We will be holding meetings again in the building in the coming days! How will we feel as we do so? What should we be focussing on as we meet?
I’m sure, for those of attending, there will be a sense of excitement, but slight nervousness. The comparison that comes to my mind is when you went back to school after the summer holidays – it all seemed sort of familiar, but a bit strange, and of course there were changes …!
I thought it would be helpful for us to pause and consider what we should be praying for as we start to meet again.
The first thing for us to be praying for is that everything would be done for the glory of God and that in Jesus Christ would absolutely central.
“So … whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10v31.
“… so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4v11
As we gather, our greatest concern is that this should be an occasion when God is glorified; that he is honoured in what we do. And for that to happen, the Lord Jesus Christ needs to be absolutely central to all we do. Please pray for that.
The second thing we should be praying for is that the services would be a means of grace to all attending. Wonderfully, these first two prayers in no way conflict with each other, because the thing that brings God most glory is his grace to unworthy sinners such as us.
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1v5-6
Please pray that our meetings are occasions when we grow in grace; when, as Christians, we rejoice afresh in God’s wonderful grace to us in Christ; when we are assured again of God’s steadfast love to us.
But – continuing to think about this second area of prayer – please be praying particularly that God would graciously use the ministry to bring people to faith in Christ. “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people … This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2v1,3-4. How wonderful that God wants people to be saved!
How we long that God would be using these strange times we are passing through to bring many people to himself. Please pray that our meetings would be used of God to that great end.
There is a third area that I suggest it would helpful to pray for. That is that we would each look to the interests of others, not just our own interests. Jesus said, very simply, but very profoundly, that people would know that we were his disciples by our love for one another. (See John 13v34-35.)
There are two particular applications of this I would like to mention.
The first relates to the fact that when we gather together and start talking with one another outside afterwards, you will discover, if you aren’t already aware, that there are a whole variety of views in the congregation towards Covid-19 from those who think the whole thing has been vastly over-exaggerated, through those who think we just need to exercise “common sense” in dealing with it, to those who think we need to be extremely cautious in the precautions we take, and those who are still very, very concerned about their vulnerability to catching the virus and being extremely ill as a result.
Without commenting on the merits of the various views, brothers and sisters, we need to lovingly respect one another’s concerns – particularly of those who may be more fearful than you are.
In practical terms that means doing everything we can to patiently comply with the instructions the deacons give in terms of sanitisation, social distancing, following the one way system etc, and other instructions that are given about splitting up into groups for informal fellowship outside the building afterwards – even if your personal conviction is that it is all unnecessary. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13v35. Please pray for God to give us grace to do so.
The other application, of loving one another that we need to pray about, is love for those who will NOT be able to meet with us. A number of brothers and sisters will, wisely, decide that their health means they shouldn’t join with us for the time being. Let’s pray that the situation will soon permit them to do so, but let’s also be thinking of them and praying for their needs. We will be thinking of them as we meet, since we will be live-streaming the service for their benefit, and the way that the service is led will seek to take into account that people are watching online as well as physically present.
We also need to think of them as, I imagine, they will be experiencing mixed emotions – glad that the church is meeting again, but sad that they cannot be present. We need to do all we can to include them in the ongoing fellowship of the church – to ring them, to message them, to visit them if that is possible (not during the service, but at other times!) Please pray that the coming weeks wouldn’t be a cause of division in the church between those who are able to meet and those who aren’t.
Thank you for your prayers.