I find it interesting that the New Testament seldom urges us to pray for the lost.
Comb through the epistles for instance and you soon discover that the primary emphasis is to pray for the church. What’s with that? Does that seem counter intuitive to you? Isn’t the great host of the unsaved the focus of our energies? Jesus died to save the lost; then wouldn’t He plead with us to plead for them?
Therein lies a key understanding of church. Jesus established His church as the hub of His redemptive strategy. None of us can do alone what He longs to accomplish so He promised, “I will build My church… Those who become part of it will be My hands, My feet, My heart, My boots on the ground. Greater things will they do than I have done,” He promises, “and I am leaving it in their hands.” What a risk.
No wonder He wants us to pray for the church. What a mandate! It’s a humanly impossible assignment. How readily we stray off message. How easy to major in minors. How prone we are to build a comfortable club and program it to please the paying members.
The apostle who founded many of the New Testament churches, then pastored them from a distance, would soon learn that it requires constant supernatural intervention to keep the church on task. He urges them to stop their quarreling, clean up their theology, deal with heresy in their ranks, don’t countenance sexual immorality, and get this: be nice to each other. Not just so they can have a happy club, but so they can be trusted to be a safe space for the broken.
Now you know there’s a villain in this narrative. Satan doesn’t like your church. He hates that corner lot where you built because it represents a major obstacle to his plan. But he doesn’t usually attack the real estate, he distracts the owners. He loves to create toxic relationships there till they forget who the real enemy is. When they disagree he loves nothing more than to turn them into disagreeable. He loves it when they use dietary practices as an arrogant measure of spirituality. But he trembles when that church kneels in the presence of the Sovereign of the universe and cries out for healing because he knows that therein lies his defeat.
So, to quote the senior pastor of the New Testament church, “I appeal to you…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (ICor 1:10) Safe Place.
By Don Jacobsen