Happy Birthday, St. John’s! This week marks the 125th Anniversary of our church
and school. Just eight days span the founding of our twin arms of ministry. From
birth, church and school have grown up together. They shared a space just across
Brainard Avenue from where we are today. They valued children. They worshiped
together. They were people whom God raised up to pray first and pray most.
The summer of 1886 was a busy one for the founders. They had met in May with a
vision of reaching farther from their congregation in Hillside. The great city
they bordered, however, was filled with fear and retreat. Just weeks before the
city was horrified by the Haymarket Massacre. It didn’t stop the founders. They
pressed on and were ready for school by September 19. When times are tough, the
faithful pray first and pray most.
The building they erected can’t be measured by its modest size (26’ x 38’). They
were raising up disciples in Christian community. Their building’s primary
features weren’t wood or stone. This was a house that prayer built. By the grace
of God they built the one thing that lasts: people. It’s people connected to
Jesus that makes a true church building. Everything else decays. That’s why we
hold everything we desire to build next to the heart of Jesus. It’s why building
a church is a matter of pray first and pray most.
When it comes to building a house of God, the Bible is crystal clear, “unless
the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1). These
words are the inspiration of our prayer ministry at St. John’s. Did you know
that dozens of people prayed for 40 days this summer before we launched the 40
Days initiative in late August? Did you know your church council prays daily
together through an email exchange? Did you know that our teachers pray together
before each day’s classes? Did you know that weekly dozens of people are
organized to pray for this congregation, for our leaders and for the Christian
Church’s movement into the world?
Even with all this praying, I can’t say that we always “pray first” nor can I
say that we spend “the most” of our time praying. What I can say is that Jesus
did—often praying all night. Many of the first Christians prayed with the same
intensity. Their prayers resulted in lives saved and a movement that reached to
the present day. Do we believe prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16)?
Do we believe a request that brings glory to Jesus is a done deal (John 14:13)?
Do we believe God always does good for those who love him (Romans 8:28)? Do we
believe Jesus is right there with people who pray together (Matthew 18:20)? If
we believe these things, then to pray first before we act and to pray most in
all that we do is a building plan that cannot fail.
Pray first… pray most is the theme of this anniversary Sunday because this is
how the Christian Church was built and this is our lifeline to the future. I can
see how these 40 Days are transforming us as a community. The prayers that paved
the way for our 9-11 day in the community, our mission festival and today’s
anniversary ministry fair are clearly building a momentum that is miraculous and
Spirit-filled. Our prayers have opened our eyes to the future that God has
called this generation to build and the future is here. It’s not something we’re
waiting for; we are living it out as Jesus’ hands and feet to the world.
God has brought the world to our doorstep and we have the privilege of being
Jesus’ witnesses right here in “Jerusalem” (our congregation) but also beyond.
The future is out there in Judea—the neighborhoods we live in. It is in Samaria
as new cultures come to our cities. And it extends to the ends of the earth, in
an age of communication and transportation connecting people like no other time
in history. We live in exciting times for the church. Reach farther, St. John’s!
Keep moving forward the legacy you have received. And as we build together, pray
first and pray most!
(c)2011 St. John's Lutheran Church and School |
505 S Park RD | La Grange IL 60525
See the Archives for Previous Issues