My Church, Nineveh Christian Church, every year in May, beginning on the Sunday before the National Day of Prayer reads God’s Word from beginning to end in roughly 76 hours reading around the clock. Each member will select a 1/2-hour slot, and we read nonstop until we finish Wednesday night at about midnight.
This event 3-4 years ago was when I had a change in How I looked at prayer. It began in the weeks preceding when I was finishing up Job. It was in chapter 42:10
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (ESV)
That verse became for me a constant reminder of prayer, but it did not sink in until my turn to read during the 76 hours of God’s Word at church.
76 Hours of God’s Word
This reading was the second year that we did it as a Church. I had read the first year and had done so in the old testament. This year I was going to sign up for a later day to try and read in the new testament to spare myself of all the names that I cannot pronounce. I did end up in the new testament. It was in Romans. It was Romans 16.
As I began to read 16 all the names that I had hoped to avoid were there in the first several verses. Paul was telling the Church at Rome to greet all these people, but as I read this chapter Job 42:10 kept coming to mind and I began to think as I read, and well after finishing the need to pray.
Pray for Everyone
What God laid on my heart was a need to pray for all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. The thought that still lingers for me is to pray, not just for the infirm or those suffering loss, but for all Christians. Why? Because we do not know the burdens, others carry. We see their faces on Sunday but know little else about them.
At the time I did not know how true that was. Prayer for others became important to me, but the reality of how little we know about others burdens did not hit me until later when things made a big change for me.
As I reflected on all these things this morning I reviewed Job, and I reviewed Romans 16, and I just prayed. I read verses 17-19 and was reminded of how this all tied together on that day.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. Romans 16:17-19 (ESV)
I read that passage, and I thought; How can I know these things? What came to mind was to pray. Pray for discernment, pray for wisdom, and pray for everyone that they may find wisdom and strength in God’s Word. Pray for protection of the weak from those that would mislead them. Pray that all might be drawn to God’s Word for wisdom and strength.
I admit that I do not pray for my whole church family individually. I pray for the body. I also confess I do neglect this part of my prayers some days and I do so for no good reason. But this morning God reminded me that I was falling short on this, and I knew better. That is why I ended up here with this need to share and confess my shortfalls. God just used that pruning knife to remind me of this important piece of my prayer life.
We are one body in Christ. All united as one with each having purpose and no one person is above another. I think of how Paul taught this in Romans and 1 Corinthians.
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:4-5 (ESV)
In Romans, Paul reminded me that we are ” individually members one of another.” In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 his teaching is consistent.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (ESV)
He goes on in 1 Corinthians 12:15-27 Paul elaborates on the fact that we each have our purpose and for the body to function we must each do our part.
Health of the Body
For the Body to flourish, it must be healthy. This observation is where I came to an understanding about how no one knows for certain the health, spiritually or physically of any member of the body. Sometime after God helped me realize that we all need prayer, he gave me another message to emphasize how little I could know about my brothers and sisters in Christ. I had a stroke.
It was not what people think of when they think of stroke. I was to bull headed to lay down, and it hit a part of the brain that did not affect the body the way most strokes you hear about in conversation. To look at me, I looked normal. I look like nothing is wrong at all. If you see me in a restaurant without my cane, you would likely assume I was drunk… My speech can become slurred and slow. I can get lost searching for words. If I walk, I might stagger a bit and possibly fall… but I am not drunk. These things people see are my new normal. If I sit down and keep my mouth shut I look like everyone else.
What I realized when all this happened is that I have NO idea what any other person might be going through. I cannot look at any person and know what they are fighting physically. How could I possibly know what emotional and spiritual challenges they may be facing?
I realized someone I judge to have their act together needs prayer as much as someone that appears lost, and the tough thing is that I cannot be sure which is which. I do not know what is in their heart.
I always struggled with Matthew 7:1. You know the verse.
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. Matthew 7:1 (ESV)
It was also tough to understand 7:3
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 (ESV)
Jesus explains how to handle sin Matthew 18:15-20. Paul does so in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Timothy 3. Those are clear to me. But the command of Christ not to judge was hard for me to grasp until the stroke. I suddenly had a physical example of a spiritual issue. I realized that people could not understand my physical condition until they removed their preconceptions of my behavior. I looked like a drunk, so I must be drunk, and drunks are just not very good people.
What I realized is that I have to make judgments every day but to do so without some discernment and understanding how could I do so in Love. I thought this morning of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15 (ESV)
To follow that example I could not pass judgment without talking to my brother about how I felt. Confront him with what I perceived to be a sin against me. To discuss this one on one, and “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (vs. 15b). But for me to grasp this connection I had to be on the receiving end of odd stares and such.
I know I started this trying to explain how important I feel it is to pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that I have not made it too confusing with all this explanation.
Ultimately we need each other as we make this trip through the wilderness and we need each other’s prayers and encouragement. I turn to Colossians 3:12-17
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 (ESV)
Father strengthen me that I might not neglect to pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Help me not forget that I cannot always know what burdens they carry.
Father help me that I might be patient with each and if I have a problem or see something that concerns me give me the strength and compassion to go and discuss the issue with them that it may be resolved.
Help me Father that I might not Judge with my pride but do all things with love and discernment. Help me to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Help me to approach everyone with love and a willing heart.
In Jesus name, I pray, Amen