Is Two Years Too Long?
If you knew what God was going to do in your life and in your church, but it would take two years of faithful praying, would you do it?
Would you dedicate yourself to praying for each person in your church by name once a week?
Would you gather with other faithful people twice a week to pray that the Holy Spirit would move and that God would be glorified?
Would you do the hard work of persevering in leading and teaching a congregation that really hasn’t ever prayed together into being a praying church?
If you knew that marriages headed for trouble would be healed, would you pray?
If you knew that people who shut themselves off from God would have softened hearts and give increasingly more of themselves over to the Lordship of Christ, would you pray?
If you knew that your own prayer life would grow and through it your love for the people that you shepherd would grow too, would you do it?
A journey in prayer is not an easy one. But it comes with great rewards. Our church has been on our prayer journey for just 2 years. In that time, God has grown us individually and grown us as a church together in seeking his face.
Here are a few of the ways God has been working in and through us:
God’s Leadership for our Church
As a church, we are learning to let the Holy Spirit lead us instead of making our own plans and asking God to bless them. It’s amazing how much more freeing it is to pastor a church where we allow God to set the direction instead of having to manufacture it from within.
At our monthly elders meetings, the first hour is scripture fed, Spirit led, worship based prayer. We pray in the rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer. In giving him praise and aligning our will with his, there is a peace and unity among our elders that we are not leading ourselves, but following God’s leading for us.
In August 2014, our leadership gathered to seek God’s leading for Horizon. We gathered to pray and to listen for what God had for us. Twelve of the leaders in the church (we’re a small church of 80, so that was a significant number) gathered to pray: praising God, quieting ourselves (Psalm 131), setting aside our will (Luke 22:42), asking for wisdom (James 1:5), and spending time listening for God’s word for us. After 20 minutes or so, we each came back and God’s leading was very clear.
Our leadership didn’t get there right away and we are continually growing in praying together. But is two years too long to be dedicated to seeking God’s face together to change our way of thinking into his way of thinking for our church?
Hungering for God
As a result of our praying together as leaders for our congregation and as the congregation learns to pray, there is an increasing hunger for God. This past fall half of the women in our entire church chose to participate in our women’s Bible study. Our in-depth Bible study on A.W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy also had half of the adults in our congregation sign up to be involved.
It’s not because of my great communication skills, good promotional material, or selling this as important. This has happened because two years ago we started asking the Holy Spirit to move in powerful ways among our people.
One of the benefits of growing in prayer together and being led by the Holy Spirit has been the unity that we are experiencing in our church. One of the elders described it this way: “Prayer has strengthened unity in the congregation. I believe it is the single most important thing that holds us together.”
Healing of Relationships
In our time of praying together, we have seen marriages healed. One young marriage was going through a difficult time: young parents, two young kids, stress with work and other life issues.
Conversations were here and there, and the only thing we could really do was pray. So we did. One year later, the marriage is growing. The wife has joined a woman’s discipleship group. God is growing their faith together.
In the last few years our church has been investing into the life of a formerly homeless man. Through friendships and caring and prayer, Earl is on a journey that started with homelessness to one where he is now living on his own. It has also been a journey from being separated from God to increasingly seeking his face and walking with him. But, it has not been an easy journey. Answers to prayer for jobs have been seen, only to have the job lost because of police records from his life before Christ. But in that, Earl has demonstrated his new-found faith that God will continue to provide as he searches for a new job. And the church is learning what it means to be involved in the long work of transformation.
Through our church growing in prayer together, God has opened doors for us to be able to begin leading prayer in our regional group of churches. We are being used to raise the value of and practice of prayer in:
Pastors – Acts 6:4 “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” ESV
Church Leadership – Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Congregations – Is 56:7, Mt 21:13 “my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
This year we are holding our second church prayer summit. Last year we had 9 from our church. We are inviting other churches to join with us this year and are trusting that God will provide 45 people to gather for 3 days of seeking his face together.
Does two years seem like a long time to be dedicated to praying together? It can. There are times of discouragement. But God promises that when we seek his Kingdom and his righteousness, and that when we pray for his glory, he will answer. Then we witness that God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.
As I look forward to the next two years, I have to ask myself that same question:
If I knew what God was going to do in my life and in this church, but it would take two years of faithful praying, would I do it?
The answer would be an enthusiastic yes because I have seen God work in the last two years and can’t wait to see what he will do in the next two!
What’s Next for You?
As I think about the future of our church and your church, I am optimistic because the Holy Spirit is moving in unexpected and powerful ways. And he does that through the faithful and persistent prayers of his people. What might seem like a long time to us, two years, is not too long for God. “8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)
Continue to pray with perseverance. If you have stopped or lost heart because nothing seems to be happening, begin again and persevere. God’s timing is not our timing. That is why the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
God has done far more than I expected and in ways I couldn’t have guessed. But isn’t that just what God wants for us?
“20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Be faithful in prayer, for his glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, and He will do some amazing things. That’s his promise!