A Prayer for the Church

5 February 2004

"Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ"-Ephesians 1:2

Of the many petitions the apostle could have placed before the throne of grace, this prayer adorns the opening comments of each of his letters to the churches. At first glance, we might read these words as glibly as the salutation of a letter yet, as we consider the request, we find these words to be fraught with wisdom and much more than words to fill up the page. Of all the treasures in the Father's hand, Paul asked for grace and peace.

Grace simply means unmerited favor. It means that God gives something to someone who doesn't deserve it. It also means that the person did not even ask for it. As one Christian woman prayed, "Give me the grace to know my need of thy grace". Do we really know what we need from day to day to conquer our enemy and live acceptably before our Lord and our neighbor? How many traps have been thwarted by the unseen hand that was neither known nor asked for? Furthermore, what creature of this world could have contrived Calvary and all of its mysteries: that God would become flesh and blood; that His blood would obtain eternal redemption for His people? We see through a glass darkly and many of our needs are unknown. We need God's restraining grace to keep us from temptation and sin. We need his distinguishing grace to embellish our churches with the various gifts necessary for the ministration of His people. We need His "amazing grace" to forgive us when we err. We need His sufficient grace to face our enemies and our thorn in the flesh. More specifically to the churches, Paul recognized their need of God's grace to understand the scriptures, to preach with power, to understand the messenger, to apply the message to their lives, to act, to believe, to repent and to use their gifts in their churches. Yes, grace is always needed to open the deaf ear, the blind eye and restore the withered hand!

Peace is equally important to the New Testament Church. Grace without peace is a wasted gift because disharmony destroys all the good that grace lays at our feet. Peace is the only atmosphere conducive to church and soul prosperity. Paul prayed this same prayer for the Church at Corinth, but he also wrote, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain"(2 Corinthians 6:1). Surely, grace is not given to the church for knowledge only, it is revealed as a fuel for our fire, to cause us to labor in God's kingdom. Peace defined means prosperity. As David encouraged much the same prayer for the Old Testament Saints we find the blessing of prosperity couched within his prayer of peace: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee"(Psalm 122:6). We must remember that Christ is the Prince of peace. When we lose our peace, or the peace of our church or churches, it must be because we have lost Him! This peace fragments into every facet of our lives. Not only should we strive for peace in our Church, but also our own personal peace with our Lord, with our neighbor, and with our own hearts. My, how valuable this peace is to our souls. No wonder some have called it soul prosperity, when we can look in the mirror and feel to a great degree that we have things in order with our Lord and the world around us. This prosperity outstrips the vain treasures of this world. We have all seen many who have a ton of this world's goods and can not enjoy a bit of it because they have lost their peace. Yet, we have seen those who are poor and cast down, whose lives are filled with joy in the Holy Ghost because they have this peace which passeth understanding. Let us pray for this peace in our lives and in the midst of our churches today!-Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.