I made my way down the narrow aisle and found my seat on the last row of the plane. I sat down next to an older gentleman wearing a pinstriped suit and tie; the aviation apparel of a past age. Once the plane leveled, I took out my laptop and began polishing my sermon for the next morning. After a few minutes of listening to me pecking away at the keyboard, the gentleman asked, “What are you working on?” “Oh,” I stammered, “this is my sermon for tomorrow. I’m a pastor.” His eyes widened, “Really! What’s your church like?”
What’s your church like? It’s an interesting question that can prove difficult to answer. Perhaps the better question is: What should your church be like? In the book of Acts, Luke paints a portrait of the church in its infancy. Though far from perfect, it was a church devoted to the preaching and practicing of the gospel of Jesus Christ; a church of sermons and service (Acts 6:1-4). It was also a church marked by vibrant fellowship and selfless community (Acts 2:42-47). But maybe one of the most superlative qualities of the infant church was the most subtle: it was a church devoted to prayer (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4).
Why should the church be devoted to prayer? Three answers come to mind:
1. Prayer Works. We are not a mighty people, proud or impressive. We are a needy people; utterly dependent upon God for all things. Well did the hymn writer say, “I need Thee, Oh, I need Thee; every hour I need Thee.” The Lord has sweetly and sovereignly appointed prayer as the instrument of divine invitation. Prayer is our celestial SOS beacon! Thus, Jesus promised his disciples, “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Matthew 18:19)” Do you want your life to change? Do you pine for spiritual victory? Do you long for healing? Do you hope to see the church filled and the lost saved? Does your heart ache for the state of our nation and culture? Then let us be devoted to prayer!
2. Prayer Unifies. Prayer mysteriously and powerfully welds our hearts together. The 19th century Presbyterian minister J.W. Alexander wrote, “There is no way in which we can more surely increase mutual love than by praying for one another… Dissension or coldness cannot abide between those who bear each other to God’s throne in supplication… Often has the tenderness of a half-dying attachment been renewed and made young again, when the parties have found themselves kneeling before the mercy seat.” Do you wish to be a church of singular passion, namely, the glory of Jesus Christ? Do you desire to be protected from schism and division? Then let us be devoted to prayer.
3. Prayer Glorifies. Few things are more honoring and pleasing to Christ than a church of broken sinners, his own bride, lifting their voices in prayer. How sweet is the symphony of the saved in the Savior’s ear! Therefore, Paul encouraged the church in Rome by saying, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6). Take up your instrument of prayer and join the symphony. Let us be devoted to prayer.
How can Westminster be increasingly devoted to prayer?
The Session calls the church to observe a time of congregational prayer before each evening service beginning March 5th. These weekly prayer meetings, which will absorb the prayers and hymns by request portions of our evening worship, will begin at 5:00 and conclude at 5:30 when the congregation will be called into worship. The evening service will conclude at 6:30. This prayer meeting is intended for all of the members of Westminster, men and women, young and old. All are invited to pray! A church truly gripped by the grace of God will be a church on its knees. A people filled with the Holy Spirit will be a people of prevailing prayer. May it be said of us--may it be true of us: They were a praying people.