I started writing from John Owen’s little book, “Duties of Christians Fellowship” a while back the section on living in fellowship with each other in the local church. We got sidetracked by lots of things, but I’ll take it back up with rule number 2.
Rule 2: Believers Must Maintain Continual Prayer for the Prospering of the Church Under God’s Protection.
Here are the Scripture passages Owen gives:
Psalms 122:6 (ESV) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Philippians 1:3-5 (ESV) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Romans 1:9-10 (ESV) For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
Acts 12:5 (ESV) So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Isaiah 62:6-7 (ESV) On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
Ephesians 6:18-20 (ESV) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:12 (ESV) Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
Isaiah 45:11 (ESV) Thus says the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
How ’bout that Isaiah passage, huh? Wow! “…and give him (God) no rest…”
For some reason when Christians think prayer in some of these parts they think of public services or corporate prayer, and in said context folks don’t pray corporate / missional prayers and there seems to be a reckless disregard for Jesus’ teaching on prayer in public.
I believe what Owe has in mind, and what is spoken to in these texts, is the “closet” time when one pours their soul out before the Lord so that he who sees in secret would reward us openly.
Faith that God answers prayer is the impetus to move a woman or man to the prayer “closet”, that private and intimate time of worship and devotion not measured in flesh points with man, but in honest and gut level seeking the counsel and will of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.
Owen says that this is a rule of Christian fellowship.
Christian fellowship is a fragile reality. Not because God’s kingdom is fragile, but because the community of that kingdom is made up of jars of clay that are fragile in mind and motivation. We have new hearts and cursed bodies. Our souls want to go one way and our flesh another. So, we find ourselves at war even within ourselves. The more we obey God’s word the stronger our new selves becomes. The more we feed our flesh the stronger our flesh becomes. Oh, and the flesh will grumble awfully at us.
In order to preserve unity and love and peace and joy, we have to ask the Lord to preserve what only he can, and he, by his powerful grace will preserve the local church.
So, why pray for your church and it’s fellowship with one another?
- The shear direct nature of the commands of Scripture. Need we say more?
- A desire to see God glorified through the local church(es).
You want to see God honored in our unity and diversity in the local church. God is not dishonored in many local churches. There are churches because of distinctives, demographics, geography and tactics. But there is unity of purpose. So, find ONE, and give yourself to it. Pray for it, but also pray for other fellowships who have the same end.
By the way, not all “churches” have the same end. Some are not focused on God’s glory by obeying the Great Commission. Some are social entities only.
3. Your own benefit and spiritual interest.
No one benefits from a church not in unity, peace, love and joy. So, pray for your church so that you enjoy the benefits of that goodness.
Are you engaged in one local church? Are you praying for it? Are you contributing to its unity through all your practices?
Go into your private time with he Lord, read the above passages, and get after asking the Father for the good of your local church(es). It’s a duty we won’t regret delighting in.