This article was written by Reverend Manley Beasley, Jr., ABSC President and Senior Pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
These are unusual and trying times for all of us. However, I think I can honestly say as the pastor of a local church, that the community of faith has its own set of unique problems. I speculate that these challenges primarily result from our lack of experience in dealing with a pandemic combined with the never-ending Satanically driven attempt to secularize the Church. We aren’t just facing issues of health, but our religious freedoms and our moral values are under fire as well. Obviously, some states have targeted churches more aggressively than others and I am thankful that in Arkansas most of us feel we can still practice our faith within the current guidelines. But I must say, “I don’t recall taking a class in Seminary that prepared me for this. How about you?”
Well, I decided to complain to the Lord about it (something I do way too often). And He reminded me that He gave us a manual that deals with every issue we are facing. I was also reminded that He gave us His Spirit to ensure that this guide is properly applied to our specific needs. It struck me as ironic, that I as a minister, often find myself looking everywhere but God’s Word for answers. It is in that context that I ask you to consider the following portion of Scripture.
In the first chapter of Colossians, we are given a clear example of the need to pray for one another at all times, including during a pandemic. Paul, in verses 9-11, records, “…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might…” But the Holy Spirit graciously inspired Paul not only to remind us of the need to pray for each other but also how.
He begins with one of the most fundamental laws of prayer. I think we all understand that a condition for answered prayer is that we pray according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15 states, “…this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. Paul begins with this vital prayer premise in Col 1:9, where we are instructed to pray for knowledge of His will and spiritual wisdom. We are to ask Him what He desires and how to accomplish it. Verse 9 records, …we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. How can we seriously pray for one another if we don’t seek God’s input on how to do it? This is always the place to start when we begin praying for one another. It is the springboard for cooperating with God on one another’s behalf.
I believe I can justifiably say we are facing circumstances that place the testimonies of God’s people under intense scrutiny. Paul understood this would happen and being inspired by the Spirit, he reminded the Colossians to pray they would walk in a manner worthy of and pleasing to the Lord. This is meant for us as well. In verse 10, he could not be much clearer about how important this is—he comments, “so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…” Our current circumstances compel us to understand that it is not just what we do, but how we do it that influences those around us. Let us heed these instructions and pray for one another to walk worthy. This prayer must include asking that we do not become a stumbling block for others. May this godless world see His light in and through us in these dark days.
In the second part of verse 10, Paul identifies a third principle of prayer that we need to understand. Here we are told to pray for one another that we will please God in all respects. It is interesting that His pleasure in us is specifically tied to our spiritual growth. Two concepts are referenced in this verse that help us make this application – fruitfulness and faithfulness. V10 “…bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Both are vital in our spiritual journey, if we are to give Him the glory for which we were created. Our most significant hurdle when it comes to fruitfulness seems to be our own lack of faith. We appear to “get it” when we say that our faithfulness will be tested by trials and temptations, but can we not also expect to see God bring about fruit during difficult times? Growth, I agree, is difficult to measure when limited numbers are in attendance, but maybe that’s just God’s way of addressing the problem of “illegitimate children.” I doubt any of us would deny that the church in America has created an unholy alliance between itself and the world. Who’s to say that we’re not experiencing the judgement of God? Scripture also tells us that Jesus will return for a bride that is clean, having no spot or wrinkle and that she will be holy and blameless. Sadly, a number of our church members across America appear to need to experience some significant change before His return. The impact of recent events on our congregations could be quite revealing when we are allowed to worship again without inhibition.
Paul’s conclusion on this topic is of necessity, predictable. How can we do these things, how can we pray this way without supernatural intervention? Isn’t that ultimately the purpose of praying for one another in the first place? We need to see God’s hand at work among us. The world needs to see God’s presence in us and through us. Here in Colossians 1:11 we are told to pray for His strength, His power, and His glorious might.
At the risk of oversimplifying a profound truth, would not the answers to these prayers, in essence be the revival we say we need? What are we praying for when we pray without ceasing for spiritual wisdom and a spiritual walk that is worthy of the Lord? What are we wanting when we ask persistently for the growth of God’s church, both in ministry and maturity? What are we looking for when we seek the manifestation of His glorious might through His people? To me, this sounds a lot like praying for revival.
Maybe this pandemic (and other problems we face) is just another step down the path to revival. Could it be that God really does cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose? Pray as though you believe it.