“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
What Francis Schaeffer Wondered
I recently heard about a conversation that renowned theologian Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) once had with his wife Edith at the breakfast table.
According to her, in one part of the conversation, Francis remarked, “Edith, I wonder what would happen to most churches and Christian work if we awakened tomorrow and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer, were removed from the Bible. I don’t mean just ignored, but actually cut out, disappeared. I wonder how much difference it would make.”
Edith went on to say, “We concluded it would not make much difference in many board meetings, committee meetings, decisions and activities.”
How does that strike you as a member of Christ’s Body? Do you think it’s accurate?
How Much Are We Trying to Do Without Prayer?
I’m convinced that what Francis Schaeffer wondered decades ago still matters. In fact, it matters for LifePoint right now. Not because we’re missing out on the Holy Spirit’s activity. But because prayer must become increasingly more vital in the life of our church as we continue to serve God’s mission.
As a congregation, LifePoint is high-functioning and energetic. We demonstrate a strong work ethic in many regards. We meet together often. We preach the Gospel relentlessly. We’re committed to impacting the world for Christ through global missions and church planting efforts. We step up to serve when needs arise. We are generous with finances, resources and gifts. To be sure, we operate far from perfectly in all these areas. But there is nonetheless an observable trajectory regarding such matters that indicates faithfulness among our church. And that’s really good.
And yet even as we continue to do good works such as these, two important questions are worthy of our consideration—How much of LifePoint’s work is being done routinely without prayer? And for that matter, is our activity in danger of outpacing our prayerfulness?
It’s crucial that we accurately discern ourselves in light of these questions. Here’s why.
By the work of the Holy Spirit in and among the church, God’s Gospel promises are impressed upon our hearts more profoundly through believing prayer. Consequently, a congregation that has truly grasped God’s promises through prayer is a church that is enthusiastic about worship and emboldened for witness.
This reality is perhaps demonstrated most powerfully in the New Testament writings of Luke (his Gospel and Acts). In Luke 24:49 (quoted above) the risen Jesus gives His disciples an instruction that has massive implications for us as a church. He essentially tells them, “Go to Jerusalem and stay put; lay low until I send the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.”
After the ascension, they returned to Jerusalem as instructed. But then what? Did they just sit around and twiddle their thumbs waiting for something to happen?
The answer is found in the book of Acts, “And when they had entered [Jerusalem], they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (1:13-14, emphasis mine).
It was through their simple devotion to the work of believing prayer that God unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit to kickstart the New Testament church on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2). It wasn’t anything fancy or gimmicky really—just a ragtag group of ordinary disciples opening their hearts up to the Lord in prayer and receiving His promise by faith. Then, BOOM! the church began in a fit of joy!
The prayers of Christ’s disciples served to thrust God’s mission forward. And the same goes for us today. Nothing has changed. God has not stopped building His church through the prayers of His saints, which means that we must grow in our capacity to reflect the New Testament’s pattern of a church that is devoted to believing prayer, doing nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s anointing.
So what about you? If all the references to prayer and the immediacy of the Holy Spirit were scrubbed from the Bible today, would it make a difference in your life? Let’s live, love and serve together in such a way that the answer would be an emphatic YES!
In fact, we can start right now as we look forward to the Lord’s Day. Let’s begin by asking, As a member or regular attender of LifePoint, what does God desire to accomplish this week through my praying? If we’ll ask that question with a sincere openness to the Spirit’s leading, He will surely direct us. And when He does, you can be certain that your praying will make all the difference among LifePoint for the glory of the risen Christ!
Songs for Sunday, August 28, 2016:
Our Song from Age to Age
As performed by Sovereign Grace Music
How Rich A Treasure We Possess
As performed by Matt Boswell
Jesus Thank You
As performed by Sovereign Grace Music
As performed by Hillsong United
Worth It All
As performed by Worship Central