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Five things to pray cover

Ministry Monday: Praying for my church

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Posted by Tom Woolford, 14 Dec 2015

Tom Woolford brings our attention to a new book on prayer which aims to help us pray the big picture of our local church’s identity and mission.

“We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4).

Despite obvious differences to the role of the Twelve in the early church, those of us engaged in (or, as in my case, training for) ordained ministry are – in a similar way to the apostles – released from many responsibilities that otherwise would rightly claim our time and energy (such as the need to earn our keep from secular employment) in order that we might use that released time and energy to serve God’s people in prayer and word-ministry. Those people in the pews are earning and giving money towards my keep because they want me to spend my time praying and preaching. My prayer life is therefore not private: the church has a vested interest in it!

Like so many pastors and would-be pastors, I am excited about my calling to serve the church in my preaching, but often feel burdened and guilty about my calling to serve her in prayer. There are lots of possible reasons for that – and most of them are ‘sin.’ But if one of my excuses is an inertia stemming from not knowing how to pray for the church as a body (rather than for the individuals that comprise it), then this inexpensive little book by Rachel Jones wonderfully robs me of it!

Rachel – a dear friend and my eldest’s godmother – is on the staff at the Good Book Company. She has just put together something delightfully simple and useful: taking 21 Bible verses or paragraphs, she has turned each into sets of five short guided intercessions for the church and published it as a little 90-page paperback. The spread of biblical material means there’s a good balanced diet of praise, thanksgiving, confession, and supplication – the latter covering holiness, perseverance, evangelism, wisdom, loving fellowship and so on.

Too often my prayers for the church – when I say them – are rather narrowly focussed on the immediate and urgent, often neglecting to pray concerning the big picture of the church’s identity and mission. This is the peculiar advantage of books of written prayers: Rachel is not preoccupied with the missing roof tiles/guest event on Friday/Sunday school teacher crisis/preaching programme (delete as appropriate) that dominate the horizons of my thought- and prayer-life. Interceding along the lines she suggests in her book, therefore, forces me to zoom out and bring before God those universal (Eph 3:10) things which church really is about, behind its (and my) busy-ness.

I want to be part of a church that faithfully and persistently prays prayers like these and waits expectantly on the Father’s answers. To that end, I could envisage buying a set for those on the PCC and reminding them of their responsibility to pray for the church, and inviting them to encourage me in and hold me to account over mine. Of course, the battle of the spirit with the flesh in the area of my prayer life won’t be won because of a £2.99 investment. But it might just help a little, and I for one need all the help I can get to discharge this privilege and duty prudently and diligently.

Dr Tom Woolford is on the Council of Church Society, and is training for ministry at Oak Hill.

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