It was a Monday morning and I was in conversation with another minister. He asked me how Sunday went. I knew what he meant. How was the Sunday morning assembly? My answer, "It was a good day but I wasn’t pleased with my sermon." It is hard to put it into words, but I just didn’t feel good about it. You never know about a Sunday. One really has to depend upon God. I might invest much study and prayer in a message and then Sunday morning, while I am preaching, the room feels like an oven (so much for air conditioning). Or, I might preach a message that I think to be critical to a series of messages and the battery goes dead in the microphone. Very, very frustrating.
But let me tell you what I saw recently that was so encouraging.
After I preach, we set aside a time for prayer. Historically in our church as in some other churches as well, this is the "invitation." But I like what we have been doing with this. Our elders and spouses sit on the front rows. Other elders/spouses stand at the back. It is a time where people go to them and pray with them during the song. No names announced. No statements. No cards read. Just a time of quiet prayer. In recent weeks:
- An older couple prayed with an elder and his spouse about health difficulties.
- One family prayed with a couple of elders regarding a divorce situation.
- A single man prayed with a couple regarding his need for a job.
I also feel good about a practice that has become an important tradition to many in our church family. On a Sunday morning, a person might come down to our front seats asking that the entire church pray on his or her behalf. Last week it was regarding a woman who recently learned she had cancer. A few weeks before that it was for a couple whose marriage was in serious trouble and desired the church to pray. At such times, just before we pray, people from our church will gather around these people. Some will sit beside them. Others will sit or kneel on the floor. They all will "lay hands" on them. Each person might rest a hand on that person while someone is praying aloud.
What a sight to see 20-35 people joining these people who have asked for prayer. Some are long time friends. Some hardly know them. Most just want to support and encourage and simply be "with" that person at such a difficult time. For several years, it has been rare to see a person request prayer when she has not been surrounded by a number of people.
So–I’ve been preparing this message from John 9 all week. I’ve prayed over this message. I trust that God will be at work. But regardless, I’m just glad we are praying. And–I know God is at work, regardless of how he chooses to work.