Yesterday was another great Sunday at City Road Chapel, and for those who weren’t there we really missed you as we talked about prayer — both individual and corporate.
I really don’t think we understand how transformative prayer can be in our lives. I think that’s especially true in carrying out Jesus’s command to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Jesus recognized that the act of prayer changes the relationship we have with those who seem to be opposed to us, creating a new dynamic of love and acceptance. In a world in which polarization along political, theological, and other realms seems to be on the increase, we desperately need to hear Jesus’s words. What would it mean for our lives to pray for those who have different beliefs than we do? When some Facebook post or comment moves us toward anger, what would it mean to respond with a prayer rather than a sarcastic barb? What I’ve found over the years is that praying for others who I disagree with moved me from demonization to empathy, hatred to compassion. I may still not agree with them, but in prayer I experience them as humans in need of God’s grace just like me. Praying for my “enemies” forces me to confront my own prejudices, biases, and beliefs, which sometimes moves me to a new understanding.
I don’t think we can ever underestimate how true and authentic prayer is a vulnerable act. That may be one reason that Jesus suggested that prayer be done in private, for authenticity with God can be something not easily shared with others. However, once we become comfortable with God, then there comes a time when taking the risk of showing our true selves to others becomes important. In corporate prayer, as we share of our hearts, we gain a fuller picture of who God is and how God relates to each one of us. This requires a spirit of trust, for we are asking one another to hear our prayers without judgment — and far too often the church has not been worthy of that trust. But when we pray together without judgment, then trust is built and groups can “go deep” in prayer.
My most tangible experiences of God’s presence (so much that I could almost reach out and touch him) have come in small groups who were earnest in their prayer. If we want to be serious about inviting God’s presence here at City Road, we will likewise need groups engaged in prayer with one another — about our church, about our community, about people we love, and about God’s call for us individually and as a church. Those groups will indeed form the “heating plant” of our church (to use Charles Spurgeon’s descriptor) and engender a sense of love and grace that will permeate everything we do.
Would you be interested in being part of a group that meets one hour a week for prayer and mutual accountability? Click here to go to a form to let me know of you interest, and I’ll be back in touch.
Finally, I really do beg you to pray for me and all of our staff. We are human and sinners in need of God’s grace like anyone else in the church. Sometimes that humanity gets in the way of what God wants to do through us, and we need your help in prayer to make sure God’s grace breaks through and we are walking in the way of God. We are dependent on your prayers, and please know that we pray for you as well.
Keep praying y’all and have a great week.