As we move toward the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I’m posting a few thoughts that I hope will helpful. You can check out Part 1 about our willingness to serve. With today’s post, I want to focus your attention on prayer.
Our current president Steve Gaines has offered an impassioned plea for us to enter into a time of prayer. I encourage you to read it; along with his thoughts on the various issues we are facing. Dave Miller has also offered a great post on the need for prayer in this season of our denominational life. Allow me to offer a few simple thoughts to what these two men have already offered. I think that 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 will help us.
In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray for holiness among God’s people. As believers, congregations, and various entities, we need to live worthy of the calling placed upon us. To be counted worthy will mean that we once again commit to imitating Christ. Philippians 2:5-11 is the grand old passage that reminds us to have His mind and imitate His attitude of service. Our prayer should be for lives that conform to the likeness of Christ.
Holiness will not mean that we are just more moral than the rest of our religious neighbors. Rather, it will be the prayerful commitment of our lives to the will and ways of God. We must show the godly jealousy of 2 Corinthians 11:2 that the bride of Jesus be presented to Him with purity.
Let’s pray for God’s power for God’s work. We are the largest Protestant denomination in North America. We have a huge amount of members, churches, and money. Our mission agencies are among the largest in history. Our seminaries and universities produce impressive ministers, missionaries, and scholars. Our churches serve diligently in their communities and around the world. But if we are devoid of God’s power then none of God’s work will actually be accomplished. Not in Dallas. Not in my city of Bradenton. Not anywhere we labor. We need to cry out to God for His power to do His work. And for those among us that need a reminder, God’s work through us is to be glorified in us as more people are made into disciples for Him.
If we are not working with the Gospel as the centerpiece of our daily activity, then what is the point of it all? God’s work is for people to believe in Jesus (see John 6:29). We must be more concerned with seeking clear ways God can use us to alert sinners of their need for salvation and show them how to know Jesus. Our prayer should be for one another to be filled with the power of God in such a way that doing the work of the kingdom is natural and habitual.
Let’s pray for God’s fame. We are all facing the temptations to jump out front, lead the charge, take the reins, and/or reign. Humility among the redeemed is actually more in order. Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him. The prayer has an order: Jesus is glorified by you and then you will participate in that glory. We do not want our denomination to be big, strong, powerful, and well-recognized because of us. I’ve met us and we’re not that impressive. We want it to glorify Jesus. It must be our heart’s desire on a personal, congregational, and convention level. The fame of Christ extended to the ends of the earth is what actually matters.
But we face a terrible temptation. We must not allow this moment to degenerate into mere political machinating for positioning ourselves to inherit the keys to the lesser kingdom of denominational power. The glory of “denominational power” is not worth the effort. Our prayer should be that the glory of God is made evident in us because we are doing the work that Christ left for the church to accomplish.
We must stop waiting to pray. The human condition drives us to this place of taking care of one’s own business. This is not a business that we can handle any longer. I find this true in my own life, family, and calling as a pastor. Prayer is the essential work of the Christian. It is for this moment. It should have been more highly regarded by more of us earlier and more often. But, here we are.
I’m going to begin again in the more important work of begging God to send revival. I hope you will join me.