Recently the Lord gave me something. It was like a question--how come people make formal programs when they meet for prayer, but pray differently when face to face with real danger?
For instance, in a district prayer meeting. Churches gather together and follow a formal program. There is an opening remark, an opening prayer, a welcome remark, a message, and then they pray. The same thing happens in local church prayer meetings. When the danger is just imagined or merely possible, they can afford to be formal like that. But when the danger strikes, I wonder if they can be as formal and orderly?
When the Tsunami in Japan was happening last year, I'm sure they didn't have formal programs when they prayed. I can imagine they were praying where they were and just crying out to God. Even after that, I bet they didn't bother with programs. They just assembled together and prayed. They didn't look for any program or ceremony. But I'm pretty sure, too, that after that, Christian churches all over the world had a programmed prayer meeting to prayer for Japan.
Why a programless, ultra simple (but very serious and effective) prayer during a catastrophe, and a programmed one when the danger is not in sight? Doesn't God want a serious and urgent prayer all the time, without the embellishment of a well planned human program?
I mean, can you imagine this happening? A strong earthquake happens and people go to their churches and the pastor and the worship team sit down to make a program. Then, the pianist starts the prelude and then the presider welcomes everyone and calls the prayer leader for opening prayer. And so forth. The usual foolish things we do to make a prayer meeting look spiritual and acceptable to God.
Of course, it wouldn't be like that. Why? Because the urgency requires and compels us to just pray and do it with all our hearts--as sincere and as serious as we can--because the earthquake is ongoing. Programs, in this sense, are useless--we all agree to that. And we deem that when we need God to really help us in such times, we don't bother with programs. We just pray, and pray the best we can.
So, how come we have two methods of prayer for different occasions? Did God prescribe that in the bible? Did he say that, when there's no present danger, you may have programmed and orderly prayer meetings? but then, if the danger is there, you just pray anyway you can?
I've seen how some churches really make a fuss about the program. They couldn't start anything without it. And everything ought to be done in some acceptable manner. Everything should be by some actions that evince "holiness." I even saw some with ready-to-read prayers written in the noblest way possible with high sounding terms and read with a deep, majestic voice. I'm sure all that would be shattered when a magnitude 9 earthquake suddenly strikes. They'd just do what's natural and use simple words that get the idea straight to God. So, why can't we do it like that every time?
Like this school ministry one Christian church around my area has. They want to thank God for their 40th foundation day. They want a circus parade around the community, a sports fest, dancing contest, literary contest (with bible quiz), and many other activities. They would invite the best speaker with the most number of titles and degrees. They would prepare food and drinks. All that for a week celebration! And all that would cost them big money---and God is worthy of it all!
But I asked, why not just thank God in a simple prayer--doing it wholeheartedly? I mean, your thanksgiving will be well accepted by God and very glorifying if done with a genuinely holy life backing. And "wholeheartedly" means--do you meditate God's Word day and night? Do you teach your students that? Do your teachers actually do that? Do you really live holy lives daily? Then, if so, a simple "Thank you, Father!" together in Jesus' Name would suffice.
Of course they didn't like that. They wanted it big-time, because God "is well worth it!" I asked, then why not just give the money you'd be spending to the poor?" They hated the idea--and me. They looked at me as if I were some demon.
Christians have this mentality that to please God, they have to do things big-time or in complicated ways. Simple was a big no-no to God. Yet, I believe the reason why my Jesus came to earth just as a carpenter and a simple man from a low-income family was to impress on us all that simple is powerful to God. Churches have this elitist mindset that says God is not pleased if you cannot do things with lots of expenses and with a formal program.
And yet, when God sends deadly catastrophes, everything is trimmed down to its basic, simplest form while the catastrophes are going on. Everything becomes pure--heart, ways, words, and intentions. Everything becomes beautifully simple. The foolish programs are exposed for what they really are--garbage we don't need to please God. God does not want orderly programs--he wants orderly lives. And that was what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Their lives were a mess so their church assemblies were also a mess. Messy lives cannot be remedied even with the best worship programs and the most orderly church meeting.
When a big storm was on-going and Jesus and the disciples were in a boat in a lake, it was a deadly present danger. My Jesus didn't need any program, as he didn't need any when he thanked God for the bread and fish multiplication. He simply prayed, wholeheartedly and with radical faith. That's what churches ought to learn again in these last days.