LET'S PRAY TOGETHER!
Earlier today (Monday, October 15) I was in a meeting with our monthly newsletter editor, Roland Lovstad. His presence reminded me that I am responsible for the pastor's article for the November newsletter, today is the deadline for it, and I had not yet even begun it. I immediately confessed that I had not yet written it and promised to get it done without additional delay.
In our continued conversation I also admitted that I did not yet know what I would write about. The most logical topics are thanksgiving and stewardship since November is the month in which we celebrate the Day of National Thanksgiving and many congregations conduct stewardship drives. However, since most of you probably anticipate those topics I wanted to find one that would be at least a bit unexpected.
I then proceeded to read through some resources that Roland gave me from the recent "Congregation Matters" conference that he attended. This conference dealt with the distressing problem of "Declining Membership" that faces many Christian congregations of all denominations today. One of the resources provided "Suggestions to Turn Things Around in Your Church." Among the ten items it listed was "Prayer—Every growing church is a praying church. The fields are white unto harvest. Pray that God will send forth laborers."
The light came on … I would write about "Prayer" about which the well-worn cliché states, "The family that prays together stays together." Sadly, many contemporary families are so fragmented that the members rarely do anything together, especially eat meals and talk. In order to combat that Sally and I established and safeguarded a family tradition that we continued throughout the time our children were still in the home nest. That custom was to sit down together for at least one meal each day. During that time we talked about things that were happening in our individual lives, read God's Word and a related devotion, and prayed. In other words, we conversed with each other and with God.
That is a very beneficial item for congregations as well! It is necessary for our congregational health and vitality that we sit down together for a meal (that's what the divine service is, a meal in which God serves us His merciful and gracious menu items of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life) at least once each week during which we converse together with God through prayer. That cliché mentioned above could certainly apply here as well, "The congregation that prays together, stays together!"
Today's congregations are very similar to today's families—disconnected. In order to combat that tool of Satan that he uses to separate us from each other and, most disastrously, from Christ Himself we schedule times for us to come together for Spirit-filled meals. That doesn't mean that every worship service is fun, enjoyable, appealing, or pleasing to everyone in the congregation (just like every meal in our home life was not fun, enjoyable, appealing, or pleasing to all of us in our family). Nevertheless, we discipline ourselves by the Holy Spirit's power to faithfully gather together for this nutritious meal during which we spend a major amount of time and energy praying together. That is, we converse with God through the prayers, hymns, liturgies, Bible readings, and sermons. In addition, we dine together on the Holy Meal of our Savior's body and blood.
What do we converse (pray) about? First and foremost, our sinfulness and dire need for God's forgiveness, something He freely gives us that Jesus Christ gained with His holy life, innocent suffering and death, and triumphant resurrection from the dead in absolute victory over sin, death, and the devil. We call this confession and absolution … we honestly admit our sins and the pastor declares God's forgiveness to us. In addition, we pray about the needs of the world in which we live: families who are struggling with so many challenges, trials, and tribulations; schools of our churches and communities in which devoted teachers and other adults work to prepare our children to be peaceful and productive citizens; national, state, and local governmental leaders and other public servants who risk life and limb to keep us safe and secure; untold number of Christian congregations that are under severe attack by Satan, who desires to disrupt, damage, and destroy their Christ-focus and Christ-centered unity; people who are ill, injured, infirm, lonely, frightened, hurting, struggling with life's issues, and often even despairing; and certainly our own congregation for renewed spiritual strength, unity, peace, comfort, vitality, and focus on Jesus Christ alone.
As we pray together in our worship services, let us then also pray together and individually in our homes. Let us become a truly praying church that is filled with prayer warriors (you may want to speak with Gene Dreyer for more information about this). Let us become so prayer-intense that all the distractions become fading memories in the past. Let us pray, pray some more, and keep on praying … begging the one true Triune God for what we need, thanking Him for what He gives us, and honoring Him for being our God and making us His dear children through faith in Jesus Christ.
I am pleased to be united with you as well as continue to serve you along with Pastors Cole and Marks by leading and joining together with you in fervent, faithful, and energetic prayer.
Prayerfully in God's gracious goodness,
Rev. Thomas Handrick
This sermon is not copyrighted. It is God's gift to His Church for free and unrestricted use through me who am one of His many faithful servants. Please exercise the common courtesy of properly acknowledging its source should you use part or all of it for any purposes.
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