My Dream for the Prayer Life of Bethlehem
(In case you missed it in the sermon.)
1. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:6, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” So I dream of Bethlehem with thousands of people daily finding a secluded place and time for personal communion with God, confessing sins, thanking God for blessings, praising him for his perfections, asking for help, and interceding for others.
2. The apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:7, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” So I dream of a Bethlehem with hundreds of married couples on their knees together praying for each other, and for your marriage, and the children, and the church, and the world.
3. Since the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers . . . bring . . . up [your children] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” I dream of a Bethlehem with hundreds of families gathering with all the children to read the Scripture and pray. This time everyone prays from the smallest (who can barely say, “Nanu Jesus”) to the young adults still at home. This is how the children learn to absorb the truth that prayer is an essential life. All the while they are learning how to pray.
4. Since it says in James 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” I dream of a Bethlehem with hundreds of small groups and hundreds of deep friendships where people are praying for each other—hands-on prayer for healing, for reconciliation, for lost loved ones, for seemingly intractable sin, for endurance in faith, and where groups and friends are uniting to pray for a cause together, and where the mission of the church is carried in prayer.
5. And since the leaders of the early church said in Acts 6:4, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word,” I dream of a Bethlehem where all staff meetings and all Elder Council meetings and all committee meetings and task force meetings and planning meetings do not just hurry into human discussion with an opening prayer, but linger with the Lord in a season of prayer and soak the meeting in prayer and then return to prayer during the meeting, so that the way the work of the meetings is done is by prayer.
6. From 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 it is clear that the Bible expects us to pray out loud together as a church and not just in solitude. “If you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say ‘Amen' to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.” In other words, God means for us to pray sometimes so that others can hear us and say, “Amen,” and can be built up in faith by hearing what we pray. Therefore, I dream of many more people coming to the prayer meetings each morning of the week and Wednesday nights, and on special occasions, so that they can build each other up and be built up by each other's prayers.
7. And finally, since the essence of worship is vertical communion with God (Matthew 15:8-9), I dream of worship services in which everyone is radically, deeply, joyfully, authentically engaged with God in prayer all through the entire service—praying as you come, praying as you sing, praying as you listen, praying as you go.
In all these ways may we accomplish what we exist for: the humanly impossible mission of spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.