to Pray for the Church
lovely is your dwelling place,
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
wholeheartedly believe that on my lifetime, we're going to see
a major move of God that is going to transform the United Kingdom”
Calver, CEO of Evangelical Alliance)
1: The Pressures on the Church
2: The State of the Church
3: The difficult role of leadership
4: Praying for the Church
5: Seasons of God
lead a ‘Prayer Workshop'; it's not a ‘Prayer
Meeting', although we do pray. I make the distinction because
‘Prayer Meetings' so often get the reputation of being times of
just uttering words. The Prayer Workshop first of all teaches
stuff about prayer and then we do it. It is easy to ‘just pray.
but I think the Lord answers specific prayers. These notes flow
out of material we have been using recently (Oct 2019) which I
felt might benefit from a slight expansion. (In what follows,
I use capital C for the worldwide Christian Church, and small
c for the local church).
Pray for the Church?
It is perhaps a legitimate question to ask. The first response
must be because the Bible teaches us that Jesus encourages us
to pray for stuff. The second response has to be to ask, could
the Church be more than it is? If the answer is ‘yes', then surely
we should be praying and thinking about what action needs
to be taken. As someone has said, there's no point in keep on
doing what obviously hasn't worked in the past. We'll check that
out in a moment. Note: prayer – thought – action.
If I may emphasize
this and quote from that preacher to the Post-Modern World, Leonard
Sweet, from his book Soul Salsa, “A professor is said to have
responded to a proposal with the words, ‘That's all right in practice,
but will it work in theory?' A lot of Jesus ‘professors' are more
worried about theories of faith than practices of faith. Book
after book, writer after writer, calls for Christians to develop
a biblical world view. Few are the books that lift up the biblical
‘world-life'” In other words he is saying we need to practice
or do what we preach and if in our deliberations and prayer we
observe deficiencies in our expression of church life, then prayer
alone is inadequate: we need to act to bring change.
To quote from another
age, and an entirely different preacher, Oswald Chambers in his
‘Disciples Indeed', wrote, “We are not sent to specialize
in doctrine but to lift up Jesus, and he will do the work of saving
and sanctifying souls.” Chamber's comment is that the teaching
on its own (I imply) is inadequate, we must make Jesus the focus
or goal of all that we say and do.
the notes that follow, and they really are only notes, I would
want to make three emphases from the outset – Jesus, Practice
& Passion. If Jesus (and his Holy Spirit) is not the motivating
and driving force behind all of these ramblings, we are wasting
our time with idle speculations. If we do not start practicing
prayer and church the way the New Testament speaks of
it, we will be falling short of God's desires, and if we do not
allow Him to stir some passion into us over both prayer and ‘Church'
we will simply end up with a lifeless and sterile ‘religion'.
May He deliver us from that!
May I simply lay
before you a number of sets of verses about Jesus' ministry today
– and I emphasize the ‘today'; this is not what he was doing two
thousand years ago but what the New Testament says he is doing
Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your
enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your
mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
this prophetic word clearly spoke
to the rule of Jesus.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore
go and make disciples of all nations.”
post-crucifixion, post resurrection,
he gives his marching orders to his disciples on the basis of
the authority that is now his, as a result of that work.
tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been
at the very least the Church is
called to continue doing what Jesus had been doing. What was
blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news
is proclaimed to the poor.”
has anointed me to
proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners and
recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
so disciples (the Church) are
to continue to do the same things as we see here.
Cor 15:24 “Then
the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father
after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For
he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
Paul's context is the Second Coming
of Christ when he winds it all up – but until then he is (a)
reigning in the midst of his enemies, and (b) working to destroy
all God's enemies – anything that is contrary to His design
simply lay these verses out as a reminder to us of the context
that is behind everything we are going to look at. They tell us
that the Church is intended to continue the work of Christ, at
his leading, under his authority, and with his empowering, to
do the things above. Anything less is simple unbelief.
Focuses: In what
follows, our umbrella focus is to consider the will of God for
the Church and pray in line with that. To do that we will need
to see three things:
His desire for His Church – the
vision of what could/should be,
An awareness of how it is in the
Church (and our church), if we dare be honest, and
How we may pray to bring these
I am not going to lay these notes out in that order but I want
you to hold these thoughts in the background of what follows.
‘Awareness' has been a key word in the back of my mind throughout
this Workshop because we tolerate so much of what goes on in church
today because we are simply not aware of the first two in the
Why do I make such
a suggestion and why do I think it is true? There are two reasons
Our starting point must be – and I only address bible believers
– the teaching of the Bible and, especially for this subject,
the teaching of the New Testament in its entirety. Three things
must apply: a) do we know what it says, b) do we understand what
it says and implies, and c) will be obey what it says especially,
in this context, what it says about us as believers who form the
Church, the ‘body of Christ'?
applies especially to the next Part about the pressures of the
world, but I don't know if you have ever heard the analogy of
‘how to boil a frog'. It's a bit unsavory and I don't know if
it is true but it makes a good point. I am told if you dropped
a frog into a saucepan of boiling water it would immediately leap
out. However, if you put a frog in a saucepan of cold water it
will simply sit there in the water, even when the water is very
gradually heated to boiling point, until it dies. The point is
that over recent decades such incredible changes have taken place
in the Western world and they have transformed the very way we
think. That change of thinking, I am going to suggest (and I will
give the reasons why), has been gradually – very gradually – been
undermining faith and, I am going to further suggest, this is
why the church is in the state it is.
you think the Church is ‘fine' then be honest in the descriptions
that will follow and tell me if you can, with hand on heart, how
it is for your church. This is not to create a sense of failure
or guilt, but to give us a clearer picture of the goals to pray
for and work for. In fact, let's carry out a simple little preliminary
exercise. Answer each of the questions that follow ‘yes' or ‘no'
and if you have ANY ‘no' answers, here is your reason to pray,
think and act:
Here are the questions. Remember, simply yes or no.
your church meets together
is Jesus clearly the reason you
are together and is he honoured and worshipped?
is he free to direct and change
what takes place when you gather?
is his Holy Spirit free to inspire
and guide the majority of the congregation so that some of them
(more than the leader(s) out front) contribute to what happens
and the direction it takes?
is his word (preached and prophesied)
brought in such a way that lives are impacted, released, empowered
and transformed (believer and non-believer)?
do your people feel so excited
by what happens – the presence, the moving, the power and the
revelation of God – that they can't wait to invite friends (believers
and not-yet believers) to join them, so that they too
might experience these things?
is the preaching passionate, conveying
the importance and significance we place on it as one of God's
primary ways of conveying His will and for changing lives?
is the way open for prophetic
words, words of knowledge, words of wisdom etc. to be brought
in ways that open up opportunities for personal prayer ministry
from within the body?
is there a sense of ordered, loving,
family unity within the gathered people that brings security
to all and which opens hearts to both give and receive under
the Lord's prompting?
any ‘no's and there is your need to pray!
Unless we will
come to a place of awareness and a place of understanding about
these things, our praying will be meaningless or contentless words.
Our praying, I am going on to suggest, must flow out of a holy
discontent that I (and an increasing number of other voices around
the world) are sensing is coming from Jesus as he rules in the
midst of this world. The amazing thing is that prayer always seems
to precede revival. Now whether it is just catching Jesus' heart
as he prepares, or whether prayer is a part of the spiritual dynamic
that helps open up the way of the Lord, only He knows.
let's move on to
increase our awareness of the modern-day
pressures of the world on the Church in Part 1,
then consider aspects of modern
Church Life in Part 2,
then consider the difficulties of
leadership in Part 3,
before we finally move on to consider
how to pray about these things in Part 4.