Grace Alliance Church streamed our first worship service on Facebook almost two years ago. It was on Easter Sunday, April 21st. The COVID-19 pandemic was beginning, and indoor gatherings we shut down. So, we decided to hold our Easter service in the church’s parking lot. We set up loudspeakers and used an old mini-DV camera that hadn’t been turned on in over a decade. Everyone stayed in their car. After each speaker spoke, the microphone was thoroughly doused with Lysol. All went well until Pastor Gabe encouraged everyone to “shout an alleluia” by honking their car’s horn. The loud volume overloaded the computer and kicked us off Facebook.

For the next several months, we worked to improve our streaming broadcasts, but every week something went wrong. We would solve one issue, and another completely different one would pop up the following week. It wasn’t until mid-July before we made it through a completely online service without a problem. But eventually, we worked out all the bugs. Dozens watched as we streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. And every week, our archived broadcasts were viewed by hundreds from all around the world.

But as the pandemic finally eased and we could meet in person again, the number of people watching fell sharply. Of course, we expected that. People were back in church on Sunday mornings. But the unexpected thing was that almost 30% of those who stopped watching online did not return to church. And it’s not just our congregation. That is the case nationwide. People got used to not having the fellowship that a church family brings.

Is that you? Were you once a regular church attender but no longer? This year, Easter is on Sunday, April 22nd. Please join us in our special Resurrection Sunday celebration at 11:00 am. Don’t be a part of the missing 30%. It’s time to come back to church.

Psalm 27:8

 The lack of desire is the ill of all ills. Holy desire is a holy power that energizes prayer. It is a dynamic of the Holy Spirit. All prayer is a response to God, as Psalm 27:8 (NASB) says,

“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’”

Heaven wants sincerity, not beautiful polite words. Sadly, we have said the same words so often that we can almost say them without thinking. There is nothing new in our prayers because nothing is really desired. Even repetition, however, is sweet in the ears of God when it is the heart cry of our soul’s desire. (Remember, Jesus repeated in His soul’s agony in Gethsemane three times.)

   Desire makes prayer specific. It focuses prayer and asserts priority. Desire makes prayer both vital and personal. Indeed, desire is the soul of prayer, as Psalm 10:17a says,

“O Lord, You have heard the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart.”

   The question for us now is, “How does one deepen one’s desire?” Consider the following:

1. Welcome God given desires: From one point of view, desire is a gift from God. From another viewpoint, one must deepen one’s desire with God’s help. If, for example, you find a desire for the good of other people strongly impressed upon you, there is a good possibility the Holy Spirit is giving and deepening this desire so as to stir you up to pray. In such a case, no amount of importunity in prayer is improper. Like with Jacob in Genesis 32:26,

“I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Did his attitude insult God? No way! In fact, it made Jacob a prince with God with a new name––Israel!

2. Do not quench or lose these holy desires: They are a fire of the Holy Spirit not to be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Don’t let other things divert you or distract you. Allow the Holy Spirit to deepen your prayer more and more and to take you into greater understanding. These Spirit born and Spirit deepened desires are an indication of what God wants to do; He gives desires for what He longs to bring to pass (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).

3. Surrender your own desires: In our humanity we often wish for things with more self-motivation than God-motivation. Our prayers are often more colored with self-interests than a love for God and His glory. Due to our limitations, what we think must be bread is, in reality, a stone (Matthew 7:9), and sometimes God lets us break a few teeth as we “bite into” what we insist is bread. Israel cried out to God until God gave them what they demanded; but they lived to regret it (Psalm 106:14, 15). Yet such wayward praying is not likely to happen when we surrender our own will to the Father and pray as Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:10,

“Your Kingdom come; Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

4. Trust God for what you desire and praise Him: Make Him the Lord of the way you feel, as Jeremiah 11:20 (NASB) says of God,

“. . . who tries the feelings and the heart . . .”

As you press on with deep, holy desires for God’s will and His answer, the Holy Spirit will eventually bring you to the place of faith and faith will seize upon one of many promises given in regard to answered prayer. Perhaps at this point your prayer has been granted or the Holy Spirit is leading you toward praise and thanksgiving for what is yet to be granted. Either way, such an assurance comes only by way of desire. In fact, as long as it makes little difference to us whether our prayer is answered or not, we will not persevere in prayer.

“… because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:5b

“Father, Your Word says the fruit of the Holy Spirit is evident in my life by the way I love others, that if I say I love You, yet hate my brother, I am a liar. I know Father that so often I do not love as You have called me to love. I love when it is convenient, when I am in the right mood, or even worse, only if someone has been loving me. Forgive me. Have mercy on me, Lord. Forgive my self-serving, selfish loving. Fill me with Your love and compassion.

   I ask You to bring healing to damaged relationships in my life, those who I find difficult to love––and I especially pray for those who the Holy Spirit brings to mind this evening …

   You have said love is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, selfish or easily provoked. It does not keep record of wrong or rejoice in unrighteousness. Father give me this kind of love for those around me! May my love for my family members, my co-workers, neighbors, and classmates (my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus!) truly bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things. Keep my love from failing!

   May I practice lavish love with them, and so live-out Your love in the world that has yet to know You. May extravagant love be evident in my relationships with my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Keep me from having any part in that which would cause division in the body of Christ. Instead, may my life be rooted and established in love.

   Father, Your Word says it is by the way that I love those in my community of faith that the world will know that I belong to You. Give me this kind of love I pray! As You have lavishly loved me, may I in turn love others and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus on toward even greater love and good deeds––especially toward the helpless. May I be found worthy of bearing the Name of Christ and determined to live-out the debt of love I owe so that Jesus may be exalted and glorified. In His Name I ask these things. Amen”

We must not only pray, but we must pray with great urgency, with intentness and with repetition. We must not only pray, but we must pray again and again.

E. M. Bounds

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
Psalm 145:18 (NKJV)

Hopefully, there is that which is in us that wants to continually experience the nearness of God. One way is to pray, pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Then we will have the assurance expressed above: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” Prayer has a wonderful power in helping us to draw near to God. In fact, prayer appropriates the Presence of God! God is everywhere and, as the Almighty Present One, is ever ready and capable to grant us unbroken fellowship with Him. Such is almost always achieved only through prayer.

Do we really want to know the secret of always living in a state of prayerfulness? The answer is quite clear. Realize first that God is near you, and within you––closer to you than your next breath! That being so, you will feel how natural it is to talk with Him each moment about your needs and desires. This is the secret of the prayerful life of which Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 3:10,

“… night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face …”

   It is only when we live a life apart from God that we find ourselves saying, “I must make time, I must take the trouble first of all to search for God, to find God, before I can pray!” More and more we will find that the true Christian life is a constant abiding with the Father, a delighting in Him, as Psalm 89:16 says of some,

“In Your name they rejoice all day long …”

Intimacy between the Father and His child should be continuous! Prayer, for this reason, should become a daily life activity, like breathing or sleeping, instead of something that is brought into use only occasionally, like a pocketknife. The living principle of complete dependence upon the unseen God, with the development of the holy habit of claiming His Presence with us each moment of the day––this is the summation of the life we are called to live in this world.

“God always near,” so that we may always call upon Him. According to Paul, in Philippians 4:6, 7 (NKJV), when we do so, we will eventually become,

“Anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, [we will] let [our] requests be made unto God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Remember these two things: a God always near, with infinite grace and abundant mercy; and His child in utter weakness, calling upon One who will hear and answer our prayers.