not mean that every person in a community must have faith, but those of
the church --- or a goodly portion of them --- should have it, in order
to accomplish any project that is of special interest to them. I mention
this as contrasted with individual faith --- where one person has it,
and the other do not.
For instance, the entire church, or a large part of it, exercised faith
when Peter was in prison, Acts 12:5, and prayed earnestly for him. let
us notice two things in that passage: It was the CHURCH that prayed and
prayer was made EARNESTLY. The result was, Peter was released.
It was of special interest to the church that Peter be set at liberty.
The saints loved him. They did not pray in an unconcerned way. They
prayed earnestly. How many hours they engaged in prayer, is not known.
But they were repaid for their effort, by the joy that came to them when
they saw the apostle standing at the door of Mary's home, where the
prayer meeting was held.
When it is known that one is in trouble in any way it should be an
entirely normal procedure for the church to assemble for earnest prayer.
A call by one of the saints should meet with a hearty response. Just
think what this would do! If the church were deeply concerned about the
welfare of those of the community, and showed concern by fervent
community prayer for them, what a power the church could exert!
I wonder if the church wants this power. Is it not true that many do not
want to be bothered with obtaining it? Or, perhaps, they do not know
that it is obtainable.
Christ asks, "At the coming of the Son of Mankind, will He be finding
the faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8. He had just been telling of the
importunate widow, who would not cease to plead with the judge, until he
granted her request. He told this story, to show that "humans must
always be praying, and not be despondent". The lesson is easy to see. No
one needs tell another what Jesus meant. The question is, "when he comes
will He find anyone with such faith?"
Christ did not answer the question? He asked it for us to ponder. My
reaction to it is, "Is the answer affirmative or negative, so far as I
am concerned? Suppose His coming should occur today --- would He find
anyone with THIS faith, that is, with the faith shown by this widow?
If the greater part of the church be taken into consideration, we must
say that the church today does not believe in answer to prayer, except,
maybe, in a very few instances. Some small schools of thought accept the
teaching of the scriptures on this question, and it is beautiful to see
how they succeed. The greater part of Christendom made fun of these
people. It may be that it will be found that at His coming, these
ridiculed people will be the only ones possessing this faith.
Christendom is in for a shake-up, apparently, but it may come too late
to do them any good. It may be, to use a homely smile, that the
worm-rail will get on top.
With their enthusiasm and importunate praying, these despised people are
sponsoring radio programs, which cost much money, and building churches,
while some who consider themselves the Simon-pure, hardly have faith
enough to launch out on any movement, unless they have the dollars
already in hand. I wonder, Does prayer mean anything to them? Is it
merely a form, in their thinking?
Lest any should say that answer to prayer is confined to the
"Circumcision" Scriptures, I call attention to the fact that Paul was
sick once, and many people ---- evidently the church prayed for his
recovery and their request was granted. This is told in Paul's letter to
the Corinthians. This was another instance of community faith.
Both these cases --- Peter's imprisonment and Paul's sickness --- were
deeply affecting the church. They greatly desired that the former be
released and the latter be healed. This is why they prayed EARNESTLY.
They did not feel that if the request was not granted they would get
along almost as well. They did not see how they could manage without the
blessing for which they were petitioning. It was a very serious matter
to them. They felt that they HAD to receive an affirmative response from
God. Lethargy is one thing that is the matter with our prayers. There is
not enough earnestness.
The Lord has not given some conglomerated ritual to be observed in
prayer. Nor has He given a system that the unlearned cannot cope with.
It is simplicity itself. Perhaps one reason for so many failures is we
have thought of prayer as something hard to understand. We have gotten
the idea that we must use precise language, and that we must entertain
the Lord with beautiful phrases. Paul says that we should, with prayer
and petition and with thanksgiving, make our requests known to God.
The scriptures say enough about community prayer, to give us the
assurance that, like so many other things, there should be co-operation
in this matter. If a man should ask his neighbors to meet at a certain
place to sign a petition to the Highway board for a new road, everyone
would drop what he was doing and go. I wonder what would be the result
if he should ask all believers in the community to meet at the church to
petition God for a blessing that seems to be very much needed.
People glibly say, "Oh, well, answer to prayers was prevalent during the
apostolic period, but there is no use to pray for special blessings,
such as healing, supply, and so on, now, for this privilege was confined
to that period". It would seem strange to me if the privilege of prayer
were taken from us when the last apostle died, but worship and serving
the Lord is to continue.
The writers during the centuries immediately following the apostolic
period say that praying for the sick and receiving answers to such
prayer were known during their lifetime, with no thought that it was all
confined to the period when the apostles lived and served.
As a matter of fact, the writings of Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom and
Mosheim contain references to miracles that occurred after the apostles,
and specially mention healing. I do not have space to give quotations
Efforts in this direction today meet with only partial success not
because there is no grounds on which to base belief in continued
miracles, but because the church has become so worldly-minded that it
has ceased to expect and ask for miracles. As there should be community
faith and prayer, one person is not more apt to succeed alone, than he
might be while trying to do, alone, something else in which he needs
co-operation. One man has said that SUCH efforts remind him of a man
trying to sail a ship by spreading a pocket handkerchief, while the
sailors refuse to spread the sails.
Paul says there is a power in devoutness. But, he adds, people will hold
to the form, while denying its power, II Tim. 3:5. Moffatt renders that
passage, "They hold to a form of religion, but will have nothing to do
with it as a force". Paul says that his preaching at Corinth was with
demonstration of spirit and of power, "that your faith should not stand
in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God". It is actually true that
many, perhaps most, of the believers do not think there is such a thing
as power in devoutness. It is thought that even if you are a believer
you have to get along in life without any special power just as you
might if you were not a believer.
"How do I know what is God's will?" one may ask. If it were not possible
to know, Paul was foolish to pray that we might be filled with the
realization of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, Col.
1:9. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", is the formula
given by Christ. In heaven God's will does not include disappointment.
Is it not the same on earth? Paul says His will is good and
well-pleasing and perfect.
A church is a community of worshipers. Community faith means faith on
the part of the church. What a power we would be, if we had that faith,
plus a deep interest in our fellows, and would earnestly express our
desires in simple language!
to yourselves in righteousness." Hosea 10:12.
Thoughts are seed. Your own mind is the ground in which these seed are
to be soon. The harvest depends on what kind of seed you sow.
If your thoughts are on God and His goodness; if you are expecting His
goodness to you and to others; if you pray for this goodness; (prayer is
expectation of good); if you make petition for this goodness; and if you
are thankful for this goodness, even before it comes, You will have a
harvest of calmness and trust, for Paul says that after we have
committed our cause to God in prayer, petition and thanksgiving, the
peace of God shall keep our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.
If He keeps our hearts, we shall be filled with love. If He keeps our
mind, we shall not be in misery, wondering if God WILL bless us.
A harvest of contentment depends on sowing the seeds of expectation of
IS YOUR REACTION?
call attention to my leading editorial, "Community Faith".
I am wondering what is the reaction of the readers, and especially those
with whom I am in frequent personal touch. Do you think that community
faith and prayer is important? Are you interested in it? I want those
whom I reach and to whom I minister personally, to become more spiritual
than church members usually are. I want us to not drag along as if we
belonged only to the human family. I want us to realize that we are a
new humanity. I want us to know that, as such, we should have powers
that the "common run" of humanity does not have and exercise.
Won't you tell me what you think of it?