Praying for the church
When we have a clear vision of how something could be - a better picture - this can really fuel our prayer to see it happen. But what if we disagree about how to accomplish it? We want to bring all our passion and conviction into our prayer, but what if others don't understand it or share it? We can end up discouraged or disengaged. Nowhere is this more true than our prayer for the church… There are so many different traditions and perspectives within our churches, and we all have strongly held views about how the Church should be. Beyond discouragement, we risk disagreement. So how can we be faithful in our mandate to pray for the church in the city and region - together?
The apostolic prayers are simply prayers recorded in the New Testament epistles (written by the apostles) and are almost always for the church in a city or region. But their application isn’t to be restricted to those particular churches in the first century because they’re also focused on the church at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can pray them for the church in our city and region today. In the house of prayer we let these biblical prayers form our language and culture because they build our faith in agreement with His word.
These prayers contain a rich vision of the mature church at the end of the age - persevering, blameless, pure, glorious and much more. But these prayers don’t just offer us a better picture for the church, as though the Bible offered just an ideal. They offer us a process, a bigger story! And the story so far gives us confidence for the story yet to come!
These are prayers full of affection, because we’re intimately involved in the story. They’re prayers full of thanksgiving, because God’s grace has been made available with abundance and is already evident in us. They’re prayers full of faith, because they’re rooted in what God has said (even promised) He will do. We can pray them over and over, with persistence, because they offer us a constant orientation towards God at work in His people. God has already begun a good work, and He will bring it to completion - that’s the bigger story! When we lay hold of a narrative of what God is doing in the Church – more than what we are doing - we arm ourselves to persevere in prayer without discouragement, and we find ourselves loving the church even in her present shortcomings.
So how can we pray for the church with agreement?
The apostolic prayers point to a number of gifts that the Lord uses to prepare and mature the church, all through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. God gives good works or works of faith, prophecy, revelation, and above all, His love. But more significant than 'what these gifts are' is the clarity with which we see that these are gifts that are given. Our focus can drift from what God can do to what we should do. But we can’t work them or do them simply because we’ve been convinced they’re necessary. But seeing their beauty and necessity we can ask for them, confident that God desires to do these very things. In prayer, we’re invited to agree with God’s plans by simply asking Him to fulfil them. Cultivating a simple preference for the apostolic prayers helps us to build agreement in our prayer for the church in the city and region, and keeps us focused on asking for those things the Lord Himself reveals He intends to do.
Choose an apostolic prayer and use it to shape your prayer for the church today.