First a quick word about the first part of the title. I’m using this title as a heading under which to write about things related to the ministry I am doing in the church I pastor. Sometimes they might be humorous stories and sometimes they will be related to sermons I have preached. This one is related to the sermon I preached yesterday on Mark 6:30-32 and how Jesus calls the disciples to come and rest in him and his sufficiency after being out ministering.
One of the greatest joys and privileges of being a pastor is that I get to go and visit some of our most senior members who, for health reasons, are no longer able to attend church. This might mean visiting them at home, the hospital, or a nursing home. I always go hoping that I can be an encouragement to them. I want them to know that just because they are unable to attend the physical gatherings of the church that they are still very much a part of our local body and are regularly in our thoughts and prayers. A funny thing often happens during these visits. Sure, I might be an encouragement to them but almost without fail they end up being a great encouragement and blessing to me.
Why is that? Well, first of all these are people who have been Christians for many decades and the sharing of the wealth of their life experiences is a great treasure for this young pastor. But most importantly it is the common refrain of regular prayer. Often these mature Christians who have actively served the church for more years than I have been alive express their sadness that they can no longer physically serve like they once could. Then they say, “But I pray for the church and I pray for you.”
That really struck me over the past week. I have my (relative) youth, energy, and health. I’m able to work, serve, and travel. I can do, do, do. It is a great blessing and a fleeting blessing that will fade as the years continue to stack up or be taken in a split second should an accident or injury occur. I began to ponder how incredible it would be if Christians began to pray like these senior adults before our bodies failed, health vanished, and our ability to physically serve was dramatically curtailed? These Christians in their twilight years have had to learn to fully rely on the sufficiency of Jesus and the power of prayer because they can no longer live under the illusion that they can accomplish the work of the Kingdom by their power alone.
What if those of us who still have years (God willing) of service to give started recognizing our utter dependence upon God? A practical place to start with that is with prayer. I don’t just mean at dinnertime either. I mean praying for opportunities to share the Gospel with the lost. Praying for courage to engage when those opportunities present themselves. Praying that the Holy Spirit would be working in the hearts of the lost so that they would be receptive to the Gospel. Praying for unity in the church. Praying prayers of confession of sin and prayers of praise for the provision which God has made for us. Essentially, adopting an attitude that as Christians we absolutely must be a praying a people. Because to be in prayer is to be in a posture that recognizes our absolute dependence upon God.
So how about it? Instead of saving prayer as a sort of “last resort,” let us endeavor to make it our first resort and a priority in our lives and our churches.