Tuesday Re-mix –
“To often we treat prayer as the preparation for the work of the church…do you not see, prayer IS the work of the church.” Oswald Chambers
Two true stories from my ministry:
1. “God, I’ve got this one…I’ll check with you on the next one.” I had not yet really started a ministry. I was a lawyer, a seminar speaker, and somewhat of a Bible teacher. As a negotiator, I had been involved in hundreds of secular mediations, and I had only just begun experimenting with mediation in the church. I received a call from a minister friend who needed a mediation done at a small church he knew. The pastor was in trouble and the church leadership was dividing. I asked how many people this included and he told me about a dozen or so. I told him to get them all together on a Saturday morning and I would fly out, mediate with them for a half-day or so, and take care of it.
Yes, I really did say that. Looking back on it, I can’t believe the arrogance. I had been in all these mediations, most of which had resulted in resolutions, and I genuinely thought to myself, “How hard can this be?” There was no prayer involved, other than the obligatory prayer at the beginning of the Saturday meeting. I showed up, began the mediation, and the whole thing fell apart within a couple of hours. A church was all but destroyed and a man’s ministry was ended. My own lack of any Spiritual preparation or focus was the reason.
2. “God, I cannot do this without you.” I was speaking to a congregation about some severe conflict in their church. It was actually just one stage of a full-blown intervention involving a moral failure of the pastor and a church who had no clue how to deal with it. As I was speaking, a family member of the pastor (and a member of the church) stood up and began spewing out all manner of ugliness and borderline deranged comments toward the church. It was going on and on and on. It was not going to stop. Everyone in the room had one eye on this family member and one eye on me, wondering what I was going to do about it. I was frozen. In my head I began to pray, asking God what in the world I was supposed to do. As I prayed, my eyes closed and my head bowed. The family member kept talking. I kept praying. The family member apparently ran out of gas and sat down. I kept praying, quietly, to myself. The silence was broken next by another church member, who began to weep and to pray out loud. Another followed, then another.
I realized that nothing I had to say that night was nearly as important as this. I sat down and watched one of the most heart-felt prayer services I have ever seen. Nothing magical or mystical happened. The issues were still there when the people stopped praying. But the hearts were softened by the prayer, maybe for the first time in a long time. It took a while, but healing came to that church. Because they humbled themselves and prayed.
When it comes to spiritual matters, peacemakers recognize that they cannot fabricate the Spirit of Peace. They cannot manipulate the parties into submission and they cannot do anything of any significance at all apart from Christ. Genuine peacemakers in the church know that there is a peace which surpasses all understanding and that it comes from only one source. Peacemakers in the church know that real peace comes from God, and apart from Him, they have nothing to offer the process.
Genuine peacemakers in the church pray. If prayer is the work of the church (like our friend Oswald Chambers said), then peacemakers get that. They understand that, when it comes to unleashing the Spirit of Peace, prayer is the work. If we get that right, the other stuff has a way of finding its place.
© Blake Coffee
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