Pastor’s Perspective – October 2018
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you… Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4: 7-8, 10.
What makes a Church healthy and strong?
The tasks that rise to the top of our list will typically be those that help us achieve the goals of our Church. Churches or denominations that value evangelism or Church growth might say that sharing the Gospel or providing dynamic worship are the most important tasks of the Church. Congregations that emphasize social gospel ministries might value feeding the poor or helping those in crisis. Sacramental Christians might place their emphasis on celebrating the mass or receiving communion.
Each of these diverse tasks are important in the life of the Church, but it has become increasingly obvious to me that we are in danger of focusing too much on our work and too little on God. A Church does not grow because of our actions anymore than a child grows because the food we feed her. We know that God brings the harvest. If that is the case, then our work must be bathed in prayer if we are to know and accomplish the will of God. Prayer is the one thing that can accomplish this.
Prayer can enlighten our ministry and empower that which we are called to accomplish. Prayer is the only thing that can change both the people who are praying and the circumstances about which they pray. Most importantly, prayer does not rely on the strength and skill of our work but recognizes that our hope is in the power of God.
We know that whatever we seek to accomplish is contingent on God’s will and blessings. Prayer is how we discover God’s will, it is how we are empowered to accomplish God’s work, and it is where we go when we are celebrating the reception of God’s blessing. Prayer connects a humble to a mighty God and allows us to be transformed into the pattern that God would have for our lives.
Most of us know that we should pray. We believe in the power of prayer. We tell our friends that we will pray for them. We know that God is there, yet we struggle to find and take the time to pray. We will read books about Church growth and attend workshops to learn how to share the gospel through the Roman’s Road, but how many of us will hit our knees and pray for guidance, direction, and power? How many of us will carve out time in our lives to devote ourselves to the most fundamental act of faith and love that a Christian can offer to God?
We certainly have enough about which to pray. We live in a politically divided nation. We live in a nation saturated in blood and sin. Our hearts have grown so cold that we no longer expect our leaders to be respectable and moral people. Polling numbers show us that there is very little distinction between the lives of the ‘faithful’ and the lives of the ‘lost.’ Is it any wonder that our churches are declining numerically and spiritually?
What can we do about these problems? Our current crisis cannot be solved by legislation or by granting power to the other political party. The perceived “swamp” has engulfed the entire political structure and has left the people feeling helpless and angry. We suffer from a crisis of heart and soul. The powerful are offering to control our problems and protect us from our enemies and the dissidents are offering to overthrow the powerful. Both sides are set against the other, but we will not be saved by another war or revolution; instead we need a reformation of spirit and the regeneration of our hearts. We need an act of God.
The act of prayer and worship is the one action that can unleash the power of God to move in a mighty way in this nation and around the world, but we must be careful. Too frequently we seek the power of God do our bidding and accomplish our will. My prayers can become grocery lists or letters to Santa. I want. I need. Give me this. Help me to accomplish my goals and acquire my desires. I pray with an agenda. I pray… but not humbly.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
I want God to solve my problems. I want God to heal my body. I want God to help my children. I want so much from God, but I am such a terrible “back seat” believer. I want God to bless my solution. I want God to sanctify my opinions. I want God to forgive my sins and punish the sins of my enemies. I want God to bow to my needs and desires. The idea that God wants me to bow to Him is far less attractive.
The solution is not just to pray, but to submit ourselves to God. To pray for God to show us the answer. To repent and turn from our wicked ways. To come near to God and seek His face. And then when we have humbly asked God to save us and show us the Way, the Truth, and the Life… to follow the directions that God has given.
Will you pray with me? Will you pray for God to move in the life of First Baptist Church? Will you pray the difficult, open-ended, humble prayer that seeks God’s will in the life of God’s Church? Will you pray that God will give us the strength to be fully devoted to God’s word? Will you pray that God will help us turn our backs on sin and its power in our world? Will you pray that the Holy Spirit would descend in a mighty way upon our leaders and our people? Will you pray that our actions and attitudes will glorify Jesus Christ and bless His Kingdom?
I invite you to join us every Wednesday evening for our prayer meeting. We begin at 6:00 and conclude at 7:00 pm sharp. In that single hour we seek God’s will, pray together, share a brief devotional, and gather around a dish to pass meal. We are growing and learning and deepening our love for each other and God’s world. We are not yet there, but we have begun a journey to humble our hearts in prayer, turn away from our sinful attitudes, and seek the presence of God. Come and see what God can do.