Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prayer as Symphony: The 1 Church Initiative

10th Sunday of Pentecost
July 24, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart

I think we can all agree that prayer is one of the biggies of the faith.

One of the scripture that is dear to my heart and our church is Acts 2:42
"And they continually devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
So prayer is one of the big four!!
>  The Word of God embodied in the teaching of the Apostles...
>  Shared or Common life, the Greek word Koinonia - 
>  Shared meals, including the Holy Communion or Eucharistic meal
>  and Prayer, or more specifically "THE PRAYERS"

Prayer here is the reflection of many of the things that Jesus did and taught, you will remember...
Jesus own prayer life was significant enough to get a response from his disciples:  "Teach us to pray!"
His response was a model for prayer, we call it the Lord's Prayer.  Perhaps a bit of a misnomer, since the Lord's Prayer is the one for us in Jn 17!  The Model Prayer, though Jesus probably never intended a word- for-word recitation, is prayed today by millions, perhaps by billions, and I doubt that the Lord is sorry for that!  It provides a prayer cover around the world that gives him "honor, and prays for His Kingdom
to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"  In fact we will use it that way toward the end of our time here today.
We read of Jesus condemnation of the temple practices of his day with these words:
"My house will be called a house of prayer, for all nations."
And Jesus' practice, his regular habit of prayer, was passed on to the disciples clearly from the outset in the book of ACTS:

[Act 1:14 ] These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

[Act 2:1 KJV] 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Why were they there, all together in one place?  Obedience to the command of Jesus at his Ascension, to wait for the 10 days till Pentecost in the Upper Room in Jerusalem -  they had been in that place together in prayer for 10 days!  Think of it.  Thinking and talking about the life of Jesus, the death and resurrection, His teachings while alive and especially in the most recent 40 days as he appeared to them.  Imagine what that 10 Days Together must have been like!  Then came Acts 2:1!

[Act 2:42 KJV] 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and [the] fellowship, and in [the] breaking of bread, and in [the] prayers.
We see here in these verses and those that follow elements we all look for in growth and revival in our churches: 
1.  A deeply shared community, what Bonhoeffer called, "Life Together."
2.  The preaching of the Word with miraculous signs attending the outreach;
3.  Shared resources for every day life; and 
4.  the addition of new believers, daily, as the Lord added to His church those who were being saved.

All of this was in the context - the milieu - of daily prayer - together.  Look at the very next chapter:

[Act 3:1]  Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.

It was at that place and time, that the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful became the cause for the apostles' being dragged into court - into the same Sanhedrin that JESUS had stood before only weeks or months before this.

The young church automatically reacted with unified prayer together, having come 'under fire' from the authorities.  We read in 

[Act 4:24 NASB] And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,

The power of God's response was enough to physically shake the place where they were meeting! 
He filled them with boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit.  How much more do we need to come together today in single-minded prayer: the physical manifestation of the unity that Jesus prayed for in his High Priestly prayer for us in Jn 17?

Every one here has probably read Jn 17 or sat through a sermon on Jesus' High Priestly Prayer - the one prayer that remains visibly unanswered to this day!   The reason I say visibly, is that I believe that there is an invisible unity, that we have with other believers on the basis of our baptism and life EN XRISTO /  in Christ!  

We are in a day now where I believe that God is calling His Church to a new level of unity, of agreement!

I want to bear down for a couple of minutes on this point and then we are going to pray.  Let's talk for a moment about unity, single-mindedness and agreement.

The word in the Greek text that is translated "agreement" is sumphoneo:    sum = together / phoneo = To sound...  to sound together.  Of course we get the word SYMPHONY from this Greek root.

Another interesting feature of our biblical languages is how they agree amongst themselves.  In my study for today, I came across an interesting fact:  The words for Intercession in both Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew word is paga;  the Greek word is enteuxis.  

When you look at the roots of both of those words, they mean to "strike the mark."  Like when you shoot an arrow or throw a javelin, and it hits its mark.  It's actually the opposite of the word for "sin"!  Hamartia = to miss the mark!

Now let me paint a word picture for us with these concepts in mind.

Have you ever been to the Denver Symphony?  Or to a band concert at your kids' school?   What happens before the symphony?  All kinds of noise - a cacophony
!  What the biblical writer describes at the end of the book of Judges:  "And each man did what was right in his own eyes!"

Today the Lord of the Church is stepping to the podium!  

My wife, Valerie, is a violinist, good enough to have played principle chair for the 2nd Violins in a small local symphony in Brazos County, Texas some years back.  She described to me what happens during this time prior to the concert.  Each person is absorbed in their own preparation, tuning their instrument to a tuning fork - tuned to TRUTH -  Our individual parts and preparation cannot be shirked!  But there is a cacophony during those moments.  But then the maestro comes on stage.  The cacophony may lessen a bit, but at some level it continues, until the maestro step up onto the podium and "strikes the mark."  He takes the baton and strikes is on the music stand in front of him.  tap tap tap tap tap.

What happens?

Silence!  "Be still and know...!"

All eyes are on the Maestro, instruments are at rest, positioned in your lap.

As the Maestro begins he raises the baton.  When that happens the instruments move from rest to attention!  In the position to play their individual part, in coordinated time, under the clear direction of the Maestro. When the down beat happens, the sum-phoneo begins.  That is agreement!  It's what Jesus referred to when he said in Matt 18:19, "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."  

This agreement isn't about the number of people saying the same thing or doing the same thing --  this agreement is about each of us submitting our "thing" to the Lord - the Conductor; this agreement is about reading off the music sheet, not doing your own thing;  this agreement is about training and practice, apart and together, to sound in harmony under the direction of our Great Conductor, Jesus Christ, the Head of the Body!

Our problem is that we seldom agree.  We love to "do what is right in our own eyes." "to play our own tune" /  "to beat our own drum!"

The Maestro is on the podium, my friends!  He is striking the mark, tapping the baton to get our attention. To call us to silence before Him!  Each of us has a part that is important to play, but we must be playing our part in tune and in time - His time.  Calling us to AGREEMENT -- to SUM-PHONEO.

We are introducing a model of "prayer together in agreement" today.  Its name is the 1 Church Initiative.

It's actually Jesus' initiative - his desire and prayer for us.

Our response is to pray.  The 1 Church Initiative is a structure for 24/7/365  day Prayer.  Each church or ministry takes a watch on the wall, a 24 hour watch, the same day each month. Ours at REZ is going to be the second Saturday of each month.

During that 24 hours we will come together for an opening prayer time together AND we will pray in our War Rooms individually.  We begin at 6 PM with the First Watch, and proceed hour by hour through the 8 watches of the night and day, ending at 6 PM the next evening.  Our first opportunity is Saturday, August 13th through Sunday, Aug 14th.

It's a simple strategy to create a covering of Intercession - of striking the mark - for ourselves and our churches, for our neighbors, co-workers and communities, for the state of Colorado and the nation.  

Our need for prayer is self-evident and prayer is the most powerful force in the universe.

Let's pray:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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