"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Friday, December 23, 2011

Grace under Siege 33: Day of Prayer and Fasting

     On November 19 our church leaders declared a Day of Prayer and Fasting for the next day. I was thrilled. Never mind that the reasons they gave for needing such a day were because of "accusations and criticisms against the pastoral staff and elder board of Grace." I wish they had urged everyone to ask God to tell us what the issues are, what His perspective is, and what He wants done about them.
     That's okay. They were having us direct our concerns and petitions to the right Person, who could sort them out and give us what we need as His church. They specifically asked the congregation to pray: 
     1) for God to protect his body (Ephesians 6:10-18)
     2) for health, unity and reconciliation in this church (I Cor. 1:10)
     3) for humility and the ability to live with differences (Romans 14:1-12)
     4) that we would love one another so that Christ might be made known (John 13:35)
     5) for our church leaders (Acts 14:23, I Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1) 
     We could wholeheartedly pray for all these requests--but we felt something was lacking. Is unity apart from truth really a healthy, legitimately Biblical goal? Is that what the apostle Paul meant in I Corinthians 1:10? So we added a 6th request when we forwarded the letter to our correspondents:  
     6) for God to speak His truth to our hearts and for each of us to set aside prejudice and bias and humble ourselves to receive it (Psalm 119:160; John 16:13; Job 34:12; Psalm 25:10; Psalm 43:3; Psalm 86:11; John 4:24; John 8:31-32, John 14:6; John 17:17; John 18:37; Eph. 4:15, 25;  2 Tim. 2:25; I John 1:8; I John 3:18)
      Jerry and I totally devoted ourselves to the Lord all day, opening our home to others who wanted to join us in prayer. As we prayed, He not only put on our hearts to pray for each elder by name but to call them and tell them we were doing so, thanking them for declaring the Day of Prayer and Fasting. We told them we considered that an important first step toward unity and reconciliation. 
     We also asked them if there were requests related to their families or their own lives for which we could pray. Mostly we reached answering machines but 13 of the 30 men gave us requests (and three of those men called us back to do so). 
     Some thanked us (one followed up with another "thank you" by e-mail), one asked us how he could be praying for us, and one even told us, "Keep up the good work!"
     A few weeks later Pied Piper ended a sermon by suggesting people turn off their TVs and read their Bibles! There have been a number of cosmetic and seemingly hypocritical changes made that keep us leery of possible ulterior motives--but reading the Bible is a good thing and God will honor it. We may all be surprised by what the Holy Spirit accomplishes through our giving ourselves to prayer and the Scriptures.

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