“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
The beginning of a year is often dedicated to the making of resolutions and commitments – many which are abandoned before the month is half begun. In our heart we have desires to be better men and women; we have desires to be more effective men and women. The same goes for our churches. We desire to be better and more effective churches. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, except that we are easily prone to make our desires for personal goodness and effectiveness the all-important goal. Any Bible reading, God pursuing, maturing Christian should know by now that the pursuit of goals that are divested from the LORD our God is nothing but products of an idolatrous heart. We want to avoid that at all costs. God help us not to waste precious time in pursuing prayer-less plans.
So how do we avoid that? Start your church year with prayer. Here is what we do at Eastside Baptist Church and we share this for what it’s worth:
1. Dedicate the entire month of January to prayer, reflection and planning for the year ahead.
2. All our various church departments are asked to prayerfully evaluate and plan for the year ahead. No midweek activities (home fellowships, small groups, school of the Bible) happen in this time. All is subject to prayer and scrutiny.
3. Our preaching in January is focused on the subject of prayer.
4.The last week of the month is a dedicated prayer week, where the congregation comes together every week night to pray for an hour. This year we will read through the 5 chapters of First John. The Scripture forms our basis for prayer, and a prayer bulletin will set the prayer agenda for each evening.
Our prayer week normally has a good attendance.
The theological principle behind ‘wasting a whole month in prayer‘ is this:
1. God is honoured. He gets the firstfruits of our year and we get the blessings of true fruitfulness. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) The kingdom of God is advanced while we are ‘resting’ in prayer. Truly, the Holy Spirit can do more in 5 minutes than we will do in 50 years!
2. God helps us not to be anxious about the year ahead and he helps us to distinguish between the good and the best for our church. “Martha, Marta, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41,42) So, we are helped not to waste time with unnecessary church activities.
Postscript : This does not mean that prayer is now over for the rest of the year. Not at all! The church has been reminded of the fact that she needs to learn to abide in Christ ( John 15:1-7), for apart from Him she can do nothing. The many and varied activities of the church begin now, as the church prayer meeting continues to be a core activity of the church.
PRAYER IS THE LANGUAGE OF DEPENDENCE ON GOD. THAT IS WHAT WE WERE CREATED FOR AND THEREFORE THIS IS THE LANGUAGE WHICH WE MUST LEARN !