This weekend of prayer at Burlington is so important.
In various places, including our main celebration, I have been sharing the season that I believe God has been calling me into. I believe it to be a season for Burlington too. The best way I can describe it is this: do less, achieve more.
I have found myself captivated by Jesus afresh. His work seemed so effortless: a quick touch here, a timely word there, the odd humorous story and single-word prayers seemed to comprise the average day. He had time for people, impromptu meals and never missed a social occasion. The result? People were healed, saved and transformed and a global movement began that to this day remains unstoppable. Impressive.
On the other hand, ministry (paid or otherwise) or church work or Christian living (call it what you like) is too often stressful and burdensome and takes its toll on the emotional wellbeing of ourselves and our families. And the result? Perilously few are finding Christ, stories of transformation are infrequent and we feel isolated and marginalized in the world. We appear to be doing more (the average church is not short on activities), and be achieving way way less.
A few verses come to mind that illuminate the contrast between the life of Jesus and our own lives, and that of our churches too. I invite you to reflect upon them:
John 14:10 (NIV) Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Mark 1:35 (NIV) Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
My own response to this is to find the Holy Spirit dragging me kicking and screaming to do less and to pray more. Like an untamed ox, I need my rhythm to be broken that I might wear Christ’s yoke. I need to learn from Him. It’s not comfortable. Doing less is not comfortable, and praying more is a real struggle. With the slightest distraction, or a hint of discouragement, I can so easily scurry back to my old ways of over filling my day with good deeds, essential tasks and urgent matters. To be honest that work, for all its demands, is easier. Sometimes much easier. I am discovering more than ever that prayer is not just to help the work, prayer is the work. And by the grace of God I have had little glimpses of the resulting effortless work of Jesus: the chance encounter that proved so fruitful, the timely word that was prophetic and the ability to see things that the daily rush would have kept me blind to.
Please ask me about this new season. I need you to. I need your encouragement to stick with it. I need your challenge not to settle for a lesser task.
So, as I was saying, this is a really important weekend of prayer. We need it, really need it.
It was a thrill to stand with the Ministry Team yesterday and to pray through the prayer room space – claiming the time, preparing the ground and asking God for everyone who will come to seek Him over these next few days. His response to us was a picture of a gushing river flowing through the prayers that will be offered and going out into the world. The river of life thundering through your prayers and mine.
Will you come?
John 7:37-38 (NIV) … Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
Matthew 26:40 (NIV) Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”