelic Scripture is familiar with the name as applied to musical matters in the passage, He heard a symphony and dancing. Luke 15:25 For it was fitting that when the son who had been lost and found came by penitence into concord with his father a symphony should be heard on the occasion of the joyous mirth of the house. But the wicked Laban was not acquainted with the word symphony in his saying to Jacob, And if you had told me I would have sent you away with mirth and with music and with drums and a harp. Genesis 31:27 But akin to the symphony of this nature is that which is written in the second Book of Kings when the brethren of Aminadab went before the ark, and David and his son played before the Lord on instruments artistically fitted with might and with songs; 2 Samuel 6:4-5 for the instruments thus fitted with might and with songs, had in themselves the musical symphony which is so powerful that when two only, bring along with the symphony which has relation to the music that is divine and spiritual, a request to the Father in heaven about anything whatsoever, the Father grants the request to those who ask along with the symphony on earth — which is most miraculous — those things which those who have made the symphony spoken of may have asked. So also I understand the apostolic saying Defraud ye not one the other except it be by agreement for a season that you may give yourselves unto prayer. 1 Corinthians 7:5 For since the word harmony is applied to those who marry according to God in the passage from Proverbs which is as follows: Fathers will divide their house and substance to their sons, but from God the woman is married to the man, it is a logical consequence of the harmony being from God, that the name and the deed should enjoy the agreement with a view to prayer, as is indicated in the word, unless it be by agreement. 1 Corinthians 7:5 Then the Word repeating that the agreeing of two on the earth is the same thing as the agreeing with Christ, adds, For where two or three are gathered together in My name. Matthew 18:20 Therefore the two or three who are gathered together in the name of Christ are those who are in agreement on earth, not two only but sometimes also three. But he who has the power will consider whether this agreement and a congregation of this sort in the midst of which Christ is, can be found in more, since narrow and straightened is the way that leads unto life, and few be they that find it. Matthew 7:14 But perhaps also not even few but two or three make a symphony as Peter and James and John, to whom as making a symphony the Word of God showed His own glory. But two made a symphony, Paul and Sosthenes, when writing the first Epistle to the Corinthians; 1 Corinthians 1:1 and after this Paul and Timothy when sending the second Epistle to the same. 2 Corinthians 1:1 And even three made a symphony when Paul and Silvanus and Timothy gave instruction by letter to the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 But if it be necessary also from the ancient Scriptures to bring forward the three who made a symphony on earth, so that the Word was in the midst of them making them one, attend to the superscription of the Psalms, as for example to that of the forty-first, which is as follows: Unto the end, unto understanding, for the sons of Korah. For though there were three sons of Korah whose names we find in the Book of Exodus, Exodus 6:24 Aser, which is, by interpretation, instruction, and the second Elkana, which is translated, possession of God, and the third Abiasaph, which in the Greek tongue might be rendered, congregation of the father, yet the prophecies were not divided but were both spoken and written by one spirit, and one voice, and one soul, which wrought with true harmony, and the three speak as one, As the heart pants after the springs of the water, so pants my soul after you, O God. But also they say in the plural in the forty-fourth Psalm, O God, we have heard with our ears. But if you wish still further to see those who are making symphony on earth look to those who heard the exhortation, that you may be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment, 1 Corinthians 1:10 and who strove after the goal, the soul and the heart of all the believers were one, Acts 4:32 who have become such, if it be possible for such a condition to be found in more than two or three, that there is no discord between them, just as there is no discord between the strings of the ten-stringed psaltery with each other. But they were not in symphony in earth who said, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:12 but there were schisms among them, upon the dissolution of which they were gathered together in company with the spirit in Paul, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:4 that they might no longer bite and devour one another so that they were consumed by one another; Galatians 5:15 for discord consumes, as concord brings together, and admits the Son of God who comes in the midst of those who have become at concord. And strictly, indeed, concord takes place in two things generic, through the perfecting together, as the Apostle has called it, of the same mind by an intellectual grasp of the same opinions, and through the perfecting together of the same judgment, by a like way of living. But if whenever two of us agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father of Jesus who is in heaven, Matthew 18:19 plainly when this is not done for them of the Father in heaven as touching anything that they shall ask, there the two have not been in agreement on earth; and this is the cause why we are not heard when we pray, that we do not agree with one another on earth, neither in opinions nor in life. But further also if we are the body of Christ and God has set the members each one of them in the body that the members may have the same care one for another, and may agree with one another, and when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, and if one be glorified, they rejoice with it, we ought to practise the symphony which springs from the divine music, that when we are gathered together in the name of Christ, He may be in the midst of us, the Word of God, and the Wisdom of God, and His Power. 1 Corinthians 1:24
- Harmony of the Old and New Covenants.
And likewise it is a pleasant thing to endeavour to understand and exhibit the fact of the concord of the two covenants — of the one before the bodily advent of the Saviour and of the new covenant; for among those things in which the two covenants are at concord so that there is no discord between them would be found prayers, to the effect that about anything whatever they shall ask it shall be done to them from the Father in heaven. And if also you desire the third that unites the two, do not hesitate to say that it is the Holy Spirit, since the words of the wise, whether they be of those before the advent, or at the time of the advent, or after it, are as goads, and as nails firmly fixed, which were given by agreement from one shepherd. Ecclesiastes 12:11 And do not let this also pass unobserved, that He did not say, where two or three are gathered together in My name, there shall I be in the midst of them, but there am I, Matthew 18:20 not going to be, not delaying, but at the very moment of the concord being Himself found, and being in the midst of them.