In modern American churches, we tend to think of prayer as closing our eyes and saying words aloud. Since when was the dignity of prayer cheapened into such a pitiful form?
The authority on this subject I have to hand over to the Catholics. I so admire their history on the subject and the high respect they continue to give it. I am not here to bash vocal prayer; it’s a method of prayer that we practice regularly in the prayer room and I think it’s very necessary. But there’s so much more to prayer.
Here’s my quarrel with vocal prayer: prayer is so powerful (more on that later) and yet most of the time when we close our eyes and pray aloud, we’re not thinking about what we’re praying and even less are we thinking about Whom we are praying to.
“If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking and of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips.” – St. Teresa of Avila,Fire Within
I’m going to do a series of posts on prayer: different types of prayer, the power of prayer…I guess it’s my weak attempt to change the mindset of my culture. Everything that I will say I’ve learned myself – I won’t be parroting my teachers or plagiarizing a book.
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification…For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
I saw these verses through a different light tonight. I was reading Romans 15 with the intention of praying for the church of Roseville (using Paul’s prayer in verses 5-6 and 13), but I quickly saw that I had no idea why Paul was praying to, “the God of patience and comfort”. When I asked the Lord about this, I felt like the answer was elsewhere in the chapter. What I discovered pleasantly surprised me: I began to see that in the first 4 verses of the chapter, Paul was speaking to the mature Romans and encouraging them to be patient with their immature companions.
I have to laugh when the Lord reminds me of how closely He is watching me. I have been reflecting recently on how I have matured in the past year and been a little embarrassed when I see where I was then. I even told one of my leaders that I am amazed at the grace he had for me when I was so immature! Now, I am around some people who are in the exact place I was 1 year ago…Do I have grace for them? Well, I will admit that most of the time I just get annoyed by their immaturities.
With that insight, I’m sure you can get a little humor out of the Lord showing me this verse tonight. It’s nothing new that I get annoyed at people who are less mature than me. Paul advised the Romans to have grace for them, to edify them, and to remember patience and comfort (encouragement). This was the Lord’s answer to me also, and revealed to me why Paul prayed to the God of patience and comfort for unity within His Church.
When I was writing the post about how I like the new prayer room, I thought of the very touchy subject which no one around here talks about openly: we’re a prayer room, are we a church?
We’re still RHOP, same staff, most of the same teams, but now we’re a prayer room inside of a church. I was put in an awkward position recently when asked the question, “Oh, is that a church?” Before, I could always confidently answer, “No, but it’s like a church” (while thinking in my head it’s really what the Church shouldlook like). But I was like a deer in headlights when posed that question the other day. I stared at the woman with a rather confused thought process as I stuttered, “Uh no, it’s like a church, it’s like a church.” But I walked away thinking, I dunno, is it a church now?
RHOP never claimed to be a church. Whenever someone asked directly, we deflected by saying that we never meant to take the place of the local church, only to facilitate a place of prayer for those called to sit before the Lord (1 Chronicles 15–17). Maybe now we could say that we’re just a prayer room inside of a church. But the goal with moving locations was to transform this church into a house of prayer, so that one’s out. So we’re back to the question: is it a church?
The reason why I said we deflected in saying that we didn’t want to take the place of the local church is because my opinion is that a prayer room is what the Church is supposed to look like. Now, we by no means walk in the fullness of that, but it is a more apostolic entity than any other I have encountered.
So yes, I do believe we are a church, of sorts. I don’t want to get into the whole subject of where the Church is in her spiritual walk (i.e. living out the sermon on the mount). I guess I’m just trying to make that point that as a prayer room we’re not trying to take the place of the Church, we’re trying to transform her.