Praying for each other
Early in the year I made my way north from my home in Chicago to Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I had been invited to speak at the Wisconsin State Regular Baptist Men’s Prayer Summit. I didn’t particularly relish the thought of traveling through Wisconsin in January. But in actuality, the roads were fine. And after attending the event, I would have been willing to drive through a blizzard.
Earl Swigart, host pastor, and Ed Fuller, Wisconsin Regular Baptist state representative, both longtime friends, extended a warm welcome. Ed did a wonderful job of framing the eighteen hours we would spend together in the Summit by explaining the reason for our gathering. We had come together to fast and pray—not just about the ministry needs in our own individual churches but, more importantly, for the ministry needs in each others’ churches. I brought an occasional challenge from the Word to direct our thoughts to the Lord. However, the real focus was on prayer. This was an Acts 1, “[they] all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,” type of experience. I wasn’t expecting a replay of the events in the Acts 2 Day of Pentecost, but I did sense the wonderful uniting of hearts before the Lord as we prayed for one another’s ministries. We experienced the power of prayer as we asked God to give direction and enabling in each other’s leadership roles.
When we think of our fellowship of churches, areas of theological positions and ministry initiatives most likely come to mind. How often do we think of praying together—of bearing the burdens of sister churches before the Lord? When I was pastoring, I made a deliberate effort to consistently attend our local pastors’ fellowship meetings. My calendar was filled with the typical duties of a busy pastor. But I came to realize that my Association colleagues needed my prayer support and encouragement. In the same way as brothers in a family look out for each other, I needed to support my brothers in Christ, and I needed them to support me.
We often get together for preaching, attending workshops, reporting, chitchatting, and certainly eating. But how often do we give ourselves to serious prayer for our sister churches? Praise the Lord for pastors such as Greg Javaux in Silvis, Illinois, who facilitates prayer and fellowship among area pastors in the Association. Here’s a challenge for every state or regional Regular Baptist fellowship: promote and host a Prayer Summit. Some states are already doing this. It may sound a bit dramatic, but wouldn’t it be great if our Association would be shaken, spiritually speaking, like Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Here’s another challenge for every church in the GARBC: pray regularly in prayer meetings and Sunday services for sister churches in the Association. That subtle act of intercession communicates to the congregation that we know and care about others within our network. It would be a wonderful encouragement for a pastor and church across town or across the state to learn that a sister church was praying for them. What positive outcomes that could produce for both churches!
Read the New Testament epistles and notice the web of contacts, communication, and compassion that existed among the churches. Though there was no centralized denominational authority, a network of interdependence existed among the churches. One of the ways they supported one another was by praying on the behalf of sister churches. When humble prayer places others first, it is a powerful uniting force.
This “Caring for Sister Churches” challenge originates from John Greening’s ACTS vision for GARBC churches, presented at the 2006 Annual Conference