I recently experienced a prayer meeting in which individuals in a very emotionally charged environment sought to petition God on behalf of their church and community.
Even though I have participated, even encouraged events such as these for some time now, this one took me as different. The outcomes were the same, emotionally aroused individuals with deeper commitments to God, as well as more robust personal esteem in Christ…passing deeper into some perceived spiritual capacity to impact others.
All of the above seems virtuous and might even inspire participants to pursue or enlighten others whom they feel have had fewer of these heightened moments with God? Yet, there I sat, totally incapable of participating in that forum though this means of prayer was quite familiar to me. I found myself unable to even relate to those around me, in lifestyle or intent. I wrestled with the possibilities of my being overly judgmental and probably was at moments; yet my reasoning, my rational, was filtered through at least my awareness of the character of God.
Are we still using old world, old treatment metaphors to motivate us to pray when true prayer has moved far beyond petitioning God for things He already desires; as opposed to becoming the people of God He needs us to be in order to accomplish those things desired by Him? This type of prayer meeting may be necessary for the sake of the petitioners, but are the outcomes truly there to justify the means or could that time be better spent in caring for the destitute? Maybe I am sounding more like Judas or the one who questioned the woman who poured out her best spikenard on Jesus?
Is the righteousness of Christ already within us, yet we keep attempting to become more righteous yet, before we ever dare the daily demonstration of the love of Christ, beyond simply being nice to our neighbors and co-workers? Sacrificial love is the hallmark of Christianity and is the one thing that is a convincer of our faith! Are we being distracted by a sense of need to constantly repent versus stepping headlong into the sinfulness of our culture and trusting that the righteousness of Christ to be sufficient?
Do we not trust that the God who better loves this culture than we would then partner with us, even though it might mean suffering or even personal loss of resources, life or limb? Is it our sense of sinfulness or our fear of loss that causes us to live less effectively and yet return so often to our sanctuaries for prayer, in hopes of changing though our ineffectiveness is now grossly before us in the statistics of the spiritual and financial decline now upon our nation? Is God punishing our nation or have we as a church simply failed at our mission of salt and light…God and sinners now getting the blame?
Not that these prayer meetings are wrong, but what if each generation in attempting to do the same things done before them, only better, yet somehow the very means developed for the delivery of the gospel has evolved out of wrong motives…building and branding churches rather than making disciples? Are we so blind that when we hear commentary such as this we simply compare ourselves with others (versus the Christ), and share the same falsehood of other churches, that we are somehow different, though we mean well?
Can such prayer alone deliver us or should our prayer, even our worship be measured ruthlessly against our mission results? Why is it we hold our businesses to a higher standard than our churches…I contend we love our work more than the work of God and thus guard its outcomes…our treasures. Are our religious practices accomplishing our mandate or are we simply a foolish and fearful people who confront God in forceful prayer but seldom confront culture in true love regardless of our potential for personal loss?