Pastor Dan Nichols
In the confession portion of our Redeemer’s liturgy three things happen. First, we are exhorted with the Word and reminded of how we have broken the law of God. Second, we confess our transgressions to him. And lastly, we await a reminder of the pardon for sin that is secured by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And over the last couple of months, the exhortations have been organized around the “one-anothers” in the New Testament, a single greek word that occurs 59 different times as it pertains to relationship between God’s people.
There are a few different reasons why I find the “one-anothers” helpful. The first is because they are tangible. There is nothing theoretical about them. It’s not pie-in-the-sky, but on the ground. They provide a clear path forward for life together in community. And second, they are simple. There is nothing particularly heady or doctrinally ambiguous about them. It doesn’t take an MDIV to understand what it means to “love one another,” for instance. The “one-anothers” are tools like the hammer and handsaw, intuitive and ready to be used right away.
But tangible and simple does not mean easy. Over these past few months, you’ve heard some phrases that feel more intuitive and others that may take a great deal of grace.
Which leads me to a one-another that I, in particular, need to hear about his morning: pray for one another. You can find it in James 5, where Christians are called to pray for healing from sickness and healing from sin. But of all the apostles' Paul seemed uniquely tuned in to the prayer life, mentioning it in each of his letters. And of this, I am envious, because for numerous reasons I find prayer to be difficult. Some of the reasons difficult are natural - time, little distractions running around, fatigue, anxiety. And some are spiritual, related to my own deficiency.
So if praying is hard why would we bother with it? Because when you pray for one another three things happen.
First, by praying you begin to feel invested in the other. Because you are. Praying develops a sense of care for that person. Thinking of the other and praying to God gives you God’s heart for the other. And so you care because God cares. And when you feel invested you invest. You ask questions like, “how are you doing? How’s your time in the word? I remember you talking about that hard season of life…how has it been?” You invest when you feel invested.
Similarly, the second effect is that you grow to respect and love the other. And in a real way, beyond just the principle of treating people with respect. When you pray you think God’s thoughts about another, and you begin to see the other as unique and meaningful.
The last effect is that God listens, and answers. And he may give exactly what you ask for, don’t forget that. Over and over again I’ve found that when I pray or someone prays for me God answers the prayer in a precise manner.
And if he doesn’t give specifically what you ask for, he will still give grace to the person. It might just be a different type.
So my exhortation for you, for us, is to pray for one another. Which reminds me of my need to confess my sins, to Jesus of course. But also to you, church. Because I have failed to pray for you as I ought. Because I want you to know that I woke up praying for you this morning, and as I did my shepherd’s heart grew, my love for you grew. And I know that the Lord will answer.