“Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word”
Acts 6:4 (NLT).
In my years as a minister I have often considered this account of the apostles appointing special servants in Acts chapter 6. Usually when studying the passage my mind goes straight thoughts about the importance of delegation in the life of the church. While I am not claiming that either wears the robe of an apostle, the roles of both elders and ministers have points of comparison to the ministry of the apostles. So through the years as I have read this passage I have done so with thoughts of church leadership and organization.
Recently my thoughts have shifted somewhat. As I read this account today my thoughts turn away from church organization and to “prayer and the ministry of the word.” As I reflect on this passage I will tell you that throughout my years of ministry I have placed a heavy emphasis of the ministry of the word. I have been devoted to Bible study. I have tried to be as well-read as possible when it comes to theology and related studies. I have spent a lot of my time in study, preparing for the opportunities God has given me to teach the word. But let me assure you I am not writing this to commend myself.
Honest reflection has led me to confess that I have neglected the importance of prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I have prayed regularly and sincerely. I have prayed in the morning and at night. I have given thanks and offered intercession. But I just don’t think until recently I have experienced the kind of prayer life that I have been called to as a servant of God: the kind of prayer life that awakened Jesus before dawn; the type of prayer commitment that led Jesus into the wilderness, the style of prayer that can best be described as “wrestling” (Colossians 3:12).
Recently in a church ministry staff meeting we discussed the role prayer should have in our ministry, I shared some of my own frustrations, including the ever-present “time pressure” problem. I also shared the job description that a minister-friend of mine once had — one that included four hours a day of prayer for the church. As each of us shared our experiences I realized that I was not alone in this struggle. Finally, I think it was my partner in ministry who is so effective in youth ministry who put our thoughts into words, “My workday schedule does not lend itself to prayer.”
When he said those words I just sat back and repeated to myself what I had heard. He was right. Our work schedule was not friendly to the idea of spending time wrestling in prayer. He was right. And I instantly knew that was wrong. The situation had to change. The ministry staff at this church had to make “a devotion to prayer” a priority. Over the next couple of weeks we discussed how we could go about prioritizing prayer so that we could devote blocks of time to prayer for this church.
Each of us made a commitment to prayer. While each blocked out an extended period of time for prayer, the times, places and process varied greatly from one individual to another. For the last several weeks we have made prayer a priority. I do not mean to imply that we have arrived and have it all figured out. Truth is, we are all getting acclimated to our new times of prayer and this whole plan will probably undergo some significant evolution as time goes by. But we have begun. We are taking steps forward each day.
Study is still important to me, but I have come to a new awareness that my prayer time is just as important. My goal in writing these words is not to trumpet in Pharisaic fashion. Rather, I am writing to confess to you. And I am writing to let you know that you, all of you at Skyline are being prayed for regularly, like never before, by those who serve on the church staff.
To God be the glory!