The themes kept appearing incessantly throughout the week. They came from my own lips in the midst of Bible studies, and they came from the lips of local church planters of many different backgrounds and ministries. They showed up in D-Now teachings and Skype conversations. It was as if God was divinely orchestrating the entire week so that I would be able to undoubtedly grasp that without these two things, I could not successfully stay afloat in ministry in Phoenix.
Prayer and community.
I’m sitting in my apartment on an immensely rainy day, and these two things have not left my mind. For the past nine days I’ve had the privilege to host a team of nine students from my Alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. In the midst of walking with them this week and simply doing my best to paint a picture of what ministry in the West is like, the importance of prayer and community kept reverberating through my mind and heart. There is so much power in both of those practices and having the team here affirmed how beautifully refreshing practicing them can be to the heart of a Christian.
There’s two ways of going about life on a normal week.
The first way of going about life is isolation. Yes, I may go to church with brothers and sisters in Christ, I may live with one of my closest friends, I may do fun activities and engage in conversation with my peers. Yet I can still be tremendously isolated by my failure to share what my deep-seated questions and pains may be at that time. I’ve looked my roommate in the eyes when he’s leaving the house, all of me wanting to scream out my need for prayer and encouragement, but my desire to stay comfortable and not admit weakness keeps me silent. I have the sovereign Lord of all willing to listen to my humble cries for help yet I can in my isolated state keep laboring through the darkness unwilling to seek the light of Christ through the practice of prayer.
That way of life is dark, depressing, and ultimately not how God designed us to live. But there is another way to go about everyday life in a missional mindset. That way of life is saturated with prayer and community.
A life saturated with prayer and community is the blessed life. Community is what the church is all about. It can definitely happen through functional and organized church events. Yet most of my growth and support in the context of community has happened on a random Tuesday when my friends ask me how I’m doing and I say “not so great”. For goodness sake, we were designed to need each other and we shortchange what God has given us through His church if we don’t place ourselves in the vulnerable position of community.
Prayer is too often my last resort. How silly and prideful of me. Prayer should be our first step of faith when faced with any circumstance. Prayer doesn’t have to be in a specific posture or location. Prayer is reliance on God, and prayer has transformational power. I’ve seen it change the hearts of others, I’ve seen it change the circumstances that I’m in. But more often than not, the transformational power of prayer happens in my own heart. When I praise God for all that He is, confess my sins and shortcomings, and give thanks for all the blessings He’s given me this day, I can’t help but have a heart that is changed and more in love with God.
I’ve been reading some of the short letters at the end of the New Testament and I’ve found encouragement to keep striving to implement both of these practices. There are many verses that combine both practices: deep community and prayerful posture.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 2
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; – Jude 20-22
John practiced praying for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He prayed not only for their spiritual health, but also their physical health. As followers of Christ we are to pray in the spirit, building each other up in our holy faith. We as followers of Christ are to also have mercy on those who doubt.
That final verse has been the most beneficial and impactful to me in regards to living in Christian community. I’ll honestly say that I’m not entirely sure the exact context of “have mercy on those who doubt”. Yet I imagine it has implications on how Christians should treat each other.
I’ve been following Christ since I was seven. Despite this, I doubt.
In certain seasons of my life I struggle with doubt in regards to certain things. Not necessarily in regards to mental doubt, but emotional doubt. I used to have a lot of fear in regards to confessing my struggles in doubt to my brothers in Christ. Yet it has been so true in my life that when I confess my anxieties and faith struggles that the mercy of my brothers drives me to remembering the promises of Scripture. We all need community to encourage us in our faith. We all get down and discouraged, we all need affirmation of the truths of God’s Word. We all need to be shown mercy and grace.
If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we must be a people of prayer. If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we need to be in a community of brothers or sisters in Christ who daily point us to Him.
Prayer and community.
I can’t exist without them.
In His Name,
I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu!