Going Deeper 2

Deeper …

Withdrawing . We can see from the gospels that prayer was a priority for Jesus. He rose early to pray. He ensured he had time alone with God. He devoted considerable time to praying before making decisions (Mark 1:35). The disciples must have often watched Jesus pray. As the hours slipped by, they became intrigued by his concentration and intimate communion with the Father. Prayer was the breath that Jesus breathed and the driving force of his life.

Later on, it became so with the disciples. ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer’ (Acts 1:14). ‘Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers’ (2 Timothy 1:3). Likewise, prayer has always been a primary mark of the saints of God in every generation of the church. John Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer, and commonly said that ‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer.’ What’s important however is not how long we pray, but that when we pray we meet with God.

Prayer is something we can learn to do during the day’s activities as well as separate from them. However in our busy lives, we somehow find it difficult to make time for what we know to be the most important activity of all: taking time out with God.

Wider …

Uniting in prayer. In Psalm 133 we see how precious unity is to God, ‘How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head… It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore’. Where there is unity God will bless, but without unity God may not bless fully.

Jesus also prays that his disciples will be sanctified in the truth. Wanting to be united with fellow Christians is not at the expense truth. But truth motivates us to accept one another, generously minimising non-essential differences, in order to glorify God with one heart and mouth. Unity does not mean uniformity, but it does mean harmony. With great confidence then, we can pray for believers to be brought to complete unity to let the world know about Christ.

In 1727 a group of persecuted Christians from Moravia addressed issues of disunity among themselves and had a visitation of God. As a consequence they launched a prayer chain that operated around the clock for 100 years and fostered a missionary movement that affected nations. Their special prayer was, ‘May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering.’

Gathering together . The church in Jerusalem came together and devoted time to teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. Many miraculous signs took place and each day God added to their number those who were being saved. Shortly after Pentecost, in the face of opposition, they prayed together for God to work: ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.’ God gave them a token of his presence, ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’ (Acts 4:29-31).

Uniting in prayer together is one of the most significant ways that the church can impact the community. It demonstrates tangible unity and glorifies Christ.


What else can we do locally?

We may need to recognise and repent of barriers that have been erected in the past or to forgive hurts generated by past difficulties.

We can create opportunities for united activity: evangelistic projects, responding to local problems together or supporting other churches’ activities.

We can pool our resources to meet the needs of our communities with things like a community shop, relating to the council together, running a cafĂ© or the ‘adopt a cop’ scheme.

Small steps towards creating and expressing our togetherness may have wide-reaching consequences.

But how can we know what to pray? See the next article!