PRAYER WEEK 2012
|The Foundation stone of our church reads :|
" My house shall be a house of Prayer."
Following on from the last blog , I wanted to tell you a little more about our Prayer Week which has now run its course once more at Eastside Baptist Church .
For many years now, we have been setting aside a week for prayer at the beginning of a year. We have seen this as so important and beneficial, that we have instituted another prayer week in June - half way through the year .
Prayer week is not meant to substitute ordinary , private prayer or the prayer meetings of the church. Prayer week is meant to stimulate and teach us afresh concerning the importance of prayer in the life of the church and of the individual. Prayer week is a reminder that we are utterly dependent upon the help and the grace of God in everything that we do as a church .
We usually begin with preaching and teaching concerning prayer so as to ‘ fire the congregation up‘ concerning the work of prayer . The late Martin Holdt was actually invited to be our guest preacher in preparation for Prayer week 2012 , but it was not to be , since the Lord took Him on Old Years eve (31st December 2011 ).
This year I focused upon the theme of “Prayer and the Holy Spirit “ .
In a preparatory sermon I preached from Romans 8 :26, 27 , demonstrating that effective prayer is always enabled by the Holy Spirit. In ourselves we are unwilling and unable to pray ( if I understand the preceding text in Romans 7 correctly!) . However, the Holy Spirit helps us in prayer !
Another preparatory sermon focused on Luke 11 : 13: “ If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Here the Lord Jesus promises us the good gift of the Holy Spirit in response to our asking. This ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ does not refer to a charismatic experience of a ‘baptism in the Spirit‘. It refers to the work of the Holy Spirit who in response to asking shows us who Christ is - which leads to our justification , and it can refer also to the Holy Spirit leading us in a growing awareness and need of Christ in our lives, in terms of our sanctification.
Christians are people who are born again by the agency of the Holy Spirit and they continue in Christ as they keep in step with the Spirit. Prayer is fundamental in all this . Pray that the Holy Spirit may bring about conversions and an increased desire for holiness.
Yet another preparatory sermon focused on Acts 4 :23 -31 where we considered a historical example of the Holy Spirit’s working in response to earnest, believing God centered prayer . The result of this prayer meeting in Acts 4 was that the disciples, who had been intimidated by the religious Jews , received new power and boldness to speak the Word of God . Thus the Word of the Lord spread and the Kingdom of God was expanded in keeping with the Great Commission . How we need to continually pray for such spiritual boldness in our day!
Prayer Week Outline:
The next six days we spent an hour in congregational prayer every evening from 19h00 – 20h00 . We usually take the various elements of prayer and use them on different evenings of the week :
- Monday : Praise . This includes much singing and reading Psalms of praise interspersed with prayers of praise .
- Tuesday : Confession .
- Wednesday : Petition . Petitionary prayer focuses upon ourselves , whereas intercessory prayer focuses on others and the world . On this evening our people were free to share their physical , emotional and spiritual needs . In response the elders laid their hands upon some those with great need .
- Thursday : Thanksgiving .
- Friday : Intercession
- Saturday : Intercession for our church
A word about seating !
Atmosphere is important !
Since our building does not have pews, we are free to move the chairs into a circle. Circles provide for intimacy. We are looking at one another, and together we are looking to our God. The circle must not be too big, otherwise it is difficult to hear the prayers of the people. We have a few rows , circling out from the inner circle .
About half of the time will be spent praying in small groups consisting of 5-6 people per group. People assemble in different parts of the church for this purpose. We always find that this makes prayer participation easier, as it gives everyone an opportunity to pray. It also creates a lovely ‘hum’ in the church as people are heard praying everywhere.
Since our prayer meetings are structured, everybody generally prays around the same themes, but with the freedom to express their concerns in their own words . This preserves both, unity in prayer and freedom in prayer.
At the end of the prayer meeting which generally lasts an hour ( and is never enough time!) the prayer leader leads in closing prayer and dismisses the people with a benediction .
Our prayer week 2012 was blessed with a good and consistent attendance of members. Prayer was spontaneous and earnest, and people testified that they had been in the presence of God.
My friend Erroll Hulse writes in Reformation Today (224 : p.7) : “Prayer is the forerunner of mercy . When God means to bless His people He first stirs them to pray for the very blessing that he has foreordained.”
I trust that this Prayer week will have contributed to an awakened desire of our people to seek the Lord corporately , and that our merciful God in turn would be please to grant an abundant answer to our prayers for His glory to cover our land as the waters cover the sea.