On this date in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. He didn’t really mean to start a Reformation, but was only trying to state his objections to some of the church doctrine and practices that had perverted the teachings of the Bible, namely the selling of “indulgences.”
One thing led to another, as they say, and before he knew it, Luther was challenging the very church itself, though he never intended to separate from the church, but only bring correction to her. However, once his theses were translated from Latin into German and became accessible to the people, and once word began to spread of his “protests,” the beginnings of the Protestant reformation were under way.
It’s been nearly five centuries since that fateful day before All Saints Day–or, “All Hallow’s Eve,” as it would come to be known (and eventually, Hallow’een). That was certainly a pivotal point in history, as the church was pushed from its corrupt days of the Dark Ages to a period when the Scriptures would be put into the hands of the common man, which of course changed everything.
Even now, we are influenced by his courage and conviction, as we live by the radical Biblical doctrines of grace and faith.
The trouble is, most of us have a need for more reforming because of our tendency to recycle our religion. Like the church in Luther’s time in the 16th century–or like the Pharisees of Biblical times, or those living in the days of the minor prophets–we gravitate toward surface-level religiosity and extra-biblical legalism that neglects faith, negates grace, and cancels out the cross.
We must resist our inclination for man-made religion and going-through-the-motions ritual, no matter how popular the routines and rituals may be. That may require us to go against the grain, like Luther, as we strip away the layers of church-ianity and focus instead on a gospel-driven relationship with Jesus Christ. In that light, the Reformation is still on-going, in all of our lives, as we are being reformed, and daily transformed, by Christ.
It was Martin Luther who once said, “I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours of each day in prayer.” I came across that quote again this week as I was preparing for our 24-hour Day of Prayer this weekend at Shelby Crossings.
Often, a church’s call to prayer is precipitated by a crisis–a time of brokenness and repentance from sin; a need for direction in a time of decision; or crying out for God’s provision in a time of great need. Quite frankly, there is no great crisis, sin, decision or need that motivates this call to prayer. We just want to seek the Lord, in good times and bad, and make sure we stay on our face before Him, humble and open to His will.
The truth is, it is so easy to get distracted by the busy-ness of life’s business, and sidetracked from what is really important, so that we forget to spend focused time in prayer, both individually or corporately. So many of us live our lives that way every day–spinning our wheels, working hard, even planning diligently, but “too busy” to pray. We would all do well to listen to Luther’s words and understand that in fact most of us are too busy NOT to pray.
If you are like me, you probably feel like your life is always lived on a deadline, and usually in a hurry. When that happens, God often gets the leftovers of our time. As Samuel Chadwick once said, “Hurry is the death of prayer.”
So…we stop. To pray. If only for a brief time slot, we are asking that each of you who are a regular part of our church family take 30 minutes out of this weekend and “devote yourself to prayer.” (Colossians 4:2) If you can do more than a half hour, that would be better, but it’s not so much the time as the devotion with which we are concerned. We would love for you to join us in our worship center–around the clock–but if you can’t, we hope you’ll still join us in praying where you are.
So many of the great moves of God throughout the centuries–from Biblical times to church history–have been borne out of God’s people pulling themselves from their routine, taking time away from their distracted lives, and seeking His face.
I hope you will join me in fasting and praying this weekend–for our own lives, for our families, for our church, for our community, and for our nation. I’m praying for you, and look forward to seeing you this Sunday.
If you were with us for worship this past Sunday, you heard our elder chairman Jason Murphy share about an upcoming prayer focus in our church, scheduled for Oct. 24-25. We are excited about this “Day of Prayer,” and hope that each of you will answer the call to pray.
Admittedly, there’s something a little strange about calling for an emphasis on prayer…three weeks away! Be assured, it’s not because we don’t see the urgency of praying now, but we just needed to time to get people signed up and make sure there were no conflicts on our church calendar. I will assume also that God in His sovereign timing has led us to those dates.
But with that in mind, I wanted to encourage you to begin a focus on prayer immediately. Just because our 24-hour prayer focus doesn’t come for another couple of weeks doesn’t mean you can’t turn your attention to seeking the Lord now, “while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6).
What does that mean? It means, first, that we start where we are. If you feel like prayer is not one of your strengths, that’s okay. You can come alongside the disciples who asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) The key to prayer is not that we know all the answers, but that we are ready and willing to come before the Lord honestly, earnestly and expectantly. He will teach us–and we learn, by praying.
If you are like most of us and the busy-ness of life’s business sometimes crowds prayer out of your daily routine, let me suggest that you set aside some special time especially during the next two weeks to “devote yourself” to prayer (Colossians 4:2). You might want to also spend some concerted time in prayer with your family, or with your small group. You may even want to fast and pray one day a week, or more. I have no intention of prescribing what that means to you. I only hope you’ll seriously consider the call to seek the Lord.
What, specifically, are we praying for? Pray for yourself, that Jesus will reign as Lord over every area of your life. Lift your needs before Him, fervently asking, seeking, knocking on heaven’s door (Matthew 7:7). Pray for your family, that the will of the Lord would be done, and for our church and our communities. Pray for our nation, that God would bring revival to His people.
Remember the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in the life of His people through our Day of Prayer, but also in the days leading up to Oct. 24. Will you devote yourselves to prayer? I will.
I’m praying for you, and look forward to seeing you this Sunday.