We have a meeting in our house during the week. I don’t know whether to call it a “Bible Study/Prayer Meeting” (formal) or a homegroup (cuddly). Anyway, we meet, talk, study the Bible, pray. Simple.
We don’t usually do topical studies, but we are in a break between books of the Bible. Last night we looked at prayer. I decided to use Shorter Catechism question 98:
Q.98. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is offering our desires to God in the name of Christ for things that agree with His will, confessing our sins, and thankfully recognising His mercies.
This gives us three components to prayer. (Test: to find them, look for the participles!) This gave me a structure to lead people through various Bible passages that teach what prayer is.
We had a great time. We learned things, were motivated, went deeper than I expected we would, especially on “confessing”.
I was encouraged by something in particular, but first some background. One of the things we do in Sunday worship is have an extended period of confession of sin. I have moved in my convictions on this. I used to be happy to utter a simple “Father, forgive us our sins” in the midst of the opening prayer. However, I had a growing unease about this while I was an intern at a church in Derby. It seemed the grace of God was too easily glossed over.
Here is what we do now, after the prayer of invocation:
- read a passage of Scripture that reminds us of the holiness of God
- a set prayer of confession sometimes said together, sometimes I will lead
- a period of silence for private confession of particular sins
- I lead in a prayer of thanksgiving forgiveness through Christ
- read a verse which assures the hearer of forgiveness e.g. 1 Jo 1:9
- an exhortation to receive the words in faith and to be assured of forgiveness.
This gives plenty of time for confession and reflection on the fact that God is merciful to sinners
At the meeting last night, Susan, my wife, commented on this part of our service. Until we came to SPC, she had never experienced this extended element of worship in a service before and found it strange at first. (She is not the only one. Some others who have been used to the hymn/prayer sandwich have found it a bit ‘Anglican’! I prefer the term ‘Reformed’.) However, Susan had found that as she has got used to it she has been reflecting more deeply on the grace of God in Christ during the service. She is able to go further than a general confession of sin, further than superficial sins (e.g. words that should not have been said), to to deeper idolatries. Susan has even found herself confessing sinful attitudes from years ago which had idolatry at the root, but which at the time seemed innocuous.
To me this was such an encouragement. It is when we get to these deeper levels that we see God’s Spirit at work.
God blessed us last night.