Feb6WedFebruary 6, 2019
Two years ago, the FMC Nurture took the time to pray and discern our past and future mission by answering the question, “What does/should a fully formed disciple of Jesus Christ from First Mennonite look like?” A five-fold mission statement later emerged. The statement includes - Following Jesus, Delighting in the Word, Growing in prayer, Making disciples, and Sharing in mission. These five statements are now summarized by the vision statement - LOVE, LEARN and LIVE.
Now, consider the five statements of mission. Each take a certain degree of intentionality. But perhaps one takes a little more than the others. If you are consistent in worship on Sunday mornings, you’ll likely find yourself delighting in the Word and focused on Jesus’ life and ministry. Those tend to flow naturally as we gather each week. If you are involved in the extra events of FMC, you’ll quickly catch our intergenerational focus for disciple-making and our emphasis on sharing in mission through ministries like SnackPac and events like the Relief Sale. However, none of the mission statements are perhaps more challenging than ‘growing in prayer’ – emphasis on growing.
One reason why this is challenging is that we can often take an apathetic posture towards prayer. Why pray if God’s in control? Yet, the Holy Spirit encourages us by saying, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2a). Mysteriously, sometimes God waits to move until we ask!
A second reason why growing in prayer is difficult is because it takes enormous perseverance and patience. Prayer is a long-game, not a short thrill. It take the energy and persistence like that of a widow who is seeking justice within a corrupt judicial system (Luke 18:1-7).
However, let’s mull over another reason. We can easily feel ill-equipped and stuck. It is so easy to have the same pattern and rhythm of prayer for years! Fortunately, we have access to a few of Jesus’ prayers to exercise new prayer muscles! If you are part of our FMC body each week, you’ll likely be very familiar with the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6. That is an excellent model for prayer! Its pattern of praise, confession, intercession and mission is one that we use during our monthly prayer meetings. (You should come!) However, for today, let’s consider Jesus’ longer prayer as recorded in John 17. Here, he helps us understand how to intercede for people.
First, he praises the authority of the Heavenly Father. Scripture-fed, God-exalting praise is always the place for us to begin. Then, he casts his own needs before His Father. Then, he turns to pray for his immediate circle of relationship, his core disciples. He pleads for them to be unified under His name (v11), protected from evil (v15), sanctified by the truth of God’s Word (vs 17, 19) and engaged in mission (v18). Then, Jesus expands his prayer to include those who will believe in Jesus through the disciples’ witness (v20).
Do you notice the trend? His prayers are an ever expanding circle outward – from his interpersonal relationship with the Father to those with whom Jesus had no direct, earthly contact. What a helpful pattern from our Master and something very easy to remember
I’m guessing that you are a praying person. But the question for today is are you growing in prayer? This is certainly an area of improvement for me too. Let’s keep Jesus’ example before us and persist in strengthening the prayer culture of our lives, families and church! Expand the circle and pray more!