When I Love the Church the Most

I have just returned from church. Yes, I attended in person and it was a wonderful experience to step through the doors this morning and be greeted by friendly faces. It was a great feeling to have my friend ask if it was okay to hug me and I answered in the affirmative (because finally she and I have both received our vaccines). I soaked in the opportunity to participate in praising God and worshiping Him. I listened carefully as our pastor shared God’s Word.

As a church we are reading through the New Testament and each week the sermon is based on something we read during the week. This morning was the story of the Good Samaritan and as our pastor always does, he gave a thought provoking, challenging-me-to-be-better sermon. But then the one thing about the church that always tugs at my heart and makes me realize how much I love the church happened. After the closing song and invitation, our pastor stepped up and asked if we could be seated. You never know what to anticipate when that happens. Did someone resign? Is there an important event coming to talk about? Who knows what it will be.

As he spoke, our pastor reminded us that the church as a body needs to pray for one another and asked if we would take time to pray for some special needs this morning. He explained that we have three families in our congregation with critically ill children. A family walked up to the stage, the father carrying his son, with his wife by his side. As he sat with his obviously ill son cradled on his lap, we prayed. How do you pray for a child who has been given no hope of living? How do you pray for parents who are walking this valley of the shadow of death–not theirs but of their child? I listened as the petitions were made to God for healing. I heard the sound of weeping and sniffling throughout the entire gathering place. Silent tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed, hoping that the promise that the Holy Spirit would take our tears and our unknown groans to God’s throne for us would be fulfilled.

As prayers for Enzo’s family ended, another family took their place and I watched as the two moms hugged each other tightly. NatG has such a rare disease that there are only seven known cases in the world. These parents did not have their child with them, because she is in the hospital in dire need of healing. How do you comfort a mother and father who are walking this difficult road? What words can you say that will convey your empathy and sympathy? Maybe nothing. But you can pray. And pray we did. Once again we asked for God’s healing, his will, and his strength and joy to abide deeply in this family. Once again we cried together. And once again I have no doubt that God has heard our prayers.

This is the part of the body of Christ I love the most. The one that prays together. The one that weeps together. The one that loves and supports fellow members of the body when they are hurting. The one that brings their needs to the throne and prays in the name of Jesus. The one that realizes that God does not always see things the way we do and His plan is not necessarily our plan, but is willing to praise Him anyway. Being part of a church that loves God and loves our neighbors truly brings joy to my heart.

Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash

We do not know the outcome of our prayers but I am convicted that this is when the church is at its best–not when she is gleaming and holding out her precious programs and wonderful music, and even great preaching, but when we are petitioning God on behalf of our sisters and brothers. It is at our best when we drop to our knees, praying for God’s strength, His will and His comfort; when we are united in sharing someone’s pain and deepest hurts; when we are vulnerable and unsure of the future. God shows himself the most when we humble ourselves and cry out to God for his mercy and grace.

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. –James 5:13-16 (NLT)

©Linda DeLay Wallace 2021