Pastoral Prayer – July 29, 2018

Almighty God, we come before you humbly, echoing the words of David, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.  Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all (1 Chr 29:11).”

Hearing your declaration in Leviticus that “I am the Lord your God.  Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (Lev 11:44a)”, we tremble before you, for each of us here knows we are not holy.  We know something is desperately wrong with us.  Whether we measure ourselves against the law you breathed out in Scripture or the law you have written on our hearts (Rom 2:15), we know we do not measure up.  Just the “I should haves” and “I shouldn’t haves” that arise in our seared consciences are sufficient to prove our guilt before you and warrant our banishment to endless anguish in hell.

Yet in an astounding display of your love for your people, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Rom 5:8b).  Jesus became man, lived a perfectly holy life, and then willingly went to the cross as a substitute for everyone who repents of their sin and surrenders to him as Lord.  On Golgotha, Jesus absorbed all your righteous wrath that we Christians deserve.  There Jesus suffered and died in our place.  Showing your acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice, you “raised him from the dead and seated him at [your] right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:20)

We praise you, Lord God, for that salvation and that it is not limited to just one corner of the globe.  When you first began to call a people unto yourself, you told Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).  And Jesus declared to the Jews, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (Jn 10:16)

Most merciful, Triune God, you have faithfully kept those promises.  As we read in Ephesians, all of us gathered here were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility... (Eph 2:12b-14).”

We rejoice. Lord, that now “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)”.  We “are no longer strangers and aliens, but…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Eph 2:19). So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10).”

Lord, we thank you that this local church is being used by you to glorify yourself, simply by displaying to the world that our unity in Christ bridges the differences among us.  We are of different ethnicities, different nationalities, different economic circumstances, different political persuasions, and different generations.  Some of us are single, some married, some widowed.  Yet we are all bound together by the one thing that transcends all the others – our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  To your eternal glory, you have answered Jesus’ prayer to you, “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11).

We thank you, Father, that in this church we have a delicious foretaste of the Apostle John’s vision of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9b-10)

We plead Lord, that you will help us to know and love each other even more, so that we may attract people to the gospel by showing them that our unity as Christians is stronger than anything that might divide us.  Let us ever be proving Jesus’ declaration that, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35).”  By your grace, may our Christ-induced love flow out across Tampa Bay and around the globe, and be used by you to bring into Christ’s church your elect from every nation and tribe and people and language.  For the glory of Christ, we ask it all.

Posted on: July 31, 2018 - 9:26AM

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