One of my classes here at seminary is called Spiritual Formations. I am in my second semester of this class. Last semester in Spiritual Formations 1 we focused on personal spiritual disciplines and this semester in Spiritual Formations 2 we focus on spiritual disciplines for corporate worship. We have certain videos we have to watch throughout the semester. I just watched the last one on Corporate Ministry of Prayer. I realized that as I was watching this video I was feeling convicted about several things and the only thing I know to do is to write about it so that I hopefully will never loose its lesson.
I have grown up in church my whole life and I will not even attempt to count the number of songs that I have heard that focused on prayer. I will even admit to having sung one particular song in my church that was about prayer. Do we have a good grasp on what prayer really is? It is an opportunity very simply to have a conversation with our Maker. Praise God we have this freedom! But how respectful are we of this spiritual discipline in our personal lives and in our corporate ministry lives?
Have we become liturgical in our prayer ministry? Do we repeat what we have heard others say because we don’t know ourselves what or how to pray? God wants to hear our hearts; He yearns to hear it. Having grown up in the church, I have had many musical opportunities to sing in the children’s, youth and then adult choirs, to play hand chimes and then handbell’s, took voice lessons and sung on praise teams. I cannot begin to tell you how much practice and patience went into preparing for each performance. Why is it that we will practice for music, preparing to teach, practice our favorite sports or prepare for the big game but will we not earnestly prepare for prayer? Dr. Richard Ross, the professor in the video, made a statement that shocked me to the core. He said that “we Baptist tend to look down on our Catholic friends for their liturgy like services, but isn’t that almost what prayer has become in our services”. It breaks my heart to know that my prayer life has become like that and it breaks my heart that many of our churches do feel this way.
I have already begun feeling like our churches are too full of people who are there for a show and not as an active participant. People who could very well be answering God’s call on their life but are too scared because they simply do not understand the power of prayer. Trust me when I say, I understand that fear. I almost succumbed to it and never came to seminary in the first place. After a hugely tragic even in my life, I fought tooth and nail to stay where I felt safe only to loss that fight(PTL) after 13 months of fight Him. By the way, sooner or later (hopefully sooner), hopefully He wins. The closeness and growth you experience is like none other you have experienced. Here is the overall thought that I have been convicted in my heart about. God can answer our prayers exactly the way we want Him too but what about the way He wants to answer prayers. Maybe He wants us to learn to trust Him, turn to Him, to seek Him and to experience what it is like to be completely and totally reliant upon Him and to be okay with that. I believer we Americans have a heard time with this than any other Christian from any other country. Its right there in our makeup to want the nice home, the nice car, the perfect family and so on and so on. I know because those are things that I want too. God at any time could give me exactly what I want and then what. Would I have or would we be as close to Him if He did? Would we, after having received everything we “pray” for, still turn to Him for everything else? I dare say no, we would not. Dr. Ross when teaching this very point used an example that probably for all of us hits very close to home. He said, “well, you may be wanting to pray that a loved one gets healed of the cancer that has consumed his/her body, BUT if he/she has grown closer to Him because of this experience, what could be the worst thing to happen to them? The answer- for them to get better.” Yes, I know that means we could lose that loved one and that will grieve us. God knows and understand grief. After all, did He not send His son to die a cruel death on the cross? Did He not have to forsake His own Son when our sin was placed upon Him? Did God the Father not grieve then?
I believe we need a revival in our churches. We need to as the song says “Get back to the Heart of Worship” and then just maybe we will see the lost come flocking to Him like never before, and maybe prayer would not be some empty thing we do every now and then and something we do not take seriously on Sunday, maybe then the church would have to figure out ways to make room for the overflowing amounts of people, maybe then some that are sitting there saying I am scared of how to go and do what He wants me to do will say “I will follow You, if You will go before me and show me the way”. Now, let me say here, this is no easy task. In fact, it is quite difficult but it is well worth it.
Finally, let me close with this. If I have tagged you in this note, please know it is because I value your prayers and know that you will join me in lifting up this prayer for me. Please pray that I may be so changed by this realization that I never return to the person I was before. May I always be praying for His will and that all I do may glorify Him. Yes, there are many things I could ask you to pray for as prayer requests because I do have many, but I ask that if the Holy Spirit impresses anything upon your heart to pray over concerning me that that is what you pray about for me. May I always be following after Him in faith and trusting that He will provide, protect, guide and so on for me always. May I quit saying God bless me (because He definitely has) and may I pray God help me in some small way bless You! Thank you dear friends! I love each of you dearly and will be praying for you as the Holy Spirit prompts me.