7 Oct 2011

Communion and Prayer: The Fellowship of the Saints

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Discipleship, Kingdom, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines, Worship
Many people in the last decade and a half have felt their lives lacking something of a “spiritual” nature. We went to “church” on a routine basis but that did not seem to fill the void. I was one of those people. My religious background had prepared me quite well for defending some doctrinal propositions and equipped me for fairly good “bible study.” Coming from my background, though, I rarely thought of my journey with God in terms of “relationship” but more in ritualistic terms such as “being a member of the Church” (as I used to put it).

One day, it was 1997, a lady in my congregation came to me and asked me to teach her how to pray. This was a most unusual question for me – isn’t that a great irony! Up to this point in my journey prayer was simply something I did . . . a command to fulfill. As a result I can testify that my own prayer life was quite superficial. I said thank you at meals, asked for forgiveness of sins and the like. But I did not know how to pray.  I probably still don’t.

To be honest I was of no help to this dear sister . . . however she caused me some serious angst. I read in Scriptures of God’s People having dynamic “relationships” with God. They were quite conscious of his Presence in their lives.

In my own journey I discovered that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that I had inherited (based on a certain school of philosophy known as Lockean) made “experiencing” the divine Presence a virtual impossibility. But the more I read the scripture the more I realized that something was not right . . . God did want me to experience his gracious Presence.

Through great passages like Exodus 24.1-11 and Ephesians 1 and 3 I came to see that “communion” is one of the central organizing themes of Scripture. God created us for communion (i.e. relationship and intimacy) and God redeemed us to restore the communion (i.e. relationship and intimacy) that had been lost. The Cross was not, and is not, an “end” but a “means” to the goal . . . that is intimate, rich, deep, restored communion with the Almighty.

Communion, therefore, necessarily implies “community.” Indeed it demands it! Again, through Bible study I have come to a much more dynamic view of God’s Family, the church. In fact God’s Church/Family is the greatest “thing” on planet Earth. Paul in Eph. 1.18-19 tells us of God’s “riches” concentrated among the saints and in 3.14ff he tells us of a family that is in “heaven and on earth.” In the past I had pretty much limited God’s church (drastically) to a few “sound” Churches of Christ but this passage (others helped) rewrote my entire ecclesiology. God’s family was hardly limited to my “local” fellowship but was cosmic in dimension transcending not only cultural barriers but also the barriers of history. We have fellowship with God’s Family, even those who have gone on before. Paul makes it quite clear that it is together (i.e. in communion!) with “all” the saints we experience, know, God’s amazing love and Presence. Of course Hebrews 11 and Revelation reflect this deeper and more “mysterious” notion of communion.

Because of my new found respect and appreciation for God’s Family, I have determined that they can be a blessing to my life. How? Through prayer. Perhaps one of the biggest changes in my theology is that I now believe in joining the saints in worship . . . especially prayer!

There is an unbelievably rich heritage of prayer among the saints. I began to pray the Psalms in the mid-1990s but now I also incorporate the prayers that many saints have written down through the ages. I join them, I appropriate their words and make them mine. I did not know how to pray on many occasions (through the dark days of my divorce is but one example) and many of these saints . . . nameless ones . . . have providentially given me a treasure of which I can never repay. Now I feel as if I have plugged into the rhythm of grace and flow with the river of the Spirit.

Bobby Valentine

One Response to “Communion and Prayer: The Fellowship of the Saints”

  1. kingdomseeking Says:

    I understand…I also hope that such a conversation as overcoming the lack of true communion with God will be a foreign conversation to our children.

    Grace and Peace,

    K. Rex Butts

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