“Caring for One Another: A Life of Prayer”
June 21, 2015
Speaker Robert Henry went to a large discount department store a number of years ago in search of a pair of binoculars. Charles Swindoll tells the story:
As he walked up to the appropriate counter he noticed that he was the only customer in the store. Behind the counter were two salespersons. One was so preoccupied talking to “Mama” on the telephone that she refused to acknowledge that Robert was there. At the other end of the counter, a second salesperson was unloading inventory from a box onto the shelves. Growing impatient, Robert walked down to her end of the counter and just stood there. Finally, she looked up at Robert and said, “You got a number?”
“I got a what?” asked Robert, trying to control his astonishment at such an absurdity.
“You got a number? You gotta have a number.”
Robert replied, “Lady, I’m the only customer in the store! I don’t need a number. Can’t you see how ridiculous this is?” But she failed to see the absurdity and insisted that Robert take a number before agreeing to wait on him. By now, it was obvious to Robert that she was more interested in following procedures than helping the customer. So, he went to the take-a-number machine, pulled number 37 and walked back to the salesperson. With that, she promptly went to her number counter, which revealed that the last customer waited on had been holding number 34. So she screamed out, “35!…35!…36!…36!… 37!”
“I’m number 37,” said Robert.
“May I help you?” she asked, without cracking a smile.
“No,” replied Robert, and he turned around and walked out.
Swindoll comments: “Now, there’s a lady who’s lost sight of the objective. I might question whether something like that ever happened if I had not experienced similar incidents in my own life. How easily some get caught up in procedures and lose sight of the major reason those procedures were established in the first place. Without people there would be no need for a store. Without people, who cares how efficient a particular airline may be? Without people a school serves no purpose, a row of houses no longer represents a neighborhood, a stadium is a cold concrete structure, and even a church building is an empty shell. I say again: We need each other.…In spite of our high-tech world and efficient procedures, people remain the essential ingredient of life.” [Laugh Again, 109-10.]
We need each other. But many of us were not trained to live that way. We were trained to live independently and individually. When it comes to taking responsibility for our actions, that may be helpful, but when it comes to living in the church, that’s detrimental.
One of the goals of the elders for our church body has been to stimulate greater love, intimacy, and care for one another in the church body. Sometimes we love each other well and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I get reports that we are welcoming, gracious, and loving. And sometimes I get reports that we are cold, aloof, and uncaring. And it’s probably true that sometimes we care for some people very well; and sometimes we don’t. And we’re not the first church in that situation.
I have thought often of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more…” (1 Thess. 4:9–10). You’re doing well, but keep working harder.
No matter how well we are doing in caring for one another, we need to work harder. And there are a couple of ways we want to address that in the next few months. One is that in the fall, we are going to expand the time for the Sunday School hour for one fundamental purpose: we want to stimulate greater fellowship. So Sunday School will begin at 9:00 with 45 minutes of teaching and then the last 45 minutes the classes will be broken into smaller fellowship groups of 8-10 people where application of the lesson will be discussed, prayer requests and needs will be taken, and then we will pray. Those groups will also be the first means of caring for ongoing needs during the week (like meals when people are sick). We know that at GBC we teach well and disciple and train well; but we also need to love well. And this is one way that we can stimulate a context for being a loving church.
A second way that we want to address the need to love one another and fellowship better is to have a series of sermons over the summer months that will prepare us for that transition. So I planned a series that I began last month entitled, “Forgotten Attributes of Ministry” that would be preached on the four communion Sundays from May to August. And last month we looked at the priority of relationships.
And at the same time I began preaching Romans and a couple of weeks ago I began looking more carefully at what was coming and noted that in his introductory comments in 1:8-17, Paul was also addressing similar themes through his desire to be with and care for the Romans. So for a few weeks we will have some “bonus” sermons on the theme of caring for one another. In general terms, we are going to learn to care for one another through:
- A Life of Prayer (vv. 8-10)
- A Life of Service (vv. 11-14)
- A Life of Gospel Preaching (vv. 15-17)
We begin this morning by considering the way we pray for one another. Here’s what Paul says —
Believers who care for one another pray for one another.
What will those prayers be like? In these three verses, Paul models six attributes of a growing prayer life. If we care for one another, we will pray for one another, and when we pray for one another, these are six attributes that will be present in our prayers.
- The Content of Prayer: Gratitude (v. 8a)
- The Object of Prayer: God (v. 8b)
- The Authentication of Prayer: Gospel Desires (v. 9a)
- The Frequency of Prayer: Regular (v. 9b)
- The Submission of Prayer: God’s Will (v. 10a)
- The Desire of Prayer: Service (v. 10b)
Download the rest of this sermon from Romans 1:8-10.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.