Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Monday, February 6, 2012

FEEDBACK ON PRAYER WEEK 2012


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 .

POSTSCRIPT

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. 

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