Imagine we are on a ship, an old-style sailing ship, and we want to cross the ocean. We have excellent charts that can tell us exactly where we need to go, with clear warnings about the dangers we need to avoid. The ship is well-stocked, and reasonably comfortable (this is a sailing ship after all, not a cruise liner!) and we have enough people to do all the essential tasks. We even have regular lectures covering every subject from safety on board to the delights of the land we are intending to reach. We only lack one thing, but this one thing makes all the difference.
Nobody has thought to raise the sails! And although everyone is having a marvellous time, they’re not actually moving very far, just drifting along, in sight of the shore, as the slight current takes them. Without sails to catch the wind and move with its power, there are only two possibilities. One is to take it easy, drift about in the shallows, and eventually decide that the stories of the further shore and the depths of the wild ocean are just inspirational mythology. The other way is to start rowing, and the most dedicated people will break themselves trying to accomplish this. But it isn’t possible to row all the way across the great ocean, human effort, with all its blood, toil sweat and tears, will only take you part of the way before the point of exhaustion is reached. The only answer is to raise the sails. Yes, it still takes work to sail a ship, it doesn’t just magically happen (unless, of course, you’re just a passenger), but when those sails catch the wind, something wonderful happens, and a new power propels the ship.
So it is with the church. Humanly we have the choice to either compromise, find our comfort zone and stay in it, drifting in ever narrowing circles. (It doesn’t sound much like the Kingdom of God, though, does it?) Or, we can put our shoulders into it (as rowers must), and put all the effort we can into it, guilt tripping others into wearing themselves out alongside us. And when we have burned ourselves out, we will only have done what mere human effort can do.
Or we can pray, hoisting our sails (as it were) in faith to catch the wind of the Spirit. We know that it is the will of God that churches should grow, that people should be saved, that believers should grow in Christ-likeness, so we can pray in confidence for the “core business” of the church: for the preaching and worship when we meet together on Sundays, for our outreach ministries, for our home groups, for everything that is part of our ministry, that God’s transforming presence will be at work among us, proclaiming truth, bringing salvation, equipping each one of us to do the work that God has called us to do.
Some practical things to pray for your church:
- Unity, that we may be one in Christ, working together for His kingdom
- That we might have the knowledge of God’s will, and the willingness to do it
- That the Holy Spirit may empower all that we do
- That we, as a church, may exhibit both the fruit of the Spirit (godly, loving character) and the gifts of the Spirit (ministry gifts)
- Fruitfulness, that our labour isn’t in vain, but God’s kingdom grows through us
- That the words of truth spoken and sung in our Sunday services may impact lives and change hearts
- That people will come to our services with prayerful, open and prepared hearts – fruitful soil for the sowing of truth
- That God will ignite in each one of us a hunger for Himself – to “see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly”
- For the preparation of preaching, bible studies, kids’ ministry etc,
- That in all we say and do, as the Body of Christ here in Oatley, Jesus will be clearly and gloriously proclaimed