Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reflections on Week of Prayer: MINISTRIES

I suppose this might sound discouraging, but my experience of prayer last night was rather dry. Maybe “hard” is a better word. It was our fifth night in a row, our smallest turnout and I was tired. But the saints came and we prayed. How strange it is that an hour of prayer seems to go faster as the week goes on… even when you are weary.

We tried to pray for every “official and non-official” ministry carried on by the members of Grace Fellowship Church. It was a daunting task to pray for so many things and not to pray the same old thing over and over. God was gracious.

One of the things I learned last night was the joy of help. I felt like Aaron and Hur were holding my arms last night so that we would prevail. Brothers and sisters kept praying, kept grappling and kept on until we covered it all. How glad I am for the Body of Christ. This is one of the great blessings of corporate prayer… you are helped along as you pray along with others.

In my morning devotions today I read Paul’s description of the prayers of Epaphras: “… always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” Colossians 4:12.  The only way Paul could know the content of Epahras’ prayers was to hear them. And Paul drew great encouragement from what his brother sought from the Lord. This Paul finds a similar boon when he hears the prayers of his fellow church members!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reflections on Week of Prayer: LEADERS

Last night we devoted an hour to pray for our leaders. This may seem very self-serving (since the leaders set the agenda for the meetings!) but there was a theological rationale behind it. Strike the shepherd and the sheep are scattered. False shepherds lead the sheep astray. Like priest, like people. The Bible contains a robust and careful job description and qualification list for church leaders. We believe in it. Yet it is so precise and full of exacting standards that we know the only way we will get and keep leaders like this is by prayer.

I wondered if last night would be the shortest of meetings, yet the saints came ready to work hard on behalf of their elders and deacons. How humbling to hear such tender, Scripture-full, pleading prayers on our behalf.

After several years in the ministry I concluded, “The only reason you have gotten this far is people are praying for you.” I had a renewed sense of that last night.

I'm not making this up. I really get to serve the best saints in the world. I don't deserve it.

Reflections on Week of Prayer: CONVERSIONS

Having already confessed how few conversions we saw last year, and thanked God for the ones we did see, the pump was primed to set after praying for more. Believing our first mission field is in our own camp, we listed out all the names of the kids from High School and down. Some of these kids are already graciously converted, but we were happy to pray for all of them by name asking God to save.*

What a time of prayer. A wave of pleading swept over us. After an hour there was a palpable sense we needed to keep on, so we excused those who needed to leave, but pressed on for another 40 minutes beseeching the Lord of the harvest. I don’t write this to boast in anyone but the Lord. Who are we?

What most of us wanted was a renewed burden for friends who are not Christians yet. May God give it.

Pondering that Jesus came to “seek and save that which was lost” and that He “came into the world to save sinners” and that His Father “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked” we were led to feel we were praying the will of God as we prayed for men and women to be saved from the guilt and penalty of their sins. Children, friends, family members, neighbours, co-workers, old friends were all prayed for.

Graciously, God was with us again.

*This is no offense to a godly parent. What mom or dad does not want their child prayed for? And if someone prays for one of my converted children to be converted, I hear that prayer in the spirit is given. If the Apostle could speak of “not having already attained” salvation in the fullest, realized sense, then I think we can pray for children – especially when we consider how feeble and tempted a child may be.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reflections on Week of Prayer: THANKSGIVING

We met last night to thank God. I was reminded of Jesus’ delight in the one former leper out of ten who returned to thank Him for his healing.

            “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  (Luke 17:18 ESV)

We are thankless far too much.

Last night created the same experience as our night of confession – as brothers and sisters thanked God for the specific blessings of the last year, my heart was caught up with them to the throne in gratitude to the Giver of all good things. Precious were the words of thanks from the children. Oh, for more of that simplicity in my own prayers.

Another effect of an hour of thanks was a further humbling. Yes, it was humbling to confess our sins, for which we alone are responsbilbe, but it was equally humbling to thank God for all the good in our lives. He gets all the credit for dealing with our sin and all the credit for “every good gift.”

God seems very evidently at work in our church. All the glory for that goes to Him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reflections on Week of Prayer: CONFESSION

Take us down and lay us low
Leave ashes in place of gold
Life-giver sustainer
Let nothing remain of our pride
From your mountain on high
Lay us low

These are the words to Christa Well’s new song, LayUs Low. The Image of God EP was released just the other day and I am thanking God for it – especially for the way it poetically captures what happened last night.

We met for one hour to confess our sins to God. How does one write about these things? I felt that God was with us in power and grace. He kept us from all the nearby dangers an exercise like this can fall in to and He came with forgiveness, holiness and love. It was a powerful time and I hated to draw it to a close. God was with us.

Another of Wells’ songs says:

We come in pieces
We come in fragments
We come discolored
To the foot of the cross
Our Maker sees us
All that we have been
Bonds us together
The Image of God

We left our meeting last night humbled, more in love with each and more thankful than ever for Jesus.

The surprising blessing to me was listening to my brothers and sisters confess. I had thought that might be an odd thing to do, but in reality it exposed my heart. As one brother wept for his sin, it made me see the same sin in me. As one sister compared her sin to other actions, I thought, “That’s me, too, Lord!” Every person who prayed led me to see more of my own sin and in turn more of the beauty of the Gospel.

I will never forget that night.

Monday, January 09, 2012

11 Reasons You Should Come to Every Meeting during the Week of Prayer

11. It will not kill you to do it, and it will bless you and your children to be there.

10. You need to learn how to prevail in prayer and this is an excellent way to teach you.

9. This is your church, you are her members, and your leaders want you here for they know it will be good for you.

8. You will model to the world that God is real when you give up 6 nights to pursue Him in prayer.

7. You will gain the joy of doing something for the Lord. How many times do we aspire to do great things for God or even complain that we want to serve more? Well, here is the way to do something for real.

6. You personal spiritual life will be blessed as you follow the logic of the week from confession, to thanksgiving, to conversions, to leaders, to ministries, to delight in God.

5. You will be speaking to God with God’s people every day this week! What is better than that?

4. You will be humbled.

3. You will be deeply reminded of how needy we are for God to work as we lay out our many requests before Him – needs that are easy to otherwise forget .

2. Other than having to work, or being in the hospital, or traveling, or providing childcare so your spouse can go, or health concerns or sickness – what good reason would there be to miss these meetings? Your entertainment? No. Your rest? No. Your privacy? No. I can’t think of one good reason.

1. Your praying in general will be revitalized from taking one week to pray with God’s people every night.