In yesterday's message I read extensively from a prayer that I prayed on July 19. I said that I would put it here in my weekly blog. You'll find it below. But first, some context.
I believe God wanted to use 2020 to prepare us for something better than what we had been doing.
You'll hear this reflected in my prayer journal entry from five months ago. But I don't think my prayer caused it. I think it recognized it.
I believe the Spirit of God is moving among many, fanning something to flame, and that it is going to be good, even if the burning up of what has been causes discomfort.
Tonight is our last of six prayer nights that we have devoted to discerning our future together.
We started it in October and have now spent five evenings praying silently together, guided by questions and statements.
This evening at 7pm we will open our mouths. We will pray as the Spirit leads. I want to hear how he has been inspiring you to pray. And I want you to hear how he has been inspiring others to pray. This is a vital piece to our discernment together.
So please, if you are at all able, join together for prayer, tonight at 7pm, either in person at the church or online. And let's expect God to move.
And now, how I've been praying.
On Sunday July 19, I wrote this in my prayer journal:
“Lord, I pray that this is a shaking.
"Shake the world. Shake your Church. Shake us so that whatever is poorly built crumbles. Let whatever of our systems and confidences that doesn’t belong, or that no longer serves its purpose — let it succumb to the shaking. Let the surface cracks form under the stress. Let the cracks run deep. May they fill with water and soften the mortar and dry rot the wood so that the failure is more than cosmetic, deeper than stucco.
“Yes Lord, whatever does not belong, let it give way quickly to this shaking. Cause the foundation to heave; let it rise and fall a second time; may it fall the third time before rising up powerfully, even rising to prominence on the global landscape. But not the prominence of castles and celebrities. Lord, cause the name of Jesus and the foundation of his authority to rise up suddenly out of the rubble. I wait for this Lord. I wait for this!”
I wrote out the words of 1 Corinthians 3:10-23,
“...Each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”
My spirit resonated in agreement:
“Yes Lord. Yes Lord!
“A castle is a fortified residence from which rulers rule, protected by walls [and] moats... A palace is a luxurious residence for royalty surrounded by plush gardens... But a temple is a building devoted to the worship of God, and regarded as the place of his dwelling.
“Yes Lord! 1 Corinthians 3:16. Yes Lord.
I prayed again with increasing focus, knowing the impact of what I was asking:
“Let the castles and palaces stand empty, in disrepair. Let them be shaken. Let their walls crack and crumble. May all who find shelter in them run for safety. May they take the scriptures and the doctrines and the gospel witness, even the testimony of your grace throughout the ages, clutching them close as they flee. And may those found wearing robes of ancient tradition not stop to disrobe. And may those found wearing the coveralls of knowledge and wisdom not stop to remove them.
"But let all who are decorated with the jewelry of self-interest, self-lordship, and the lording of themselves over others; and the costumes of importance and prestige; who carry the blueprints and maintenance schedules of castles and palaces; who are attended by servants conscripted from their brothers and sisters, having convinced them it is a means to worldly gain; who teach man-made doctrines and tolerate wickedness — may they rip the clothes from their body as if entangled by them! May they thrash in panic to free themselves from them! May they run naked into the streets to be covered in dust and repentance, to be washed by the water of your word, to be clothed in righteousness.
“Lord, by your decree, cause the castles and palaces to be shaken apart, to be revealed by the fire. Cause the foundation of Jesus to show itself without crack. And may the living temple of God be established on it without pomp and circumstance, but rather with an eruption of praise and devotion."
I finished my prayer that day with these three appeals:
“Restore your Church.
“Rebuild your temple.
“Renew our love.”
It's those same three appeals that I invite you to pray with me.
I have plenty of ideas about what God is calling us to. A lack of ideas is never my struggle. But to not run ahead of God in my desire to do something significant or to lag behind God for fear of disappointing people--this requirements discernment, and that invites the prayers of many.
And so I invite you to help discern our future together. What is God calling us to in 2021?
I ask you to pray this pray with me because I believe God is going to answer it. And when he does, those who have not seriously prayed it will perceive his answer as a devaluing of things they value. But those who pray it eagerly, even if his answer disrupts things we have enjoyed, will rejoice at how he is restoring his Church, rebuilding his Temple, and renewing our love--in ways we wouldn't have thought possible a year ago.
Sunday I called this the start of a conversation. It actually started some time ago. It starts with prayer.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.