Rev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota.
God loves His church—so must we. The church is precious to God—so ought she to be to us, her members. The question is, How can we actually love the church? In what ways can we show our love for her?
To love someone or something involves seeking the welfare of that person or thing. That is how it must always be with the object of our love.
A husband who truly loves his wife seeks her welfare. He does this by providing for her needs, especially her spiritual needs. He strives to be the spiritual head he must be in marriage and seeks, above all else, to guide and strengthen her in her life as a child of God. The same is true of a wife in relation to her husband. In fulfilling her calling as a wife she seeks always her husband’s spiritual welfare. If either a husband or wife fails to do this, if either is selfish and seeks instead his or her own welfare, he or she fails to love. True love is evidenced in seeking the welfare of the object of that love.We need only consider Christ’s love for His bride, the church, to understand the truth of this. His love for His church is expressed by the fact that He always and only seeks her good. That is His purpose, and it is that which He accomplishes in all He does.
This is what we are to do in relation to the church. Because we love her, her welfare is a matter of the greatest concern. The church and her needs do not come after other things in our lives, but first. If we love the church as we ought, her welfare is a priority. The church is then at the center of our lives. We are ever seeking Zion’s good (Ps. 122:9).
A love for the church and a concern for the church’s welfare will be evident in the fact that we pray for her, and do so every day.
This begins with prayers for the local congregation.
In that connection we pray especially for the ministry of the Word, for without faithful preaching the church cannot survive. Without the true gospel of Christ, the church and people of God are in serious danger. The church needs the truth. In fact, without the true preaching of the gospel the church cannot exist and has no right to call itself the church of Christ. We pray that God would keep the church faithful to His Word and truth.
We pray for the consistory. We ask our Lord to direct the officebearers so that they faithfully carry out their work as representatives of Christ in His church. They need to be men of God who themselves love the church and seek her welfare. It is our desire that God give these men a rich measure of His Spirit and grace so that they will be instruments in Christ’s hands for the eternal, saving good of His people.
We pray for all the other members of the congregation. They need our prayers because of the struggles and trials of life. But they need especially the prayer that God may work mightily by His Word and Spirit to humble those who are His and lead them in a life of thankful obedience to Him. Your fellow believers need your prayers.
And we pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6). What a blessing peace is! What a terrible thing strife and disunity are! We therefore ask that Christ so rule in the hearts of His people that they might be kept from sin and strife and might love each other in the love of Christ.
We also pray for the denomination. We may not be parochial, thinking of and praying only for our local congregation. If we love the church of Christ, we pray for each congregation.
We are mindful of the vacant churches. We consider the congregations that have struggles. We keep in mind the specific needs of both the large and the small congregations. And we pray for them all.
The seminary, including both the professors and students, is remembered in prayer. This includes our request to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest by providing the churches with men for the gospel ministry. Presently the need is great. This ought therefore to be a matter of much prayer among us.
The mission work of the churches is also remembered in prayer. We pray for the missionaries and their families, especially in light of the fact that they are often far from loved ones and friends. We also seek the Lord’s blessing on their labors. It is our desire that the preaching of the gospel on the mission field be used by Christ to gather to Himself His church from every nation under heaven.
The labors of the synod and classes are not forgotten, either. As these broader assemblies of the churches prepare to meet, and when they actually do meet, we pray for the Lord of the church to give wisdom so that decisions may be made for the glory of God and for the welfare of the church of Christ.
In all of these requests for our denomination, our earnest desire is that the Lord preserve His truth in our midst and be pleased to cause it to continue to be proclaimed in every congregation for the salvation of believers and their seed.
Finally, we pray for the church universal. We are interested in the welfare of our fellow saints in other nations, for they are fellow members with us of the one body of Christ.
Not all of God’s people have it as easy as we do as members of the church. Some are not privileged as we are to gather for worship and to hear faithful preaching of the gospel. Others are persecuted for their faith. Others suffer because of poverty or disease. Others are afflicted through war or natural catastrophes. Mindful of these fellow saints and their needs, we pray for them. Our prayer is that God will be pleased, through His Son, to continue His work of gathering, defending, and preserving His church wherever she is in the midst of this wicked world.
Prayer for the church ought to be a significant part of our prayer life. It ought not be only a part of the congregational prayers on Sundays, but also a part of our daily prayers as individuals and families. We may not forget the church and her needs and simply bring all kinds of requests to the throne of grace for ourselves. We must pray for the church! And when we do so, thus demonstrating thereby our love for the church of Christ, such love will also grow, by the grace and blessing of God, in the hearts of our children.
Especially as we approach the end of time the church needs our prayers. Many things threaten the true church’s existence and future. Worldliness creeps in and affects the members, including you and me. On account of the difficulty of the work and the opposition to it, officebearers are tempted to let discipline slip. Pressure comes from the pew to soften the preaching and make it more palatable, or more practical. The church world of today wants to do away with doctrinal distinction and unite all churches regardless of belief. Apostasy is on the increase, with fewer and fewer church-going people interested in maintaining the truths of the Word of God.
What we see in all this is Satan attacking the church of Christ. He goes about as a roaring lion. He rages against Christ and His church. He is making an all-out attempt to destroy the faithful remnant of God’s people.
In light of all these things, we who love the church pray earnestly for her. May the Son of God gather, defend, and preserve His church and lead her to eternal blessedness and glory!
Do you love the church? Do you pray for her?