Leading in Prayer

Every college has one – that lethal combination of professor and course which inspires dread and is the bane of degree-seeking students.  At Erskine College, this was Mr. Bittinger’s Finance class. He alone taught this required course for Business majors.  Many attempted to evade this threat to their GPA by taking Finance elsewhere during the summer and transferring their credit.  Mr. Bittinger was not an academic, but a professional — a hard-nosed, no-nonsense former comptroller who had little time or patience for ill-prepared future business leaders.

Class days alternated between lecture and exercises.  On exercise day, Mr. Bittinger would randomly select students to demonstrate the solutions to assigned homework in front of the class.   And his selection was remarkably random.  If you looked at him, he would choose you, if you looked at your shoes he would choose you.  If you sat in the front of the class and looked keen, he would choose you.  If you sat in the middle behind the class brain, he would choose you.  He had an uncanny knack for choosing you on just that problem that had given you fits.   Cutting class was not an option at Erskine.  There was nothing to do but gird up the loins of your mind and face the music.

We often feel this way when it comes time to lead in prayer at church and we know that the pastor is going to call on someone.  Pulses race, foreheads sweat, minds become suddenly empty, we stare at our shoes and then comes the call.   We do our best to remember the acronym, ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) and avoid using the phrase “we just want to …” more than once.  But it still inspires anxiety and awkwardness.  If this sounds familiar you are in good company.  The following anecdote describes Stonewall Jackson’s struggle to lead in public prayer.

According to S.C. Gwynne’s Rebel Yell, Stonewall Jackson’s pastor once urged more congregation members to lead in prayer during the church prayer meeting. Afterward, Jackson went to see him, explaining to the pastor his fear of praying publicly. “But,” Jackson said, “if you think it my duty, then I shall waive my reluctance and make the effort to lead in prayer, however painful it might be.”

At the next meeting, the pastor called on Jackson. His prayer was “faltering, agonizing, [and] cringe-inducing.” For several weeks, the pastor didn’t ask him to pray again, not wanting to subject Jackson to what was obviously an ordeal.

So Jackson went back to see him. “My comfort or discomfort is not the question,” he protested. “If it is my duty to lead in prayer, then I must persevere in it until I learn to do it aright, and I wish you to discard all consideration for my feelings.” From then on, Jackson doggedly continued to lead in prayer, and, though Gwynne reports that he was never eloquent, he managed to become competent.

The Apostle Paul recognized that leading in public prayer is a critical part of our life in the body of Christ and in weekly worship.    In writing to his young apprentice, Timothy, he gives him needed instruction to pass on to the church about our manner and the matter of our corporate prayer life.   Far from being vain repetition that punctuates the movements of our worship service, corporate prayer breathes life into worship and provides the medium that carries us to the throne of God.   In Acts 4:31, we read that after the early church shared in corporate prayer, “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 2, as we examine 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and consider the power and importance of corporate prayer to move us and enable us to speak the word of God with boldness.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Post Tenebras Lux

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   2 Cor. 4:6

Despite the appearance of brightness and joy cast by the lights of the season adorning every tree and structure, this time of the year can be very dark for many.  Grief, loneliness and spiritual emptiness are often magnified as the outward expectation of joy places artificial demands on us to put on a good face.  For many, the season of light is the darkest time of the year.  Perhaps your soul resonates with words of the Psalmist who cried ‘“Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night.”  But recall the rest of the verse, “even the darkness is not dark to you, [O Lord];  the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.’ Psalm 139:11-12

Sinclair Ferguson, commenting on the conception of Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary, noted, “God does His best work in the dark.”  He created the world out of nothing in the dark. He finished the work of redemption on the cross in the dark. And he prepared the body of the Lord Jesus Christ in the darkness of the womb of the virgin.  Though things seem dark, the Lord is at work.  He is not absent. Though our eyes cannot see all that he is preparing for us in the dark, he will reveal it in due time and we will see hope, shining out of darkness.   Post Tenebras Lux, “after darkness, light,”  — this great Reformation motto is also the power of the gospel operating in our lives.  For,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.   John 1:1-4

River City Reformed Church in Little Rock is a confessionally Reformed Church committed to reaching Little Rock with the light of the Gospel through authentic community, faithful teaching and preaching, biblical worship and meaningful ministry.   Here is how you can pray for us as we continue this work.

  • For the Lord to bring additional families and individuals who share our vision of planting a Reformed Church committed to ordinary means evangelism, confessionally Reformed worship and family-integrated ministry, worship and discipleship.
  • For our ”Lessons and Carols” service planned for December 17, 2017 – that through this service the Lord would edify our current group and expand connections to our community.
  • For spiritual impact among the unbelievers, disbelievers, and disconnected believers in Little Rock as our families exercise their spiritual gifts in their various spheres of influence.
  • For wisdom and discernment regarding the timeline for transition from our Lord’s Day Gatherings to Lord’s Day Worship.
  • Thanksgiving for several new families and individuals who have connected with our group during November.
  • Thanksgiving for the Mississippi Valley Presbytery’s approval of River City Reformed Church as a mission congregation effective January 2018 and for its ongoing financial and prayer support.
  • Thanksgiving  for the ONA Board’s conditional approval of our church plant proposal.
  • Thanksgiving for the continued generosity of St. Andrews Anglican Church, Little Rock to let us use their facilities for our gatherings for the foreseeable future and for their prayer support for the work.

Teach Us To Pray

In Reformed Churches, teaching on prayer is often guided by confessional expositions of the Lord’s Prayer.  Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus teaching on the Lord’s Prayer was a triggered by the disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray.”   They asked not merely for a formula, but for a lifestyle.   John Calvin commented in regard to the prayer life exhibited in the Psalms.

I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.

Paul, commenting on the prayer life of Epaphras, pastor of the church at Colossae, noted that Epaphras was characterized by “wrestling in prayer on behalf of [his congregation].”

Prayer is no mere organ recital or a letter to the Santa.  Prayer unfolds and lays bare the anatomy of our soul before our Heavenly Father, Creator and Lord.  It is more akin to wrestling than a polite beginning to a meal or ending of a meeting.   What does prayer look like in your life?

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 23, as we examine Genesis 18:16-33 and consider some valuable lessons regarding prayer from the life of Abraham as he wrestles with God in prayer over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.