to continue with the 4th post…
So I prayed.
I prayed desperate prayers.
Some might call them “mean” prayers.
I started with my pastor.
I prayed he would be completely overcome with a burning passion for preaching Christ. A passion he would be incapable of ignoring.
I prayed that he would find no rest until he abandoned his will and his view of “effective” preaching and succumbed to that passion.
I prayed that a desire to preach Christ would keep him up at night.
I desperately begged the Holy Spirit to pursue him relentlessly.
I prayed that God would inundate him with irrefutable evidence of a continuous need to preach Christ – from every direction; through every person he encountered, everything he read, everything he saw – from emails to bumper stickers.
I prayed for him to find no escape.
I prayed for him to be profoundly brokenhearted at the realization that some of the people God had entrusted him to lead did not know Christ personally.
I prayed for him to be stubbornly unwilling to allow a single person to leave church after a Sunday morning service without hearing that JESUS is what they need, not only for salvation, but
– for the strength to make it through a day,
– the ability to serve in His name and
– the freedom to forgive themselves when they failed to “be good.”
I prayed that my pastor would be wrecked.
And that he would find no relief from the wrecking except by preaching Christ.
I thanked God for the people in the congregation who had received salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
I begged God to remind those who had forgotten Him – like I had.
and I begged Him to move in the hearts and minds of those people who had never received salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
I prayed that every. single. member of the congregation would be dissatisfied.
I prayed that people would be afflicted by an unquenchable hunger for more than the milk they were being fed.
I prayed they would develop an insatiable hankering for the meat of the gospel.
I prayed for God to somehow make me aware of others who also realized that our church was lukewarm. I prayed that I would be able to recognize and identify with others who were searching for more than
– encouragement to live good Christian lives,
– Biblical instruction on how to do so and
– affirmation that service to others was the ultimate demonstration of a commitment to God.
I prayed that people would never again use the word “enjoy” to describe their reaction to a sermon they heard, but would instead find themselves convicted, moved, inspired and personally challenged.
I prayed for myself.
I prayed that God would tell me what to do!
Should I leave the church or stay and continue to strive for something nobody else seemed to want?
I seemed to be in a tiny little minority.
Other than a handful of people, nobody else seemed to notice.
There were definitely not too many of us. If God were to move, all the glory would be His.
And as I prayed all of this, I doubted. Not that God could, but that God would.
Because although it grieved him, the father allowed his prodigal son to leave. The father didn’t go after him and force him to come home against his will. And the son, believing he knew what was best for himself, did not return.
Until he was broken and desperate.
My church is broken, but blind to the brokenness. Desperate for the Father, but unaware of the need.
Why didn’t I go to my pastor?
On two occasions. It had not gone well.
As a result of those two encounters, I decided to pray about it instead of continuing to try and work things out on my own.
Because I believe in the power of prayer. I wish I could say I always approach prayer as my first line of defense instead of my last resort. I really, REALLY wish I could say that. But I can’t.
Even though I do believe God can do ANYthing.
I was praying for God to move in my pastor’s life; for God to inspire him to preach Christ.
I KNOW God is able.
Through the conversations with my pastor, I came to a realization. If I continued to try and work things out on my own instead praying and giving it up to God, I knew it would be a lack of faith. It would be me saying:
“just forget it, God. I’ve been praying and praying and you haven’t done anything. I’ll fix it myself!”
I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it.
Because God can do ANYthing. and if He chooses not to, who am I to manipulate circumstances to fit my view of how things should be?
So I begged God to tell me if He wanted me to stay and serve in spite of my longing to hear the name of Jesus proclaimed as the way and the truth and the light.
I prayed all these things and more as I sat alone with God in that empty sanctuary. And then I sat. Silent.
Listening for God to speak.
My mind came back again and again to Matthew 15:8-9:
“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
I had come into the sanctuary that autumn morning to pray for revival in my church. For direction.
I went home.
No less confused about what God wanted me to do.
And I continued to pray. Like a widow. persistently.
(to be continued)
from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
This post is the fourth in a multi-part series, written mostly in early autumn 2012, published now for the first time.
The fifth post in this series: “the wisdom of the wise.”
To read all of the posts in this series, CLICK HERE.