As I write this we’ve just finished our wonderful holiday club (which may give you some idea how far in advance we have to write this stuff!!). It was fantastic … exhausting … but fantastic. In the run up to that week we had prayer meeting, in order to pray for that week. We also have prayer meetings on a Thursday morning. And, like in every church I’ve ever been to, these are the least attended groups in the church.
I don’t say that to make anyone feel guilty, that’s really not my intention, there are all sorts of reasons why people may not be able to come. And it’s true of every church I’ve even been involved in. Why?
Why is it that prayer meetings are always the hardness to get people to come to? Is it important for us to pray about the ministry of this church, whether with cameo, or our pastoral assistance, or Saturday special, or scamps or anything else? Especially these things we have done for ages and are used to, how important is prayer for these things?
Last month I wrote about prayer and talked about prayer being the way to relationship with God and peace in every situation, but there’s another reason we should pray … God’s power flows through prayer.
The Bible overflows with examples of how our mighty, all-powerful God is ready, willing and able to answer the prayers of his people. Whether we look at the exodus, or the journey to the promised land, or Jesus calming the storm, healing the sick and raising the dead. Or hundreds of other examples.
God has the power to change our circumstances or relationships. He can help us in our difficulties, heal us (inside or out), fix marriages, meet financial needs. In fact, God is big enough to handle whatever difficulty, or dilemma you throw at him.
More than that, the ministry of a church can only accomplish anything through prayer. I think we can miss the amazingness of sections like Colossians 4:2-4, we can just skip over them and not notice.
Paul is the great apostle who has already been half way round the northern Mediterranean, has preached the gospel and planted churches, has been beaten and stoned and imprisoned for the gospel. The Colossians, on the other hand, are new Christians. They are taking their early steps in the faith. And yet what does Paul do? He asks them for help.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open the door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Paul is certain that no matter how senior or respected anyone is in the service of the gospel, they still need the prayers of the most apparently junior, humble and insignificant Christian. I am speaking, of course, in worldly terms; in truth, no Christian is more or less senior or junior, significant or insignificant, than any other. That is precisely the point. We all have a role to play, we are all God’s children and equally important in his sight. And so Paul asks this church to pray for him and his ministry, because he knows that he needs their prayers.
Paul asks them to pray that God will open a door for their message. The door is that door into people’s hearts and lives, and unless God opens that door, all Paul’s talking is useless. Paul was under no illusions. You can never take it for granted. The door doesn’t open automatically.
What opens the door, again and again, is prayer. This is still true today. Philip and I spend so much time going into schools and speaking to children, going into homes to talk about baptisms, or funerals, and trying to say the right words to show these people and lead these people to the love and grace of God. Paul’s job was to ‘proclaim the mystery of Christ’, the same job as I have, and Philip has, and so many have. And Paul knows that to have any chance of success he needs the prayers of the churches, and so do we. Do you pray for us? Philip and me? Do you pray that we’ll speak clearly, and God will open hearts and ears. Please, please do, because prayer is the only way that these doors open.
But before you think this just means us ordained people have this ministry and you should pray for us, Paul immediately goes on to makes it clear that this new church also have the same ministry of proclaiming the mystery of Christ.
Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
We all have the job of proclaiming the mystery of Christ, and we will only be successful if it is surrounded by prayer.
Someone once said that when we work, we work, but when we pray, God works. His strength, the strength of the God who created the world through is words, is available to anyone who prays and is convinced in the very centre of who they are that he can make a different.
Some people tell me that answered prayer is nothing other than coincidence. And maybe they’re right … but as Bishop JC Ryle once observed, “It’s amazing how many coincidences occur when one begins to pray.”
God bless you all,