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Series Theme:  Learning to Pray for the Church

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Learning to Pray for the Church 



How lovely is your dwelling place,
     Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
     for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
     for the living God.

(Psa 84:1,2)


“I wholeheartedly believe that on my lifetime, we're going to see a major move of God that is going to transform the United Kingdom”

(Gavin Calver, CEO of Evangelical Alliance)


Contents of Series:

Part 1: The Pressures on the Church
Part 2: The State of the Church
Part 3: The difficult role of leadership

Part 4: Praying for the Church

Part 5: Seasons of God





I 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).


Why 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.


Practice: 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.


Focus: 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.


In 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!


Jesus: 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 now:


Psa 110:1,2 “The 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.

Matt 28:18,19   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.

Jn14:12  “I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.”

•  at the very least the Church is called to continue doing what Jesus had been doing. What was that?

Matt 11:5 The 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.”

Lk 4:18,19 he 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, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

•  so disciples (the Church) are to continue to do the same things as we see here.

1 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 and will.

I 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.


Three 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 things together.


Now 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 above list.


Why? Why do I make such a suggestion and why do I think it is true? There are two reasons I believe:


i) Unbelief: 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'?


ii) Awareness: This 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.


If 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:


Check ourselves out: Here are the questions. Remember, simply yes or no.


When 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?

Remember, any ‘no's and there is your need to pray!


Prayer: 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.


So 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.

As I will comment in that final part, please do not skip Parts 1,2 & 3. You need them if you are to pray wisely.