"You are gathered under the banner of shared convictions to pray your way through a battle for the hearts and minds of everyone concerned. You seek to carry one another's burdens while fighting the good fight." from Book of Dreams by Davis Bunn.
I believe in group prayer and I think the above definition is one of the best I've ever seen, in spite of the fact that it comes from a novel. One of the things that struck me from my There Is a Season Bible study this week is that we, as believers, have been given tools to help us fight the good fight.
The first tool is a spiritual gift, whether it be teaching, serving others, showing mercy... whatever. We need natural talents in order to do our jobs, take care of our families, etc. God gives us spiritual talents as well in order to help build up His family, accomplish His purposes.
The second piece of "equipment" that we have as believers is closely allied to the first. In Colossians 1:9, Paul says that he never stops praying for the people at Colossae, asking that they might "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." In other words, if we wait on Him, seek His will, then He will give us spiritual wisdom and direct us into the works that He has for us to do. Oddly enough, the novel also comments on this (although I don't think Davis Bunn and Laurie Cole were collaborating on the Bible study and the novel together...:)
In the novel, an Anglican Vicar tells one of his parishioners, "But the one thing that still raises my hackles is when a parishioner comes in here spouting off about receiving some gift of the Spirit or another, like they'd just been crowned on High Street. God bestows moments of higher awareness for a divine reason. Your job is to remain humble before the throne, and accept whatever direction he points you in." And really this quote covers the first two "tools" that a believer has at their disposal - a spiritual gift and also divine insight or spiritual wisdom. But as the novel and the workbook make clear, neither "tool" is about us - neither is meant to reflect our glory or our intellect or our ability, but rather His. And every tool we have is given to us for a purpose - to build up the body of believers and advance His kingdom.
Not only are we given a spiritual "talent" and spiritual wisdom (when we seek it), but we are also given spiritual or supernatural power. In II Corinthians 4, Paul compared his body to a fragile clay jar and talked about being afflicted but not crushed, "perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken; stuck down but not destroyed." Why? Because there was a treasure inside his earthly "container" (or "tent" as II Cor. 5 puts it) and this treasure was a supernatural power that clearly did not come from him, a power that sustained him and even shone through him during all of his trials and tasks on earth. We have the same power within and when we rely on God, this power, the Holy Spirit, can produce some wonderful things: love, joy, peace, patience... (Gal. 5:22-23)
We have two more tools. One is a training manual. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." II Timothy 3:16-17. We have the words of Scripture to train us in the neglected art of righteousness :). I see my husband walking around the house with a manual on home remodeling. He has it at the table where he can sit down and read it or he has it in the bathroom he's remodeling, where he can glance at it's pages. Often he has pencil and paper nearby so that he can jot down facts and figures from this book as he trains himself in the art of laying tile. And, to my dismay at times!
he talks about what he is learning non-stop. When he finally notices my "this-isn't-getting-into-my-head-at-all" look, he apologizes and says that really, he's just thinking out loud. Clearly, he is in training and I can see two things: A) how much he relies on this manual and B) how amazing the work of his hands is as he follows the guide book.
The last tool mentioned is the fact that we belong to a body of believers, a ready-made family. Some of the people in this family we may like and some we may not. Some may be helpful and some may be the opposite. But we are instructed not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, to avail ourselves of this ready-made family because loners are more subject to attack. AS we go through training here on earth and try to build into the kingdom of God, as we learn to rely on God's power instead of our own as well as on His wisdom instead of our own, we're going to accumulate some bruises along the way, we're going to get hurt, possibly attacked, and certainly confused at times. WE need the support of a spiritual family just like we need the support of a biological family.
And God has equipped every believer with these tools: a spiritual talent or gift; the ability to receive spiritual wisdom - to know His will; supernatural power to carry out these tasks; a training manual in righteousness; and a ready-made family to, among other things, help us pray our way through spiritual battles and to help us carry our life burdens, as the first quote above indicates.
As I thought about these "tools" while doing the Bible study and reading the Davis Bunn novel, which by the way, is not only rich in spiritual insight but definitely a page-turner as well, it dawned on me: how idiotic to think that God would save us and call us to good works without also equipping us. Somehow, although I knew that, yes, we have the Bible, and yes, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, and yes, we have the church, etc, I had never looked at these blessings as a list of tools that God has given us to help us do His kingdom work. Knowing I have these things in my "arsenal" or "tool box" has given me a whole new perspective.