Recently, I seem to have been having lots of conversations with people about the Church – both those that go to church and those that don’t. Some of these conversations have been enlightening, others have been encouraging and a number have been disappointing or even distressing. Most revealing has been something I knew but desperately tried to deny – that as a group of Jesus followers, we fail to live up to the expectations of those that would consider themselves to be part of the group and those that do not.
Whilst we acknowledge that we will not reflect Jesus’ perfection in this life as we are fully human with all the flaws, we are also created in God’s image and are called to love him with all our hearts and love others as we love ourselves. My prayer is that we grow to be more and more like the Church that Jesus prayed for, unified in love with Him at the centre. (John 17:2-23).
Father, your greatest command was to love You and love each other (Matthew 22:36-40). You’ve given the Church as a holy relationship that reflects our relationship with You. Show us how to follow your example and set aside our selfishness and pride and humbly serve each other. Help us to be of one spirit and of one mind and value each other above ourselves, looking out for each other’s interests (Philippians 2:2-4). In the midst of our busy lives, help us take time to love each other deeply from the heart, as you have loved us (Ephesians 5:1-2). May the love we have for each other be an example to the world of how You love them and gave Your life for them.
Father, help us not to just meet on Sunday, but to recognize that your presence goes with us wherever we go. May we know a deep communion with you every day. May the Church be a place where we grow together and lean on You in every situation. Help us to grow to be more like You every day, having a unity in Spirit, being patient, humble and gentle with each other, and bearing each other’s burdens with Your love and strength. Fill the Church with Your peace. When a struggle or strife arises, may our first response be to come to You together for help. Help us make talking about You and Your Word a priority. We ask your Spirit to help us understand Your Word and grow together in our love and service to You.
Father, life gets so busy and things can creep into the Church and cause distance. Help us be intentional in spending time together and reveal things that are creating a chasm in our relationships and help us know how to remedy the situation. Protect us from things that will divide us and bring a closeness back into the Church with You at the centre.
Father, enable us to forgive each other as You have forgiven us. Help us not to hold onto bitterness, keep records of wrong, or allow the enemy any foothold in our relationships. Keep our hearts sensitive to You and each other, and move us to the work of reconciliation quickly. When we are wounded, help us be honest with each other and not fear retaliation. Help us to work through our differences in a way that honours You and strengthens our relationships. Help us grow in humility and recognize when we have wounded each other. Give us Your strength to ask for and give forgiveness.
In Jesus precious name