We love because He (Christ) first loved us. (1 John 4:19). Let us love one another, for love is from God. (1 John 4:7a). Christ Jesus has given us a new commandment. He has commanded us to love one another. We are to love one another just as He has loved us. When we do this, others will know that we are Christ’s disciples. (John 13:34-35).
Before I share about what love is, let me share my thoughts on what love is not. Love is not “biting and devouring one another.” (Galatians 5:15). Love is not “becoming conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26). Love is not “meeting your own needs and neglecting others’ needs.” Let me proceed to share what love is. Love is “serving one another.” (Galatians 5:13). Love is “looking to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4). Love is “the willingness to go for the second mile.” Love does not mind the inconveniences. Love is “speaking the truth without compromise or reservation.” Love is “showing thoughtfulness for others.” Love is “being considerate towards others.”
“Love one another!” Do we love one another? This is a question that we need to ask ourselves constantly. How do we go about showing “love to one another”? One aspect of “loving one another” is “accepting one another.” (Romans 15:7). Do we welcome those who are new in the church? In order to genuinely welcome them, we need first of all to accept them. Do we accept others who are of different upbringings and backgrounds from us? Do we show favouritism among church people? Do we have attitude of discriminations within the Discipleship Groups (DGs)? How do we receive each other? Overcoming pride and prejudice will open the door to “accepting one another.” Overlooking personal preferences and inclinations will release us to receive one another warmly. Putting ourselves in the dilemma of others will enhance our ability to accept one another.
Another aspect of “loving one another” is “bearing with one another.” (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13). It is not easy to go out of our comfort zone. Tolerance and endurance are requisites for the exercise of love in the community of faith. In order to go out of our comfort zone, we need to have the love of Christ to bear with one another. One thing we can think of is by asking ourselves proper and valid question such as this: “Do we tolerate the way someone talk or behave?” Someone may say: “I do not like him. He talks a lot and non-stop. He does not give others an opportunity to speak. He talks more than he listens.” Others may say: “I do not like her. She does things very slowly. She is quite disorganised. She does not think for others but for herself only.” How do we show love to these two groups of people? We ought to bear with one another in love. Only coupled with the love of Christ can we be able to “bear with one another.” We just need to remember that God is patient with us. We need to be patient with others too. In the Body of Christ, what and how does our Lord Jesus teach us to relate with each other? Those who are strong to bear with those who are weak and those who are fast to bear with those who are slow. Those who are intelligent to bear with those who are not and those who are organised to bear with those who are not. By so doing, we will love one another!
Still another aspect of “loving one another” is “comforting one another.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). We can comfort one another with the precious and powerful Word of God! We can comfort each other with these words: “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24). We can comfort each other by saying that “the Lord Jesus is coming back soon.” We can also comfort one another through speaking these words: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). When you and I put ourselves in the shoes of others, we will begin to understand how they are feeling about what they are going through. Compassion and empathy are requisites for the exercise of “comforting others.”
Do we care enough to find out how each one is doing during this challenging and difficult time? May we be overflowing with the love of Christ as we seek to love one another just as Christ Jesus has loved us! Let us be the shining light and star for Christ Jesus wherever He has placed us in. Let us see to it that we learn to accept one another, to bear with one another and to comfort one another with words of encouragement and grace just as we have personally received from our beloved Lord Jesus. If we can begin where we are, it will make a lot of difference in the atmosphere of True Way community. Let us rely upon the Holy Spirit to help us! “Love one another!”
According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the Hungry Ghost Festival which falls annually on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month would have just been celebrated earlier this September. As it is believed that the souls of the dead are allowed to roam on earth during this seventh month, all sorts of offerings in the form of food items and money are made as a way to provide for one’s deceased family members. For some, it also serves as a means to appease any spirits who may otherwise get up to mischief if ignored.
What is really surprising though is to read from social media that there are some shops in Hong Kong selling papier-mâché facial masks meant for the deceased. Given that the current pandemic has adversely affected the living, one would have been forgiven for thinking that the dead would be immune. Perhaps those shops offering such other-worldly merchandise are merely trying to brighten the gloomy mood caused by the pandemic.
But if not, this does raise some questions about the need for a mask. If there are to be differences in the afterlife as compared to living in this world, what would these differences be? In the first place, why do some burn stacks of paper money and offerings of papier-mâché cars, clothes and other fine goods at some Taoist and Buddhist funerals as if the deceased continue to have a need for them? Isn’t rather disheartening that even in death there can be no relief from the mundane concerns of existence? For that matter, will there be crime and victims in the afterlife since what would be stopping some from transgressing the laws in order to lay their hands on whatever they desire?
In contrast, most historic Christian churches believe that Scripture teaches what can be generally described as a two-stage view of life after death that will be radically different from life here on earth. The first stage between death and bodily resurrection is sometimes referred to as the intermediate state. Admittedly, there are differences in opinion as to the nature of our being during this state. Nevertheless, Scripture seems clear that the living will not be able to make a difference to the well-being of the deceased and that God’s people are expected to be in a restful albeit temporary place (Luke 16:19-31).
With regards to the second stage, there is certainly consensus about it being final and unending. This second stage is ushered in through the second coming of Christ where all dead humans will be raised and undergo final judgement. God’s people will be taken to be with Christ in his glorious presence and they will be given new bodies. For them, it is life and fellowship with God, worshipping him in our glorified bodies and reigning with Christ in his everlasting Kingdom. For God’s enemies, it is everlasting separation and judgment (Dan 12:1-2).
For the purposes of this Perspective, I want to just focus on the absence of sin with regards to eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. A closer look at some verses in Revelation offers us some clues about this wonderful truth that sin will no longer remain in eternity future. For example, we learn from Apostle John that there will be a removal of pain and sorrows: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Rev 21:4). This same verse notes the reason that this would be so is because “the former things have passed away”.
Scholars believe that John was alluding to how the curse of sin that came with the fall of Adam and Eve will no longer be experienced by all of creation in the new heavens and new earth. Indeed, if not for their transgressions, there would not have been all these experiences of death, disease, natural catastrophes and suffering today. This would also explain why in Scriptures, there is always this prophetic hope for the current created order to be restored (Isaiah 65:17) and this idea that creation itself is longing for restoration and liberation from the curse of sin (Romans 8:22-23).
Throughout the New Testament, we also find many passages talking about how through Christ’s death and resurrection, God has sovereignly and graciously removed the penalty and power of sin upon one’s life (Col 2:14-15, Romans 6:5-10). In addition, with Jesus’ return, the presence of sin as well as its effects upon all of creation will be totally eradicated.
Beyond the new imperishable physical body that believers will receive (1 Cor 15:36-49), I trust that we are looking forward even more to the day when we will sin no more in the new heavens and new earth. Indeed, there are sufficient grounds to believe that this is more than just a utopian ideal since Revelation 21:27 states that “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable… but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life”.
Indeed, what a glorious freedom of conscience there will be where in our thoughts and deeds, we will no longer displease our Lord ever again. What a joyous prospect where upon Christ’s return, we will forever be in the presence of the one who loves us and whom we seek to love, being assured that “what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Until that day comes, the wearing of a mask during this pandemic is a reminder that all is not well yet. Indeed, we are mindful that in this fallen world, sin will continue to wreak havoc in different aspects of life. Nevertheless, let us take heart that behind our masks, we can still behold the glory of God and by God’s Spirit are being “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 4:6). Wearing a mask can be a rather inconvenient necessity at this moment. But unlike Moses who needed to veil his face from the Israelites, our masks need not stop us from reflecting Christ’s glory through all that we do and say until the day when masks are no longer needed.
Rev Edwin Wong
Before Covid-19, we had a choice between participating in worship either at the 8.30 am or 11 am service. We saw more of the elderly attending the earlier service. Those who needed to serve in the latter part of the morning would be there too. It was also encouraging to see more and more youths coming for the 8.30 am service before heading for YZ. As for the second service, we’d find more families there because we had Sunday School (U12) that ran concurrently. However, worshippers did have a choice between the two services. Those who regularly attended a particular service could turn up for the other service.
Since Covid-19 started, worship service has been moved online and is held at 11 am. On the one hand, there seems to be only one choice. On the other hand, choices are aplenty because if one cannot wake up at 11 am, one can still tune into the service as the video recording is accessible throughout the day. Moreover, many churches are also offering online services. Thanks to the Internet, there is no limit as to where and when one chooses to worship God. People make comparisons between the services that different churches offer, and may even find themselves losing interest in their own church’s worship service because the grass on the other side looks much greener.
Is that what church is about? When we become a member of a local church, we make a commitment to the body of Christ there that we will worship together regularly, we will care for and build up each other so that we grow in our faith, and we will serve alongside each other for the sake of the kingdom of God. Covid or no Covid, how can this commitment continue to be lived out? I just want to focus on corporate worship, a spiritual discipline that is important for our growth, and definitely serves as a platform for us to glorify God.
Meeting together online for the 11 am service is meant to simulate the gathering of God’s people, albeit virtually, to worship him. If we tune in as and when we like, then there is no longer a gathering of his saints. If we only tune in to the sermon and skip the rest, then we are not worshipping together corporately. It’s more like doing our own thing at our own time. But worship on the Lord’s Day is not meant to be like that!
I know it will take some effort. Not too long ago, in one of my sermons, I asked whether we are committed to being disciples of Jesus or is our discipleship merely driven by convenience, comfort and a consumerist mindset? Making an effort to gather with the rest of the church family for worship may be a small step in the right direction on the path of costly discipleship.
By God’s grace, in July, we were able to re-start our 8.30 am service in church – hallelujah! But we noticed over the last two months that people who have turned up are those who keep turning up. We praise God for each of them because our hearts are encouraged that they see the importance of the physical gathering of God’s people. Yet there are still many who have not turned up and would prefer to worship online.
Some say that it’s just too early for them – they are not early risers. Others say that since they cannot sing, they would rather worship at home where they can sing as loud as they want. Parents feel that bringing their young children to church is a hassle. Then there are those who are concerned about the risk of becoming infected if they do come.
We really need to understand that virtual gatherings are never a perfect substitute for physical gatherings. There is something important about the physical gathering of the church for worship, fellowship and service. The church is described as the body of Christ where each member constitutes the different parts of the body, with Christ being the Head.
The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit, where we are the living stones and Christ is the Cornerstone. The church is also depicted as the family of God where we are brothers and sisters, with Christ being our eldest brother. In all these depictions of the church, it is necessary that we are physically present with each other.
Take the case of the family. We know that we can communicate with each other virtually. For example, when Gaius was studying overseas, that was what we did. But nothing beats having him physically back in Singapore where we can see him and interact with him in the flesh.
I suppose the word is “incarnation” – the Word made flesh and dwelt among us. The omnipresent God is always with us yet he chose to be with us physically when he sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into our world to walk among us. Jesus has since returned to heaven, but he has established his church on earth to be his representative. So when the world looks at the church, they ought to see the Saviour. But how is the world going to look at the church if we are all doing church behind laptops and phones? There is an important place for physical gatherings.
I am therefore appealing to you, especially to those who have not managed to attend 8.30 am service yet, to make the effort to come. Between you and the Lord, decide how frequently you would like to attend, and make the commitment to stick to that rhythm. It could be once a month, once in 6 weeks or once in two months.
For those who lament that they cannot sing at the 8.30 am service, John Piper wrote that there are two parts to true worship: “It is not just seeing God, but also savouring God. It is not just the response of the mind, but also of the heart.”
Yes, songs can help us see or understand who God is, especially if the lyrics are theologically sound. Songs can enable us to savour God, as we express from our hearts his beauty and majesty through our singing. But what if we cannot sing aloud? We can still respond with our mind and heart as we sing quietly; we can still see and savour God as we meditate on the lyrics.
The same two parts apply when we listen to sermons. We see God being revealed in his preached Word and we savour God as we stand in awe of who he is and what he has done for us. We also see God being revealed in his re-enacted Word – the Sacraments of communion and baptism. We savour him and his goodness as we participate in them with all our senses. Take communion, for example – we see the bread and wine, we hear the liturgy, we touch the elements and smell them and of course we internalise them when we eat and drink. In the process, it gives us the opportunity to savour the body of Christ broken for us and the blood of Christ shed for us.
John Calvin spoke on the two marks of the church as being Word and Sacraments. Whenever the Word if preached and the Sacraments are conducted for a body of believers, there the church exists. That is another reason why we ought to come for the 8.30 am service because every Sunday, communion is conducted for those who have been baptised – something we cannot participate in if we are attending the online service.
As for those who are concerned about their health, I am not asking you to do anything rash. We take all the precautions needed and step out in faith. Yes, there will still be an element of risk. But if we have been going out running our errands and meeting people for meals, if we have not been a hermit, then why should we behave as one when it comes to gathering together for worship?
“Let’s not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let’s encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Should churches defy governmental restrictions on religious gatherings in this current COVID-19 pandemic? In the past month, a prominent and well-respected pastor of a Los Angeles megachurch repeatedly defied state and county orders by resuming indoor services. After having suspended services for four months, John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church reopened its doors to “six or seven thousand” congregants (according to him), despite Los Angeles County requiring churches to limit indoor gatherings to 100 people or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower. Photos of the church’s services showed packed halls with no physical distancing and few face masks. In one service, MacArthur was greeted with roaring rapturous applause when he opened his sermon with these words: “Good morning everyone, I’m so happy to welcome you to the Grace Community Church peaceful protest.”
Few Singaporeans would consider physical distancing, the wearing of face masks, and avoiding large gatherings as controversial practices in this current COVID-19 pandemic. Although our government has implemented and enforced regulations requiring Singaporeans to comply with such measures, most of us have kept to them without the need for coercion simply because no one wants to spread or catch the coronavirus. Churches here have been compliant with restrictions imposed on their religious gatherings as well, recognising that the setting of a regular Sunday worship service is all too conducive for the spread of the coronavirus: people congregate, shake hands, sing, pass items, and share food—all activities that allow for coronavirus transmission.
This concern is not unjustified, given that two local churches were the first few infection clusters identified at the beginning of the outbreak here. Accompanying this was news of the heterodox Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu being identified as ground zero of a major outbreak in South Korea. In North America where there is a large Christian population, many church services also became infection clusters. Not only did parishioners and clergy get infected, so did many others in their community. It makes good sense, therefore, to either temporarily stop services or limit congregation sizes (along with physical distancing and mask wearing), as have many churches here in Singapore and elsewhere.
The decision of Grace Community Church to disregard such precautions would strike Christians here as bizarre. In fact, MacArthur commended his congregation for disregarding these precautions: “You’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks. And it’s also good news that you’re not outside. The Lord knew you needed to be inside and unmasked.” It is unsure if the Los Angeles county would consider this good news while it struggles with 1,500 to 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily and chalks up more than 5,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Not that it matters to MacArthur since he is dismissive of the statistics, claiming on Fox News that “in California, you have a 99.99 per cent chance to survive [COVID-19]!”
However, MacArthur grounds this decision mainly on biblical imperatives rather than dubious statistics. Appealing to St Peter’s reply to Sanhedrin council in Acts 5, he justifies the defiance of governmental orders with the need to obey to God and not capitulate to state pressure:
We will obey God rather than man. We’re gonna be faithful to the Lord, we’re gonna leave the results to him. Whatever happens is what he allows to happen. But he will be on our side because we will be obedient and faithful to his word…. We do not bow to Caesar. We will not bow to Caesar. Caesar is not our king. Lord Jesus Christ is our king.
Clearly, he is resentful of state interference in his church’s operations. While he affirms St Paul’s injunction to obey civil authorities in Romans 13, he believes the state had exceeded its jurisdiction when it ordered churches to limit or suspend indoor services: “[It] has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship. When, how, and how often the church worships is not subject to Caesar. Caesar himself is subject to God.” In this case, St Paul’s injunction no longer stands. MacArthur declared: “[We] cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
In a pastoral address, MacArthur also expressed bemusement at pastors who have yet to reopen their churches for services: “I don’t have any way to understand that other than… they don’t know what a church is, and they don’t shepherd their people.” It seems that to him, the only right thing a pastor can do now is to defy the authorities and hold services again. Thus, the entire issue has been framed as a David-and-Goliath confrontation of sorts: a beleaguered God-fearing church standing up to a powerful godless state eager to curtail its freedom to worship (while all the other compliant churches are cowering like the faithless Israelites).
In what might seem like another bizarre act to Christians here, the leadership of Grace Community Church also went on the offensive by filing a lawsuit against the state of California for violating their constitutional rights in enforcing the restrictions. This led Los Angeles county to sue the church in return for continuing to “hold in-person, indoor worship in violation of the State and County public health orders.” In its statement, the county said it “took this action reluctantly after working with the church for several weeks in hopes of gaining voluntary compliance with the Health Officer Orders, which allow for religious services to be held outdoors in order to slow the spread of a deadly and highly contagious virus.”
MacArthur is right to assert that there are limits to how far Christians may submit to civil authorities. Apart from St Peter’s declaration in Acts 5, there are also other prominent instances of civil disobedience in Scripture: the Hebrew midwives’ disobedience of the Pharaoh’s command to commit infanticide, and Daniel’s refusal to pay obeisance to King Nebuchadnezzar. Civil authorities do not have absolute authority over Christians because their authority is derivative; it is derived from God’s absolute sovereign authority over the cosmos. Following from Scripture, the church generally considers civil authority to be legitimate insofar as it does not “assume to [itself] the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Westminster Confession of Faith), or “enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). In this case, MacArthur believes his state and county government had violated the former.
Certainly, we ought to pray that churches in Singapore will be bold to resist should our government take away our religious freedoms or force us to act against our collective consciences. May God give us courage when that day comes! However, such resistance can only be a final resort when all other avenues of resolution have been exhausted. This is to take St Paul’s injunction to submit to authorities in Romans 13 seriously, lest it becomes a bar which can be lowered at will. One wonders if MacArthur genuinely cares about that injunction since Grace Community Church is not left without options: they are not banned from holding services and can still hold indoor services with less than a hundred persons or take their services outdoors. Judging from the official statement of Los Angeles county, it is difficult to imagine they bothered with compromises.
Furthermore, the restrictions could scarcely be considered illegitimate. Puritan theologian Richard Baxter asked this question 350 years ago: “May we omit church-assemblies on the Lord’s day, if the magistrate forbid them?” He then answered in the affirmative: “If the magistrate for a greater good, (as the common safety,) forbid church-assemblies in a time of pestilence, assault of enemies, or fire, or the like necessity, it is a duty to obey him.” Baxter would consider the preservation of lives more crucial than the duty to gather for worship, and since the duty to gather for worship is not one to be carried out without exceptions, it makes sense to suspend services temporarily to allow for their quicker resumption (rather than to carry on and risk long term stoppages due to the pandemic worsening).
Even if there is an overreach and the church’s protest is legitimate, would St Paul and St Peter have approved of the way it carried out its civil disobedience? Prior to Romans 13 are St Paul’s exhortations to humility and love within and without the church. Yet, conspicuously absent in MacArthur’s statement and address is love for his neighbours. There is scarcely concern for the sufferers of the pandemic or the well-being of those not belonging to his church. Instead, he encourages irresponsible behaviour that could lead to greater community transmissions. It is one thing for the church to defy the state, but it is another thing to cause harm while defying the state. No instance of civil disobedience in Scripture is maleficent because that would be contrary to the love for neighbour. St Peter suffered for his obedience to God in his flesh but did not implicate others in it.
An angry but perceptive Baptist commentator pointed out that perhaps Isaiah 1:10-17 would be an appropriate indictment for MacArthur, that if the church gathers to worship God while ignoring the suffering of the people in their communities, or worse, contributing to it, then perhaps it is better off not gathering at all. Why would God be pleased at such a worship if he desires mercy over sacrifice? Would it not be a better worship if the church suffers inconvenience for a while for the sake of others in the community? If God the Son suffered more than just inconvenience for our sakes as an act of obedient sacrifice to God the Father, then surely the church who lives by his Spirit can suffer a minor inconvenience for the sake of others?
Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Yet, Romans 13 shows that sometimes the two are not necessarily opposed. Sometimes, what Caesar requires could just be what God requires, and in this case, the greater good of the community over a selfish tribalistic assertion of religious rights and authority. There is much to be thankful for in Singapore where churches are freely cooperating with the civil authorities in this pandemic for the well-being of fellow citizens. For now, we can only pray that the mistake of Grace Community Church and its leaders will not result in further community outbreaks and greater loss of life. God help us.
In the Bible, God’s holy Word, we are instructed to encourage one another. (Hebrews 3:12-14 and Hebrews 10:24-25). To me, one of the best ways to encourage one another is to “pray for one another”. Why do we need to pray for one another? Where can praying for one another be visibly happened? How do we go about praying for one another? What can we pray for when we are praying for one another? These are questions which can be addressed in this pastoral perspective.
Firstly, the question is: “Why do we need to pray for one another?” We pray for one another so that we can encourage one another as I have mentioned earlier. It is to bring before God the needs of others, praying that God will keep them from falling away due to the deceitfulness of sins in their lives. It is to plead before the holy and righteous God to bestow mercies and grace upon them to deliver them from the perils of evils.
When you see something and do nothing about what you have seen, to me, that is being irresponsible! It is the same with prayer! It is our responsibility and privilege to pray for one another. This is what the Body of Christ is meant to be. Each member of the Body is not independent of each other but is dependent upon one another. We need each other for support and encouragement. That is where the “Praying for one Another” comes in! If we do not pray for one another, how then can we support one another? Prayer encourages each other’s heart and fortifies each other’s faith! You have a need and you share it. I have a need and I share it. We mutually encourage one another by bringing our needs as requests to our generous and gracious Heavenly Father God, knowing confidently that He will hear and answer us. We need to go beyond just praying but more than that, we need to enjoy communing with God and confiding in Him our earnest desire and delight.
Secondly, I would like to address this question: “Where can praying for one another be visibly happened?” This can happen in our small groups which we called: “Discipleship Groups.” When the Discipleship Group gathers, the group members can share their personal needs with one another and then, can break into groups of three or four to pray for one another. After such Praying Time together, it can be very refreshing and uplifting! The group members are relieved, realising that their needs are committed into the hands of their kind and loving Heavenly Father God. They are no longer worried over their problems and issues. They have cast all their cares upon Him who cares for them (1 Peter 5:6-7). God is the One who strengthens and sustains them.
Another place for this to take place is at the Church Prayer Meetings. In such a regular meeting, there will be a moment where they break into groups of three or four to share needs and pray for each other’s needs. When each one opens themselves up freely and gladly to share, there is spontaneity and thrill in praying for one another. No one feels intimidated by the other! All feel the warmth and the love of being together in the Body. The peace of Christ rules in the hearts of the people of God who gathers in prayers. Frankness and gratefulness are essential qualities within the Community of Faith. Transparency and authenticity are also prominent in such gathering of the believers in Christ.
The other place for praying for one another to be visibly happened is in a Christian family where the members of the family have their regular family altars (i.e. a place where they worship God with theologically-sound songs, share the precious Word of God together and pray for one another.) Each family member shares their concerns and then lifts these concerns up to the Almighty God in prayer.
Thirdly, when addressing this question: “How do we go about praying for one another?”, I am referring to the methods or means to carry out a task. Praying for one another can come in several forms. You can begin by focusing on a certain topic and then extend it further to cover related topics. When a group member shares about a personal struggle, the same related thing can be identified by the other group member who may then consider whether to open himself up to share it. It requires time and effort to interact and connect for such a matter in a small group of three or four people. It is always good to have at least one or two matured ones in each group when praying together. There must be mutual trust and love within the group. It is good to ascertain confidentiality in each Discipleship Group right from the start when they form the group.
When praying for one another, you can assign a starter and a finisher. The starter can begin praying simply and briefly for how he has been doing in his spiritual life whether he is able to meet God regularly in reading the Bible and praying to Him. The other group member can continue praying for the similar focus. If the group member decides to move to another focus, it is still fine. More importantly, it is to commit earnest requests to the Lord in prayer. Another group member may feel burden to pray for today’s teens and their challenges. The finisher will eventually bring the whole group to a round-up prayer.
Finally, what can we pray for when we are praying for one another? I would like to suggest a couple of topics for our consideration. We can pray for our spiritual lives. We can pray that we would not neglect the necessity and the importance of spending time alone with God. We can pray that we would genuinely confess our sins to God and determine, with God’s grace and helps, to turn from our sinful ways. We can pray that we will be considerate and thoughtful towards each other in the Community of Faith. We can pray that we will deliberately speak encouraging words to one another. We can pray that we would courageously share our faith with those who have not heard of our Living Saviour Jesus Christ. We can pray that we will be willing to reach out to the needy ones around us. We can pray that we would love one another and respect one another. We can pray that we would be sensitive to the needs of others and minister to their needs wisely. We can pray that we would make the effort to get to know people and love them as Christ Jesus has loved us.
By sharing all these, it is my earnest prayer that we would take seriously this concept of “Praying for One Another.” May God guide, help and inspire us! Amen.