Around eighteen months ago I wrote a blog post on the joy of attending a prayer meeting; so in the spirit of better late than never here's the next part to it! Truth be told, this was not a post I could have written back then because it has only been over the last six months or so that I've actually regularly started to look forward to going to church. Although it still surprises me when I wake up on Sunday and I find that I'm actually eager to attend.
Before I get started I'd also like to say that while the title to this piece speaks of abundant joy then that is still very much an aim for me. Most of us will hopefully know the partial joy of church attendance and it is my hope and prayer that this will spur us on to seek its abundant joy.
The first and most basic joy is that of obedience. As the 4th commandment goes: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God." (Exodus 20v9-10) Even if our Lord's day is otherwise a joyless affair and we can see no point in attending church at least we do go. When all other joys fail there can still be the joy of duty, however minor such a joy may be.
There are many Christians who never attend their church’s prayer meeting; a church which has hundreds of people on a Sunday may have just ten percent attend the prayer meeting, on a good night. Maybe you’re one of them and maybe you’re expecting a judgemental rant but I'm sorry to disappoint for all I have for you is pity, great pity, for you are losing out on a joy that is scarcely matched.
Humanly speaking, it isn’t much, a group of people meeting together to speak out loud to their God with varying degrees of oratory skill, passion and length. And that’s it. Most prayer meetings go on for an hour and a half, not much longer, barely worth the effort of attending, in human terms.
Spiritually speaking though we’re talking about something far beyond the usual. Prayer meetings are feasts for the soul, they are the heart beat of a local church, they are a refreshing dip into the fountain of all life and love, they are meeting and communing with Christ, they are joy, so much joy. My friends, you know not joy until you have tasted the banquet of a prayer meeting. You know not fellowship until you have banded together with a group of brothers and sisters in prayer. You know not God as he needs to be known unless you have come into his presence in a prayer meeting.
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61 v 10
Six months ago I would have read this verse and it would have barely registered with me. Six months ago if someone had told me that main problem in life was the fact that I did not delight in God I would looked at them in a quizzical manner because the very concept of delighting in God would have seemed alien to my mind. Six months ago I was a cold hearted, unfeeling and blind fool. And in all likelihood I could write that same sentence in six months time and it would still be true.
What have I learnt since then? I have learnt much and most of it the hard way. But foundational point number one would be that my soul has a yearning to delight in something. I seek a satisfaction that has to be found, a fulfilment that has to be fulfilled, my soul is thirsty and needs water and in my folly I sought this out from things that were not God.