A couple of Sundays ago, Paul Martin prayed a pastoral prayer at Grace Fellowship Church that I think stands as a textbook example of how a pastor can pray for his people when they gather to worship. If the pastoral prayer is the time for the pastor to intercede before God on behalf of his church, I believe he did so in an especially powerful and effective way that Sunday. Please read and benefit from it.
God of Adam, God of Abraham, God of Israel, God of Grace Fellowship Church.
You have always had your people, because you are full of grace and salvation and mercy and love. Everything about you is good. You have no character faults, no weaknesses and no inconsistencies. You are all that is beautiful, all in one, all of the time.
You came to Israel’s temple in a cloud—for sinful people cannot see you and live. You came to Moses in the fire—for sinful people cannot see you and live. You came to Ezekiel in the strange vision—for sinful people cannot see you and live. You came to us in Christ—so sinful people could see you and live.
O Jesus, you are so good and faithful to us. We feel like children on the battlefield: so quick to run away and cower in fear. But you never leave us or shame us or reject us or scowl at us. How can you be so loving toward us when we have been so fickle toward you? There is no way to account for your faithfulness to us other than love. You love your people.
Who are we to be the objects of your love? What have we done to deserve it? I can only think of things we have done to not deserve it! But you will have none of that, for your love starts in the Father’s love for you and your love for your Father. Just as you prayed: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Lord, unite our hearts in this love. Let all we do be done in love. Fill this church with love. Make it so our love for each other is ridiculously loyal and real and heartfelt and true. Even when one of us is at our worst, make the rest of us at our best in our love for them. Give us a love that hopes all things, believes all things and endures all things. Let the children who grow up attending this church see a bunch of members who truly love each other. Let them grow up here without any doubt that every member loves them. Let our love displayed and given be like a magnet to Jesus! So when they see that mutual love for each other and feel our authentic love to them, they find themselves drawn to Jesus, the Lover of our Souls.
Please save every child that attends this church. We do love them and want so much for every one of them to love you. Please don’t hold back your grace from any of them. Some day sooner or later, save the ones who are being held with loving arms in the nursery right now; save the ones who are learning the ABC’s of the Gospel in the preschool now; save the ones who are making their first haltering attempts to read their Bibles in the Kindergarten now; save the ones who will hear of Jesus in their GraceKids classes; save the ones who are not yet saved in the GraceYouth meetings to come. Lord, save them. Get them baptized and into our membership, and use them for your glory, like you have so graciously done with so many of them. Please don’t stop.
And don’t stop using us to speak the Gospel to them, our own families, neighbours, work mates. Make us gospel gossips, Lord. In all of life. Especially as Christmas approaches and different doors open, make us quick to speak for Jesus. The world needs to know of the cross just as much as the manger. And use our family of churches in our Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in the same way. Make us a family of churches centred on the Gospel, always holding forth the Gospel, even willing to die for the sake of the Gospel.
Now Lord, prepare our hearts to hear your word. We are not interested in gathering facts about you—we want to meet with you. So, Holy Spirit, please attend to the preaching of your Word now. Help Steve to depend upon you to make the text clear to us. Put words into his mouth so that we can hear what you want us to do, and think, and feel. Make our hearts like soft clay in your loving hands. Help us not to try and make ourselves a vase if you desire to shape us into a pot. Make us pliable lumps, ready to be made into your image, not ours. Purge us of every evil thought, selfish distraction, plaguing worry and settle our minds on you.
Speak to us, Lord. We are listening. Amen.