Part 3: Let’s Recover Our First Love
When people stop talking to each other they automatically drift apart. Communication, as they say, is the life blood of a relationship. Isn’t it the case that when we stop talking to God, we begin to lose our first love for Him? But have you stopped to think that this is also the case when Christians stop praying together? But you say, “Oh, there’s no worry about that, as long as I keep to my private spiritual disciplines.” Yet private and corporate prayer have a symbiotic relationship. Energize the one and you invigorate the other; neglect the one and you diminish the other.
Can We have the Vertical without the Horizontal? Jesus taught that our horizontal relationships in the church directly affects our vertical relationship with God. ”When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…This is my commandment: Love each other.” (John 15: 9,12). The apostle echoed the principle: “How can we say we love God if we do not love each other.” Failure to pray together in the church causes us to drift apart from each other and from God. Remove a coal from the hearth and it dies out. Christ’s scriptural principle is plain as day: Love me, love my body. Love my body, love me.
We need one another. We can’t improve our love relationship with God if we neglect praying with our Christian family. When we neglect praying together, whether it’s the cause or the symptom, we become isolated from each other, thereby violating Christ’s law to “love one another.”
Our Faith is Personal Jesus endorsed the Jewish commands to love God and our neighbor and then added a third—a new command for a new covenant ”Love one another as I have loved you.” Our love relationship with God and others is what our faith is all about. This love is the connection he means us to have in the church family as well as with Him. However, without faith, another word for trust, it is impossible to please God, because if I don’t trust God, how can I love Him? “The just shall live by faith.” And, If I do not trust you, how can I love you?
Pray for One Another. When we come to trust each other in the church, we will share our our personal needs in prayer. That’s what makes prayer personal. Yet when we do pray, do we really pray for one another or for third parties whom we often don’t know.
Private or Personal? At the close of a Bible study, the leader asks for prayer requests. Mary says, “Please pray for my Aunt Tillie in Utah who faces surgery.” Of course her aunt’s surgery is important, but she lives 2000 miles away. Our relationship is with Mary, not her aunt. If we ask Mary, “Why not share your own needs?” she would reply, “Oh, that’s ‘personal.” What she really means is, “my struggles are my own private business.” So it’s privaite for Mary, not personal. This attitude, common in the church, is as far away from being personal as you can get. The shows our lack of trust in others, which means also, a lack of love.
A Family of Strangers? When we do open up our private world to one another, we enter into the true fellowship Jesus meant for us to have in the church. When we fail to do so, we remain strangers. Of course, it must be mutual. Gail once shared with me her experience in a women’s group. The leader, the pastor’s wife, said, “Since the Bible teaches we should confess our faults to one another, let’s obey the Word and begin to do that.” There was a long silence until at last Gail courageously shared some personal struggles. When she finished there was dead silence. Finally the leader said, “OK, then, let’s turn to our scripture passage” Gail was left holding her dirty laundry with no cleansing or healing. She was, devastated.
When we withhold our private needs, we cannot pray for one another and we distance ourselves from each other. It is this horizontal dimension that we need to recover in the church. Praying for one another’s real needs accomplishes that.