It’s been one long month since I wrote my last blog, and we’ve had plenty going on. Between potty training our toddler, becoming official members of our new church home to celebrating our anniversary, my birthday, and soon to be celebrating my husband’s birthday along with a spontaneous family visit……the past month has kept us pretty busy. However, the prevailing thought from my last blog has still been on my mind. And I wanted to continue on that same vein with another reason why we need the church.
For our prayers…
As Christians, we are commanded to pray and pray often. Prayer is our means of communing and fellowship with God each day. Prayer was never meant to solely be the place where we pour out all of our problems and present our laundry list of tasks we expect God to do. But it was meant to be the place where our hearts and minds steal away into the presence of the Lord, where we worship Him, where we seek forgiveness for our sins, and realize that we are utterly dependent on God in every way possibly imaginable. In prayer, God is not our servant, there to hear our commands and requests and run to obey them. No, in prayer, we are the servants, and God is our Lord and Master. He is on the throne, and we present ourselves humbly in His presence.
Yet, oftentimes, our prayers do not mirror this reality. Sometimes we approach God hastily and rashly, and we try to “get it over with already”. Other times, we go on and on about our own issues, and God gradually becomes our therapist that quietly listens as we are consumed with our own thoughts and feelings. Still, in some times we absolutely forget to pray at all, and when we do pray, we pray for the wrong things. Then there are some people who believe that prayer is of little to no use because God doesn’t answer anyway. And for that, you can consider James 4:1-10. Whatever the case, we are commanded to pray, and we are expected to pray regularly and often as Christians. Now, as I thought about this, it struck me how integral the church can be for our personal prayer lives.
What does the church have to do with it?
First and foremost, you can always share with your brothers and sisters in Christ your prayer requests and have confidence that someone will be praying for you. That alone is an amazing comfort as we go through day to day life. But think about that more deeply. When we bring up our prayer requests to our brothers and sisters in Christ, they each have the ability to look at our particular issue through the wisdom and grace that God has given them. That means, with any given prayer request, you can have at least 2-3 different perspectives on your situation, and people will be praying with that perspective in mind. The reason this is important to each of us is because we often present our prayer requests with one perspective or one train of thought. We feel like we know the situation in and out and there is only one solution. Yet, put that same situation in the midst of the body of believers, and people can give you all sorts of perspectives on the issue you had thought was very cut, dry, and clear moments before.
No matter how much we may feel or believe that we are alone in a particular issue, we are not. Just because people have not walked a mile in your shoes does not mean that they are unfamiliar with the mile that you traveled. I think that we too easily dismiss the thoughts and perspectives of people because “they’ve never been in my position”, when we shouldn’t. This is a horrible and very shortsighted disposition to have, especially when we are members of the household of faith. If Christ is still able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tested in every point as we were (Hebrews 4:14-16), how much more the members of His body?
Are our experiences as individual Christians so unique that absolutely no one believer will be able to identify with any bit of our struggles and lift up a prayer on our behalf? Are we so special that God orchestrated the circumstances of our lives so that we are absolutely and utterly alone in our experience so that we can not confide nor rely on any other person, especially our brothers and sisters in the faith when He has already said that their is nothing new under the son (Ecclesiastes 1:9)? Are we so distinct as a child of God that the enemy has pulled out brand new schemes and tricks out of his arsenal to take us down? Schemes that not even Christ can relate to?
In fact, I do believe that this is one of the schemes of the enemy when it comes to prayer. He convinces us that we are absolutely alone in our experiences and to keep them to ourselves. We either mull over our situation endlessly within our own hearts and minds or we discredit anything that anyone says to us because “they just don’t get it”. I’ve been in this position all too much in my own life for a variety of reasons. Having been members at predominantly white churches since being married, I’ve had to deal with my own hesitancy to honestly and openly share with my fellow sisters in the faith and also receive their wisdom and insight into my own life. I’m glad that God has brought me a long way regarding this, but I still know I have a ways to go in my growth. We all do. And it is my prayer that you genuinely see the need for the church, having relationships and fellowship with your brothers and sisters, as an essential part of your Christian walk and for your prayer life.
One final thought that struck me a while back is this: Hebrews 11 takes you through the “Faith Hall of Fame” in a sense, and chapter 12 begins with this verse:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…
We can easily open the Bible and read of the lives of countless faithful believers who continued to live in light of the hope of Christ. They are that great “cloud of witnesses” that we have to look up too. But as I thought about this, I considered that even the body of Christ today, the brothers and sisters that we share our lives with on a weekly basis also make up a great cloud of witnesses for us. They are different than the clouds we see above, but in their own way, they too are clouds, maybe like the fog early in the morning. They are always there, still being formed, with glory yet to be revealed. But it does not take away from the fact that they too bear witness of lives of faith in Christ. So let us consider them too and take courage, strengthening ourselves to also run this Christian race with endurance as they are already doing. God has crafted us as one body, and each member depends on the rest to be nourished, to be cared for, and to be strengthened. I encourage you to not discredit the body of Christ with matters of prayer.