Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prayer Meeting People: A Tribute

Tuesday night my Good Wife asked me what I was going to talk about at my last prayer meeting here at the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald. I told her I didn’t know yet. She said, “You should do something special for those folks.” “You’re right,” I said, “they’ve been real faithful to our prayer meeting time.”

I thought about doing an interpretive dance with you but decided against it.

I thought about writing a song for you but I didn’t have time. Also I kept hearing the tune to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Everyday People”—“Prayer meeting people always seem to know when it’s time to pray”—and so couldn’t come up with an original one.

I thought about just saying “Thank you” and letting you go but that’s not my style.

So I decided to write this tribute to you, my prayer meeting people.

Prayer meeting people like to get together to eat. You are not the only ones who eat in here on Wednesday nights, of course; others come and eat and then go on to participate or to lead in our preschool and children’s and youth activities and we appreciate them so very much. And some of you don’t eat here but come after the meal for the Prayer Meeting (which gives me hope that maybe some of the rest of you don’t come mainly for the food, either). Most of us, though, eat together.

Eating together is important; it is and always has been a vital part of community and a vital indicator of fellowship. So it speaks well of you that you want to come together as a church family and share a meal.

When the people of God eat together we also anticipate the great messianic banquet—the heavenly dinner on the grounds—that we will experience one day. These fellowship meals may also be Eucharistic in nature; while we don’t always “eat the bread and drink the cup” we do always eat and drink and that reminds us to be thankful Christ who brings and holds us together and for the fact that we are together the Body of Christ.

Prayer meeting people like to get together to pray. You see the value not only in praying alone (which we all certainly should do) but also the value in praying together. You see the importance of calling out the names of those who need prayer, of bowing our heads together, and of offering up intercessory prayers for those in need of them. You understand that when Jesus taught us to pray he began with the words “Our Father,” which means among other things that we are a family offering our prayers together to our loving Father.

So far as I am concerned, prayer is the most important element of our Wednesday night time together. I grew up with the Wednesday night service being a “prayer meeting” and to me that’s what it still is. If I could go back and do one thing over here on Wednesday nights, I’d probably try to emphasize prayer even more. We can never pray too much.

Prayer meeting people like to get together to study. The other main component of our Wednesday night time together has been study. Sometimes we have studied a book of the Bible and sometimes we have studied a topic or book related to prayer and spirituality. Those who come on Wednesday night have a desire and willingness to go a little deeper into subjects that are vital to our lives as Christians. I have seen your brows furrow, your eyes sparkle, and your wheels turn; I have found all of that gratifying.

I have wondered at times why more of our folks don’t come; after all, the studies are usually—maybe even always—worthwhile. But I have spent much more time and energy being thankful for those who do come. You all come very consistently for which I am extremely grateful.

Prayer meeting people like to get together to laugh. I know that we are looser and freer on Wednesday night than we are on Sunday morning and I know that environment makes it easier to laugh. Besides, we have our bellies full and we are winding down at the end of the day. Still, it is gratifying to see your smiling faces and to hear you break out in laughter, even at one of the very corny jokes that I share.

Prayer meeting people like to get together to encourage. When we eat together, pray together, study together, and laugh together, we offer encouragement to each other. We draw off of each other’s love, commitment, and devotion which give us strength for the living of these days. Being together like this reminds us that we are always together. I want you to know as well that your being here Wednesday after Wednesday has been an encouragement to me.

To quote the theologian Carol Burnett, “I’m so glad we’ve had this time together just to have a laugh or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before we know it comes the time we have to say so long.”

I want to leave you with a blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

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