When Lib first discovered that I could whistle through my eyes (what? you’re only discovering now?) she must have thought I was very strange indeed. She would be correct. But after a while she’s accepted it as an odd party trick and no longer bats a non-whistling eyelid. Something which stood out as different and unique is now just a thing that sometimes happens.
I’ve had a similar experience at Emmanuel. When we first moved here from London I was struck by the name we give to our prayer meetings. I was used to them being called Prayer Meetings or, at our previous church, Prayer Gatherings. But at Emmanuel those meetings are called First Priority Meetings. Think about that for a moment. First Priority. Really?! But what about… And yet now in my mind it’s just what those meetings are called. They’re called First Priority Meetings, I can whistle through my eyes. So what?
First Priority is actually a very daring name to give something. It’s hard to miss that meeting because something more important came up. “More important than our first priority?” It raises the issue of the importance of prayer; what we say we believe about prayer and what we actually do believe as evidenced by what we do.
This week in our Connect Groups we’re thinking about the second of our Connect Group aims: Talking To God Together. This is meant to be mainly about our prayer life as a group, not just as individuals. Why is it that prayer gets squeezed out? Squeezed out of our day so that prayer time coincides with bed time. Squeezed out of our Connect Groups so people need to leave before we’ve started cos it’s been left so late. It has to be because prayer is not our first priority. Not really.
One reason it might not be our first priority is because of a lack of faith in God’s ability to hear and answer prayer. It could be because we don’t believe that we are accepted in Christ and that as our Father He is willing to hear and answer prayer. But it could also be a theological reason which sounds very holy and good but isn’t; the idea that the other three Connect Group aims are actually more of a priority.
So we’d say that Listening To God Together is more important because we should pray in response to what God says and what He says is more important than what we say. True, but do you think you can even understand the Bible on the most basic level without God’s help? We need to pray for the inclination towards, understanding of, delight in and obedience to God’s Word. Or it won’t happen.
Or we’d say that Caring For One Another is more important because you mustn’t just wish someone well, you have to do them good. True, but do you think that there are more ‘practical’ things you can do to help somebody than call on the Lord God Almighty to give them a hand? If we care for people, we will pray for them. And if we don’t then whatever we try to do to help them won’t bear fruit.
Or we’d say that Reaching The Lost Together is more important because God is the missionary God sending out His people with the good news to speak to people who will go to Hell if nobody tells them about Jesus, whereas my attendance at a prayer meeting isn’t as directly correlated to people’s eternal destiny. True, but who’s going to give you the boldness to speak and how will your words bring a dead person back to life again unless you have the Lord’s help? If we want to see people saved, we will pray for them.
God is the power behind anything good that happens in these groups. Prayer is when we ask Him to act. It runs through all the rest so, yes, it really is our first priority. And if we’re still not convinced, let’s let Jesus have the last word on this one:
“Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
QUESTION: Is prayer my first priority? How can I encourage this in my new group?
This is the fourth of a short series of posts about our new Connect Groups. Keep checking back for more.