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If ever there was a time for prayer, it would be now

By: Mark Hall, First Baptist Church
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Considering what my contribution of 500 words should be in this week’s column, I saw the need for a follow-up on the misunderstood marriage amendment. My attempt at writing a balanced and gracious August ‘08 article stirred up a heated debate in which I was accused of gay bashing and being unloving. Though I carefully chose my words to avoid such labels, it was clear that I had struck a nerve in those who are ready to pounce on anyone who enters a discussion about traditional marriage. Although I am sure that I will again need to address the issue if the Supreme Court disallows the amending our constitution by a democratic majority of the citizens, I chose rather to focus on a much more timely and foundational topic. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Colosse, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving, praying at the same time for us as well …” (Col. 4:2-3). I know you probably hear about prayer regularly in your own churches, but if there was ever a time to be praying, it is now. Paul instructs us by the Holy Spirit to be devoted to prayer that is characterized by vigilance and thankfulness. If the ailing economy with its frightening indebtedness and the overturning of family-oriented laws and the governmental push for socialized medicine and other government intervention have not yet gripped your attention with prayerful concern, just wait a few more months and I am sure they will. Unfortunately, it is so much easier to pray when we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis. The community prayer times immediately following 9/11 were well attended. Those held one year later on its anniversary with far less attendees revealed that people are “devoted to prayer” when they needed God to intervene. When we remember the reality of an ongoing spiritual warfare, it is much easier to keep alert in the practice of praying. Political, social, economic, and personal health crises come and go. But the onslaught of oppression upon the church and its head, Jesus Christ, will never end until his kingdom comes and his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. As you remember those in authority we are called to pray for (1 Tim. 2:1-4), let me encourage praying regularly for your pastor who is serving as a “general” in the Lord’s army. A faithful pastor strives to teach his congregation the word of God in such a way that lives are confronted by its truth and conformed into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 10:13-15; 1 Thes. 2:13). Since God’s word is the nourishment he uses to spiritually heal, nourish, and cause us to grow in Christlikeness, God’s enemy is determined to distract and discourage us from pursuing that heavenly goal. This makes it all the more vital for you to be vigilant in prayer. Pray for your pastor’s preparation of his message that it would be biblically accurate in its interpretation. Pray that his life would be characterized by the integrity that makes it evident he practices what he preaches. Pray that he would deliver it in a manner that you can understand. And don’t forget to pray that you would be attentive and would strive to put the sermon into practice in your own life during the following week. An Old Testament picture symbolically conveys the necessity of praying for your pastor. When Israel was attacked by the Amalekites after their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites prevailed over the Amalekites when Moses held the staff of God in the air. When Moses strength failed him, Aaron and Hur placed a rock for him to sit on and each held one of his arms up. What a great illustration of dependence upon God for victory. May we who are pastors be faithful to depend upon our great God and savior as we shepherd our congregations, and may many in our congregations “hold our arms up” as we encounter the challenges of ministry. Oh, and don’t be alarmed if we, like Paul, end up in jail for preaching the truth. Just make sure you keep praying in an attitude of thanksgiving. Mark Hall is pastor at The First Baptist Church of Auburn.