Pastoral letter No. 4: COVID 19
Dear Church Family and Friends,
One of the common desires that people have shared with me during the COVID-19 shutdown is a desire to improve their prayer life. Some of the reasons for this desire: a growing realization of our dependence upon God, the uncertainty of life, begin physically isolated from other believers, and for many of us, time on our hands to redeem. We are beginning to learn to “hold things lightly.” We are realizing more than ever that “man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.” Our plans are dependent on “if the Lord wills.”
I’m preparing to preach another sermon from the prayers of Paul from 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13. Two truths from this passages that really struck me are that love strengthens prayer, and that prayer strengthens love.
If we want to strengthen our prayer lives, we must grow in love for one another. This truth is often overlooked. Forty or so of Paul’s prayers are recorded in the Scripture. Some are only a sentence or a phrase. Some are much more comprehensive. But in almost all of them, he is praying for other people. If you read the lists of greetings at the end of each epistle, it’s striking how many personal relationships he has with each church to whom he writes. His love for people motivated him to pray.
If we grow in love for one another, we will be more motivated to pray for each other.
My mother-in-law has been meeting with the same group of women to pray every Tuesday morning for over thirty years. She, along with the other women that she prays with, have made long-term commitments to pray for specific people. This is a concrete expression of my mother-in-law’s love for people. To know her is to know that you are loved.
I also think of one of the fathers of our presbytery in Ohio describing the influences that led him to Christ. His father was of the World War II generation, a generation of men who were not known for being demonstrative with their love. But this pastor said, “I knew my father loved me, because I saw him on his knees praying for me every day, and I believe that his prayers brought me to Christ.”
Love of people strengthens our prayer life. But prayer strengthens our love of people.
It’s hard to nurse a grudge against someone whom you pray for regularly. You will either resolve your differences, or you will stop praying for that person.
Praying for one another makes us less self-centered and more interested in one another. As we pray for one another, our conversations become more directed to the specific concerns of the people for whom we pray. We learn to listen better. We learn to ask better questions. We learn to be more considerate of one another. And we become more empathetic.
One of the truths that I have begun to recognize during the current distress is that I probably won’t be the best version of myself every day. But I also need to allow that others will not either, and be more patient and forbearing than ever.
One of the best ways that I can serve you is to pray for you. So, please send me your prayer requests, and know that I am bringing you regularly before the throne of grace, that you may receive grace and help in time of need.
This past Lord’s Day was the first Sunday I spent at home, rather than helping with our streaming services. Here are some of my reflections about the experience of livestreamed worship vs. in-person worship.
I’ve also written a piece on getting the most out of a streamed worship service.
Finally, Pastor Lou is preaching a series on the Gospel of Matthew. In this series, we’ve arrived at the Sermon on the Mount. There are some outstanding resources available to enrich your understanding of this portion of Scripture. Sinclair Ferguson, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and John Stott have all written excellent and accessible commentaries. Perhaps my favorite on the Beatitudes is Thomas Watson. The electronic version of this commentary is available for free.
Amy and I love you dearly, and miss you greatly, and are praying for you.
Love in Christ,