I’ve been reading backwards through the New Testament. There’s something about reading the letters to the early church first, and then diving into the history of the formation of that church that is hitting differently for me.
As the wife of a pastor and co-shepherd of a beloved congregation, I find comfort in the letters of correction, frustration, encouragement, and admonishment. These pastors had stomach problems from stress. These leaders were having issues making financial ends meet. These people were burdened, hopeful, and weak. Oh the comfort found in ministerial camaraderie, even hundreds of years before my time.
It’s this shift from the birth of the church to the practicality of the church that has struck me. Unlike the formation of the church in Acts, the later letters to the churches aren’t full of tongues of fire. The miraculous healings have slowed. People are not being raised from the dead.
Now there are quarrels to resolve. There are jobs that need to be assigned and work to be done. There is food and money to divide up fairly. There is hunger and distraction and leadership feuds. There is theology to get straight and confused questions about if we’re doing this right.
Jesus is no longer physically walking alongside the disciples. The monumental moment where the world was turned upside down has happened, and now people are getting their bearings, looking for a new normal, trying to figure out how to walk with their dear Friend without having His calming presence and voice of wisdom physically with them.
What I see from the cross to Revelation, though, is believers turning to the hope of the Gospel, and prayer. Prayer. I see it over and over again. They begin letters with thanks to God, they close letters with prayers for their co-laborers. They ask for prayer for their own struggles as they write from prison or homes or churches of their own.
Prayer is that vertical thread that keeps our horizontal threads from going wonky.
The early church leaders needed to be reminded as much as we do that the day-to-day earthly work of church living quickly goes off the rails if we are not in constant communication with the Head of that body. They had lived with that actual connection, and found it again through prayer.
Prayer was modeled by Jesus when He walked on earth, and He left us a tether of crucial connection by teaching us to pray, and to pray often. Throughout all of the Gospels Jesus takes time to be alone with the Father. Even up to his final hours before death, “Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray’” (Matthew 26:36).
So take heart, dear wife of the pastor, when you cry out in prayer, whether in joy or in sorrow. You are doing precisely what Jesus would do, what our early church leaders would do, and what God longs for you to do.
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