The bulk of last week was devoted to creating a definition of the Church. After looking at church discipline within the community of disciples, leadership and preaching, and serving & the sacraments, we’ve gotten to this definition:
A Church is a community of disciples led by biblically qualified men who preach and teach God’s Word, who are equipped to do ministry, using their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others; who regularly practice the sacraments of communion and baptism; who practice church discipline as guided by the teaching of Scripture, under the authority of Jesus Christ.
While this is an adequate definition, there’s one thing missing—Prayer.
And the Church is to pray unceasingly.
First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we are to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It is the will of God that we rejoice always, in all circumstances. To give thanks in all circumstances. And so we pray in all circumstances; we “pray without ceasing,” as Paul wrote.
So what does that look like?
It means that we pray for our leaders—that they would be guided by the Holy Spirit, that they would remain faithful to Scripture and to Jesus.
We pray that God would provide us with opportunities to share our faith with others, and the words to speak when we need them—to be a faithful witness.
We thank God that we woke up today, because it means there’s still more to accomplish.
We pray as we read the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit would instruct us, convict us and keep us focused on the words He inspired.
We pray for the salvation of our friends who do not know Jesus, and for the perseverance of those that do.
We thank God for our children, our spouses, our parents, our jobs.
We pray in every aspect of our lives, not as if we were asking, “God, do you want me to have chicken or beef?” but as a reminder that God gives all things, creates all things, and works all things for our good and His glory.
A church that prays without ceasing is a church that worships Jesus wholeheartedly. Prayer, ultimately, aligns our hearts to God’s will. When we pray, we’re saying, “God, I don’t want what you don’t want—I want Your will and Yours alone to be done. Change me, break me, make me more like Jesus.” And as we pray, God is faithful to answer.
So, through prayer, we are prepared to be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, individually and corporately. Through prayer, our minds are prepared to hear from the Word of God. Through prayer, our minds are prepared to hear from God as we study and make decisions. And through prayer, our actions are empowered as we rely on the Holy Spirit to do ministry.
It’s about humility. It’s understanding that we can’t be good enough to do what God wants on our own. We’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people don’t like us that much.
That’s why the church, if it doesn’t rely on the Holy Spirit to do ministry, if it doesn’t study the Bible, if it doesn’t desire to hear from God and be transformed by Him… when it fails to do these things, it ceases to be the church.
We are insufficient on our own.
But God is totally sufficient. And so we pray. Not simply because we have to, but because we get to. In doing so, God changes us, breaks us, and makes us more like Jesus.
God makes the church the Church.
We will still stumble. We won’t get everything right. We won’t be pretty and perfect.
But we will persevere.
And that is always worth rejoicing over.