If you tell me who your church prays for it will tell me a lot about your church.
If you tell me that your church board prays intensely for the lost before it begins its regular agenda, it will tell me much about your board. If you tell me that your mid-week service is filled with earnest intercessors who plead for those in their community who are far from Jesus, it will tell me much about your congregation. If you tell me your elders gather before the worship service and plead with God to bring the straying, the discouraged, the unlikely, it will tell me much about your church’s impact on your city.
I learned something this week from a friend who told me he was doing research on some of the great revivals in history. He discovered a trend: Every great revival in history grew out of a time of desperation. I remember that following the great tragedy of 9-11 in America, the next weekend there were more people in church than any time since records had been kept.
When we’re in situations out of our control we tend to look for help to the Sovereign God. So, we live among multitudes who need to know the God who can provide everything they need. But clever marketing probably won’t get them in the door. We have neighbors who are lonely, frightened, without hope, and a 4-color handbill isn’t likely to be persuasive by itself. We work next to people who writhe in guilt, destructive habits and illicit relationships, and a Welcome sign on the church bulletin board is seldom sufficient to entice them in.
But when God’s people pray He re-choreographs the journey. He designs providential relationships, pivotal circumstances, what some would call “chance meetings.” An incidental comment by a friend of God in a WalMart checkout line, a colleague notices a Bible on your desk at work and it gives them the nerve to ask a question, you sense a look of distress on the face of a neighbor and your willingness to listen begins a conversation. Those are prayer-born interventions and God is an expert at putting them together. When we ask.
Pull the curtain aside and you’ll find a praying church, a praying board, a bunch of praying elders. A praying adult Bible study class, a shut-in, a praying small group that meets over lunch, a group that meets daily by phone; to pray. That’s one of the unique gifts a church brings to this warfare. Yours does, too, right?
By Don Jacobsen