Christians are meant to be continuously praying. One subject on the prayer list is the local church. Are you lifting up any churches to God regularly? I know it is something I have struggled with. Recently, I have started praying for Grace Community Bible Church (GCBC) and Underwood Chapel with more regularity. GCBC is my home church in Grayslake, Illinois. Underwood Chapel, Plympton, England, is the church that raised me and sent me out into the world. We should all be connected to a church or two. The early church met in each others’ houses every day. We consider ourselves connected if we meet once a month. Praying for the church might lead to a desire for more connection.
The first thing I have done is to get a paper and pen and put it in the book I use for my daily devotions. Then I have written the names of the churches on the paper and a list of things to pray for. Here are six areas of prayer we can all pray for with respect to our local churches.
- That the church may know God’s will
- That the church will live a life worthy of their calling
- That the church would bear fruit
- That the church would know God
- That the church would be strengthened
- That the church would be thankful
That the church may know God’s will
God calls individuals for a purpose. God has a plan he longs to execute: to do good in the world. God also has a plan for groups of people working together. We need to not think of a church as a local location or a building. The church is a group of people who share a common purpose. That purpose is to increase worship and the glorifying of God in the community. The members of the church need to know how this mission is best worked out, then they need to execute the vision.
That the church will live a life worthy of their calling
Because it is God who has called the church, there must be something transcendent about the life Christians live. If the life of individuals in the church is to be centered around God, the life of the whole church must reflect that. This does not mean the local church has to run at about 20,000 members and have excellent light displays, and a cafe in the lobby. There is nothing wrong with that, per se. The measure of a church is shown in the character of their leadership. The godly example of those in charge should permeate the membership. If the leadership is not centered on God, there is no way the church will live a life centered on Him.
That the church will bear fruit
Churches need to be visible in their community and they need to be a blessing to their community. The fruit of improving character, communion with God, and increased numbers can show God is at work. Some churches defend their lack of growth because they lack self-awareness. Some churches are unaware that they are toxic. Churches need to be safe places to grow. Of course we must speak truth, but the most winsome fruit of the Spirit is love. If we grow in our love of God and our neighbor, other fruit will be added.
That the church will know God
Some people revel in ignorance in the church. They know enough to cover ‘getting saved,’ but they have no desire to know more about their faith. Some openly scoff at theologians as wasting their time. I know churches that are anti-intellectual.
Part of every healthy relationship is increased knowledge. If I knew nothing about my wife except that I had married her, you would be skeptical about the health of our relationship. If I told you each new thing I was learning about her, you would be reassured. Walking with God is like that. We flourish and grow deeper through studying who He is and what He is doing in the world. This is not the stale knowledge of some lifeless Bible studies. We do not study to know about God but to know God in intimacy.
That the church will be strengthened
In the West, churches are being weakened and are losing members. The church is only as strong as its members, and individuals are confused or only mildly convinced about their faith. Churches need us to be members who are ‘all in’ and confident. Doubts need to be talked about and addressed. The church needs to be equipped for meaningful action.
Sermons are a good place to start. If the sermons are weak, the people’s understanding of God will be weak. Weak sermons focus on man and not God. Weak sermons lack majesty and holiness. Weak sermons lack the underpinning authority of The Word of God. Weak sermons do not apply God’s Word to twenty-first century living. Of course, the more of these weaknesses are addressed, the stronger the church will be.
Secondly, churches need members who are mature in the faith to take responsibility to pass that faith on. This can be done in classes, mentoring, or in writing. As you pray for the church to be strengthened, maybe you might consider whether you should be strengthening someone.
That the church should be thankful
To be thankful means to realise someone outside of ourselves has done something we could not do. Of course, a group of people working together can achieve more than an individual. This will lead to thankfulness to the members of the church. God working through a group of people makes that exponentially true. We will be thankful to God when we gain this perspective. God has done more in and through us than we could possibly imagine. Because the world is created by God, all good gifts find their origin in Him.
Aaron Buehrer, our worship leader at GCBC, leads us in worship and thanksgiving. He has us focus on the good things God has done in the world around us. In this way our worship is lifted to a higher plain. We should not take the things around us for granted. We need to pray for the church that its attitude of thanksgiving will be maintained.
The Apostle Paul prayed these things for the church at Colossae. It is not an exhaustive list of things to pray for a church, but it is a helpful start for people like me. I have prayed too seldom for the churches I know. This list will be a launch to bring to mind other areas where the church needs prayer.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.