In a poll we published back in March we asked:
What respective percentages of time does your church spend in Prayer, Worship and Teaching?
The results were about what you’d expect.
Consider a common Evangelical Church “Order” of service. Note the amount of time devoted to various aspects…
- Prayer 2 min
- Worship 18 min
- Prayer 2 min
- Offertory 6 min
- Prayer 2 min
- Message 60 min
- Prayer 2 min
- Total 92 minutes
Prayer comprised less than 9%
Worship (including the offertory) 26%
Message consumed 66% of the service.
In this actual case, the Church is notable for it’s “Teaching Pastor”. And therefore it’s presumable that the Elders and Congregation are comfortable and perceive these ratios to be in “balance.”
With prayer representing less than 10% of the program, is the meeting really “in balance?”
So what’s up with that?!
A pattern we find in the Bible goes like this…
- Adam walked and talked with God. This is representative of prayer. His relationship with God was 100% prayer. Face to face with God in the cool of the evening, until … well, that thing about forbidden fruit. Which is an account of disobedient rebellion that lead to the first record of man’s deceit…
- Abraham prayed and worshiped the Lord, sacrificing his wealth in livestock on his altar. It’s a safe bet that prayer was by far the largest portion of his relationship with God.
- Moses prayed, worshiped and received the law. To the list add study and teaching.
- David prayed, worshipped and had the law taught. Solomon added a temple for corporate worship. From this point forward, the Rulers of the Temple and Jewish sects devised many hundreds more “traditions” and forced this awareness on the people so that “Keeping the Law” consumed everyone’s effort. The faith became 100% works. The only prayers offered were those in Synagogues and at temples.
- Jesus taught grace and in the fullness of God’s love, died on the cross to “Serve” His purpose. By the way, because it was essentially lost to the Jews in that time, one of the first things he taught was “how to pray” (See Matthew 6.)
A cursory examination of these biblical situations yield a basic model:
Prayer, worship, study and service. Each building upon it’s predecessor.
And, importantly, this extends from Church into my personal relationship with Jesus. This is about my faith.
It’s the last bit that’s worth a deeper look. “Service” – is that works? Like James said “Faith without works is dead?” No, absolutely not.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7
If I’m with Christ, then what I ask is his desire. What ever I desire? We serve together with Christ… Yoked together with him. He leads and we pull our part of the load. I would therefore be asking for what He suggests…
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
And there’s that bit about our cross…
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23
Christ began his ministry giving the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.) So what is the yoke, and the burden of the cross? Those Be-attitudes are the clue.
So dying to self for starters (Blessed are the poor in spirit) and abiding in Christ. That means displacing our spirit and having His spirit in us. His is a spirit of compassionate love, instant and complete forgiveness, patience and kindness, long suffering…
No wonder Christians wonder why their prayers seem to go unheard. It’s because I’m not desiring to actually serve Christ by being like him. Am I compassionate and loving, always forgiving? Patient?!!
Not so much, I’m afraid.
“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24
It seems to me that if I’m living in a way where I’m being like Jesus from the inside-out, then my attitudes are really His shining through – which is truly serving with him.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
In sacrifice and service (living the Beatitudes) my relationship with Christ will begin to rebalance itself. I’ll find myself much more often in prayer. And I’ll carry much more worship, praise and gratitude toward his provision. Service will be my way of life. And I’ll fellowship and even spend some time studying his word.
But here’s the thing – Jesus will write himself into our hearts.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-35