Of Fire, Fervor and Friends

Yesterday morning I was at a men’s group I attend each week. We meet over breakfast, and talk about issues we are experiencing, what God has been saying, generally encouraging and supporting each other. This time we talked for a bit about the place of corporate prayer in the respective churches we attend. Is prayer basic to the life of the church, or is it patchy, left to the faithful few? Is it vital or boring?

 Over a long period now, I have come to identify Christian faith with vitality, authenticity, fire in the belly. Afterall, the first and greatest commandment is about loving God with heart and mind and soul and strength. Nothing half-hearted there! If Jesus doesn’t mean everything, he doesn’t mean anything. I’ve come to see this theme more and more clearly throughout the Bible.

 Yes, I know there’s such a person as a ‘baby Christian’. But that’s in terms of experience, understanding and behavior, not in terms of motivation. The choice to become a Jesus follower brings with it the gift of the Holy Spirit. What more could you possibly want than that??!!

 And so with regard to the prayer life of the church, how can we possibly settle for a boring prayer meeting, to which just a handful of people show up? No, the prayer meeting needs to be shot through with worship, with glad thanksgiving, the expectation that we will meet with God, and be enlivened by him.

 Hmm! Do you hear it? The undercurrent of judgement, coercion. You’re feeling uncomfortable that I seem to be prescribing to you the way your heart must be. That was the theme when our discussion ended at my meeting yesterday morning. Dear friends were telling me that my fervor tends to become prickly, unattractive. Oh!

 I see it, but I’m not sure what to do with it. I don’t want to become less fervent. I don’t want to lower the bar – that would just trivialize the Gospel. It’s partly about cultivating humility. Partly about trusting that God is in charge. But there’s much more to it all than that.

 So that is my current struggle. Many other thoughts swirl around all this. Perhaps I’ll get back to them in another blog.

Gordon M. Baker