Saturday, November 15, 2008

Symphonising with God

Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven for where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:19, 20 NIV
When you gather with others to pray, what happens? For most of my life, a prayer meeting consisted of people listing things that were needed such as “Heal my great-uncle Joe’s friend of cancer.” The requests were often impersonal, focusing on people not present or, for health/work/family concerns. People took turns praying for what had been listed at the beginning of the gathering and there was a dry boringness about the whole affair*. Perhaps you’ve experienced prayer meetings like this.

A year or two ago, I visited New Life Foursquare Church in Grand Forks. In the midst of the Sunday morning service, the congregation was invited to divide up into small groups of four or so and pray with each other for each other. This was not an opportunity to bring up the needs of one's neighbour's cousin's daughter's broken leg, but a chance to share real and personal needs of the people in the group. What a way to foster community and intimacy! They did this weekly, and I saw a closeness to each other in the congregation and a naked closeness to God. This is not a church where people wear a façade to show how spiritual they are. It is a place where people are real, welcoming transparency and honesty, and it shows. What a blessing that visit was!

At the beginning of 2008, I began attending Winnipeg Centre Vineyard. I had intended to sit back for several months and watch to see if this was a place I could call home but I ended that waiting much sooner than expected during a week of prayer the church had organized.

The only agenda was to sit and wait on God to show and tell us what he desired. Songs of worship were used to bring us into an atmosphere of prayer but were easily interrupted when someone had something to say. Perhaps it was a direct prayer to God. Sometimes it was the reading of a passage from Scripture. Other times someone described a picture that had just come to them or related a dream that seemed relevant to the church. This would prompt others to add to what was said and often a common thread began to emerge, which we then took back to God for his counsel.

The prayer meetings weren’t for a handful of old ladies with nothing better to do, but attracted a good-sized crowd, including the young, twenty-somethings. Each evening the prayer was vibrant and real—conversations with God that involved everyone willing to speak (and many silent prayers as well). Each evening flew by and we had to be reminded that it was time to end. That time always came far too early.

Since then I’ve discovered many other opportunities to meet together for prayer and have been blessed each time. This is definitely the church for me.

My reading of Oswald Chambers this morning centred around public prayer. I smiled at the following:
It is far from right to agree beforehand over what we want, and then go to God and wait, not until He gives us His mind about the matter, but until we extort from Him permission to do what we had made up our minds to do before we prayed; we should rather agree to ask God to convey His mind and meaning to us in regard to the matter. Agreement in purpose on earth is not a public presentation of persistent begging which knows no limit, but a…"symphonising" on earth with our Father Who is in heaven.**
I like that and I’m so grateful to have found a congregation that does just what Chambers suggested over 90 years ago.

Father, thank you for giving us the privilege to come before you and pray. Thank you for all you have been teaching me about prayer and how to connect with you. What a blessing you are, and what a blessing your praying children!

*Let me make it clear that I believe it is important to bring the needs of those we know and love to God and to do that in community. I am very grateful, however, to have learned new ways to interact with God together with other believers.

**"Christian Disciplines, Volume 2" in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers , page 313

No comments: