Beginning in Prayer

photo 2Thanks so much for your prayers for our service Sunday night. It got off to a rocky start when the church was still locked five minutes before the service was supposed to begin, but once that “minor” detail was settled we were able to pull things together rather well. This experience is a good reminder that we need to pray and that we are not in control. We will have continued opportunities (and challenges) to trust God and not freak out when things do not go according to our plans.
I for one was a little flustered but for a first service I am encouraged. Music worked out overall and it was good to have different people from our launch team participate in the service. All things considered I am encouraged and we’re pressing on in anticipation that Sunday will come every week.
One funny anecdote, in the midst of all that was happening with delayed entrance and set up I forgot to take my sunglasses off and had them on top of my head for 3/4 of the service! This will be a good story years down the road.

From the initial days of planting Grace (it was two years ago that I was hired as a church planting fellow to explore the possibility), till the we began worship this Sunday, and then beyond we want to be grounded in prayer. I just read today, “if you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray.” – A Praying Life Paul Miller. 

Specifically in our worship services prayer is an essential part to how we begin. In this prayer my thoughts go along three lines: God as maker, God as redeemer, and asking for his presence. In worship we meet the great king through whom and for whom all things exist. He is the one before whom mountains quake and seas roar. He is the holy and living God. This God is also our savior who has come near and claimed us as his own through Jesus Christ. I try to pray in such a way so that we sense these two realities. Psalm 95 weds together both God’s greatness and graciousness:

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

Implied in this scripture, but made explicit in our opening prayer is the petition for God to draw near to us. With expectation we ask for the presence of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we make this request I call to mind God’s promises to reveal himself to us and what that will mean for different people. One scripture that regularly comes to mind is from Matthew 11.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Here Jesus encourages us with God’s delight in revealing himself to his children and then describes how his presence will lift us up. There is also a warning to the “wise and understanding” that his presence would be hidden from them. As I think about what God’s presence would mean for the different people assembled together and for our community at large I will pray briefly for the progress of the gospel among the many who do not believe.

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