Thursday, July 31, 2014

August We will Pray Hopefully

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV). 

With these words The Lord reminds us that there is a role we must play to grow God's kingdom, and there is a significant part that only God can do. Humans plant and water. God makes it grow. We are praying for God to do great things in this coming harvest season. So I am calling our church to prayer.

God has been stirring this in me for a few months.  As I have shared this prompting with other pastors and elders they have confirmed they have felt the same nudging. It’s time to focus and unite our prayers. So for the month of August let’s pray together for Bayside.  The Back-to-School season will present some incredible opportunities to strengthen our church family and to reach people with the gospel. But we need God’s Spirit to lead, guide and make us fruitful. We will work hard at the "planting and watering" but we need God to give the increase. We desire God to show up mightily in our Sunday worship gatherings, in our relationships and in our mission efforts. We want the Spirit to empower us to be effective at our mission to see more people (the lost saved) become more like Jesus (the saved grow).

I've been spending some time this summer thinking and reading about prayer…and of course praying.  I am discovering that one of the many benefits of prayer is it gives optimism and squelches cynicism. As followers of Christ we are to give the hope of Jesus to the world. The challenge is we live in a very cynical world. You've undoubtedly noticed this. There is cynicism about our government, about schools, about our employers, about co-workers, even about church. We who are called to be hope to the world, can unwittingly find that we have caught (and spreading) the cynicism bug ourselves.

Here’s what I'm learning about cynicism. The expectation of perfection breeds cynicism. In other words, believing we must have perfect health, the perfect job, perfect relationships, perfect appearance, perfect children, the perfect church, etc. is a breeding ground for cynicism. We expect perfect. Crazy right? Because we know that perfect is not normal, imperfect is. When we accept that people and things are not perfect but are ‘broken-goods-being-restored,’ then we can be real, authentic and accepting.  Then we can be forgiving and honest.
I am praying our church will continue to be a life giving seedbed of optimism and hope. The Spirit of Christ, accessed through prayer, provides the lens to see the world clearly and hopefully.

In the book, “A Praying Life” Paul Miller offers these six cures for cynicism.
1. Be warm but wary.  
Jesus was ‘eyes wide open’ when it came to the brokenness in our world. He didn’t pretend as if evil didn’t exist. Yet he was hospitable and embracing of others. His posture was optimistic.

2. Learn to Hope Again.  
Miller writes, “The cynic is fixed and immovable, the cynic believes we are swept along by forces greater than we are.”  Jesus on the other hand, is all about hope. Jesus knows that through prayer all things are possible. There is good reason to hope.

3. Cultivate a Childlike Spirit. 
Kids are not cynical. They are hopeful. Playful. They believe anything is possible. It is significant that Jesus told us to have that kind of faith. That is, childlike faith.

4. Cultivate a Thankful Heart. 
Prayer restores a thankful heart. The first sign that we are drifting from God is thanklessness. The sign that we are drawing closer to God is an increase in our gratitude. The closer we are to God the more grateful we are regardless the circumstances.

5. Cultivate Repentance. 
The repentant person recognizes that the cynicism out there, in the world, is also in my own heart. Through repentant prayer I acknowledge my own brokenness and arrogance. Through repentance I change. I can be authentic and hopeful.

6. Develop an Eye for Jesus. 
This is the most effective way to defeat cynicism and celebrate hope. Develop an eye for Jesus. Through prayer and constant communication with Christ, we are made aware of the activity of Jesus all around us. When we look closely, with spiritual sight, we see Jesus at work.

So I invite you to participate in this prayer journey. Pray for Bayside.  Pray for one another. Pray every day. Each day we will have different prayer focus. Let’s join together in prayer and as we do I believe God will do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine! Let’s pray hopefully!

To Participate
1. Pick up a Prayer Calendar for August (available at church). 
2. Visit Bayside Facebook page and/or Twitter feed for Daily Updates. Each day at 8:00am, starting August 3, a prayer focus for that day will be posted.
3. Pray with a childlike spirit.
4. See God show off.
5. Share your God - Stories. There will be a link at to share your stories of how and where you see God at work.

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