Breaking the Habit

It would be our first Wednesday night back together after six months. I was excited to be back face-to-face with my church family to join together in prayer and study after such a long separation.

I was disappointed.

I walked into the sanctuary and found a handful of people. I sat down in the pew and shook my head. “What will it take, Lord, for the church to wake up to the reality of the spiritual battle being waged in this world?”

As the pastor began by reading Psalm 67, I took these words to heart:

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

Psalm 67:1-2

How long will the grace of God extend to a people who do not hunger and thirst after righteousness? He will turn his face away, when we deny him before men and fail to come together in prayer. Have we forgotten?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Where are we on that score? If the Church refuses to humble themselves and turn to God in prayer as a body, he will humble us…he is already working on us, but I’m afraid we’re not paying attention.

I wonder how many good church people will rush to attend the first football game or concert they can.

Where are we rushing? Who are we rushing too? If we haven’t been in the habit of praying during the lockdown, why should we rush to pray when it’s over?

Old habits are hard to break.

When I expressed my disappointment to one of the pastors, he reminded me that the prayer meetings on Wednesday have never been well-attended. I knew it was true, but didn’t want it to be.

As I looked around at that small group, I was grateful to be there, to be in the presence of God as we lifted our hearts together in prayer. That’s when the Spirit also reminded me that God is pruning the Church.

Allowing the shutdown to keep people from the “habit” or “pretense” of going to church will now reveal, when doors are opened, those who return out of hunger not habit, out of thirst for fellowship, not show.

While I still pray for revival to break out in our land, I believe that as we “see the day approaching” the Church universal will grow smaller but stronger in faith and efficacy, as we put off the “trappings” of church and open our services and ministries up to the work of the Spirit alone.

If you are a faithful believer who didn’t make it yet to your local prayer gathering, I’m not condemning you or saying you are not saved. I am asking all of us, myself included, to search our hearts to see where our longings and loyalties lie.

May we press on out of longing, not habit in devotion to biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and to prayer. As we do, God will turn his face toward us and show us his wondrous grace and make his salvation known through us to the nations.

Grace and Peace

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