The Praying Church: What If...
- Sunday, January 08, 2012
Years ago I read a book by Charlie Shedd called The Exciting Church: Where People Really Pray. I have forgotten everything in the book except the story of a young man who was newly elected to the board of the church where Charlie Shedd served as pastor. That young man asked a very simple question:
“What do you think Christ wants this church to be?”
From that question came a second one:
“What would happen in our congregation if every member was prayed for every single day by someone?”
Charlie Shedd said, “That night he stopped us in our tracks.” The rest of the book is the answer to that question.
And what a question. We all believe in prayer, don’t we? Even if we don’t pray very much, we still believe in prayer. So what would happen in our churches if every day every member was prayed for by someone?
What would it do to our worship?
What would it do to our preaching?
What would it do to our ministries?
What would it do to our evangelism?
What would it do to our relationships?
Our churches wouldn’t be the same if we made sure every person was prayed for every day by someone.
What if we started to pray like that?
So what would happen in your church if we prayed like that? Hold that thought and we’ll come back to it later. In the meantime we need to see what was on Paul’s mind in Ephesians 6. As he nears the end of his magnificent letter, he calls Christians to put on the whole armor of God so that we can fight and win the spiritual battles we face every day (vv. 10-17). Then without any break he says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (v. 18). In the School of Christian Living, this is Prayer 101. This is the “how to” not the “why” of prayer. There is nothing difficult to understand in what he writes.
It’s easy to see how this fits in the context. Prayer is our ultimate weapon in spiritual warfare. It is not part of the armor; it is that which makes the armor effective. In verse 18 Paul gives five fundamental facts about Christian prayer.
I. There are many ways to pray and they are all valid.
Paul says we should pray “with all kinds of prayers and requests.” We can analyze prayer from many angles.
We can talk about the content of prayer, such as adoration, thanksgiving, meditation, confession and petition.
We can talk about the posture of prayer, such as sitting, standing, hands uplifted, eyes open, eyes closed, walking, kneeling, and stretched out before the Lord.
We can talk about the associations of prayer, which means we can pray alone or in a small group or in a worship service or in a concert of prayer or over the Internet or over the phone or by email or in a handwritten letter.
We can talk about the style of prayer. It may be formal, informal, liturgical, written, recited, conversational, antiphonal, sentence prayers, “Thank you” prayers, “Lord, have mercy” prayers, short prayers, long prayers, prayers sung, prayers spoken, prayers written, prayers chanted, prayers offered spontaneously or prayers memorized.
We can talk about the places of prayer, such as in the morning, during your devotions, around the dinner table, in the car, on the phone, during a worship service, in the street, sitting in the pew, or at a ball game.
We can talk about the objects of prayer, such as confession and restoration, for physical or spiritual or emotional healing, for a financial need, for a broken relationship to be healed, for salvation, for spiritual growth, for the spread of the gospel, for a friend in need, for the leaders of our church, for the leaders of our nation, for our friends and, yes, for our enemies.
Prayer may be as varied as the needs of the heart. The true measure of prayer is not its form or content or style or location or length or beauty of expression. The real question is, Does it come from the heart? Is it sincere? Are we truly seeking the Lord? If so, then we may claim the promise of James 5:16 that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.
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