The local church is near to the heart of God. Throughout the New Testament Scriptures, we find God working in and through small assemblies of believers. We find Paul laboring to start and establish them, writing to them, praying over them. The book of Revelation begins with chapters of short letters to specific local churches full of praise and reproof from the One who sees their inner workings.
Life in the local church should be near to our hearts, as well. (We’ll be spending the month of October addressing this topic here at Scripture Dig, by the way!) But life in the local church is rarely easy- while God may look at us with eyes of grace and see us as saints, we still can act very un-saintly. Life in the church can be fraught with wounds, strange inter-personal politics, misunderstandings, frustration, lack of direction, overburdened workers, and sin in all its lovely forms.
So, what’s a believer to do?
Often what I want to do is talk. I want to make my opinions known. I want to explain my side of the story and my theory on the best way to approach a ministry. I want to get more information (which is usually something I don’t really need!) Obviously there are times to speak up – there are situations that need to be wisely and carefully dealt with, sin that needs to be lovingly and directly confronted, lines of communication that need to be opened, appropriate times to share counsel.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
But you see, those are the hard conversations I don’t like to have. Other kinds of talking, the sinful and destructive kind, come far too easily.
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
Satan wants to tear apart our churches. He wants believers to be divided and distracted. He wants us to turn on one another. Spiritual warfare is oh-so-real and present even within the whispered conversations happening in the halls of your church building.
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” Proverbs 18:8
One major thing, the most important thing, we can do to combat it is to stop talking to others and start pouring out our hearts to God.
“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:23
You see, dear one, He knows. He knows how you have been wounded in your church (and we all have.) He knows the major needs that must be addressed. He knows what happens behind the closed doors of offices and meetings. He knows. You can talk all you want to Him. You can pour out every thought, every burden on your heart.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
What your church needs from you more than anything else is your prayers.
“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men, men of prayer.” -E.M. Bounds
If you’ve been following the prayer series here on Scripture dig, hopefully you’ve found some useful “how-to” tips for organizing your prayer life. Perhaps you were drawn to Teri Lynne’s prayer calendaring, Julie’s graphic organizers and prayer notebook, or Sandra’s prayer cards. Whatever method you use, I want to challenge you to consider how to turn all those words you speak about your church into prayers for your church.
What should you pray? In addition for praying for specific needs and situations in your church, as well as for your pastors, leaders, and their families, I definitely echo Teri Lynne’s encouragement to pray Scripture. For example, I went on BibleGateway.com and searched for the word “pray” in Paul’s epistles – read through these passages and find some great patterns for your own prayer life for your church! Recently I compiled a list of 23 ways to pray for your church from the letters to the churches in Revelation. Teri Lynne also has a free ebook with a 30 day challenge to pray for your church with passages from the book of Acts.
Life in the church is challenging. It is sanctifying. It reveals to us our sin, our selfishness, our pride – and because it does this for all of us, it can be painful. More than your offerings, more than your hours of service, your church needs your prayers. Bring your burdens to the throne today – and rest in the truth that Christ is the Lord of His church.