Yesterday, I attended a National Day of Prayer breakfast. Though I can’t give you an exact number of attendees, I would guess there were about 20 tables, with 10 people to a table. The average age in the room was probably 50, and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was the youngest one there. A few people, whom I had never met before, expressed how they were glad I came; they were glad that someone from the younger generation came. The truth is, I almost did not go. As I was driving there, there was a millisecond where the introverted side of me cried out to turn back, but the joys of praying with other believers and being unified with brothers and sisters was enough to squelch that side of me.
I sat at a table where I knew no one, but I quickly met Cliff and Carolyn, who retired from the ministry, and Marilyn. For years, Cliff worked with the state, but after he retired from work, he entered the pastorate and shepherded two churches in two different towns. After he retired from preaching, one of the churches he preached at dissolved, and he said it should have closed down before he started preaching there. The other church, however, is still alive. At the church that is now no more, Cliff and his wife did everything with no help, and Cliff stated quite plainly that you cannot run a church that way. In that same town, there were maybe eight other churches, but church attendance was around 20% of the population, which is not that much when you are talking about a small town in Kansas. And when I talked with Marilyn, she said that her church is actually two churches that were melded, because they were getting too small to afford the separate spaces where they were meeting.
It was humbling to hear those accounts of churches that are growing older, growing smaller, and/or dying out. At my church, we have both young and old families, with enough kids and adults to make up six Sunday school classes. Of course, we have older people in our fellowship, and their wisdom and light is invaluable, but they do not make up the majority of the population.
I cannot say my church is doing everything right, and neither are we a large assembly, but there is a spirit of hunger there, where each member genuinely wants to grow and learn; I see the torch of faith being passed on. But many of the people at the prayer breakfast may not be able to say the same for their churches, or for their past churches. When I first introduced myself at my table, Cliff asked me if I was a pastor, and though I am not, yet I have been granted wonderful opportunities to grow in my faith and pour into other people for the glory of Christ.
I am grateful for how God has provided for me in so many ways, especially in how He has placed people in my life to encourage me in my walk with Christ. But the journey of faith cannot stop with the growing of self, it must be multiplied with the pouring of self into others.
Before pastors and clergy went up to the podium to pray for the various institutions that make up our nation, there was a time of worship. A husband and wife went forward; the husband sang, Sweet Hour of Prayer Medley, while the wife played the keyboard. He encouraged people to sing with him, since the songs would be familiar to all, but when he sang, no one joined in. I was one of the ones who did not join in, but I did hum in harmony with every song; I couldn’t help from humming songs that have had such a great impact on my life.
Before singing the last part of the medley, the song leader told everyone to sing along. As for me, I couldn’t help but sing out and smile as we sang the chorus from, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. That short time of worship brought joy to my heart and set my focus on where it needed to be. Though I was worshiping my King, yet He chose to bless me; He is pretty awesome.
After the song was over, Marilyn turned to me, and said, with tears in her eyes, “Thank you for singing.” And a man across the table put his hand over his heart and expressed the same. I think I said, “You’re welcome,” in response, but mostly because I didn’t know what else to say. But now I know what I should have said: “How can I keep from singing? I worship my Creator with every breath, so purposefully breathing words in praise to His name cannot be thanks to me, but thanks to the One Who gives me breath and a reason to sing. Praise be to God. Thanks be to His Name. Amen.” Now, I would not have said that simply out of modesty, but because it is true.
As I think back to that room full of people, I wonder how many voices joined in song; how many hearts echoed the words being sung; and how many souls were being poured out in praise for an awesome King? We were there to pray to God and ask for His hand to guide and to protect, but were we only there to ask for stuff and not to praise the One Who answers and gives us every good thing?
Church itself should not be a place where people go only to receive, it must also be a place where souls are poured out for the good of the whole and for the good of those who are still lost. As a nation, we are selfish and self-centered. We worship so many things, but rarely take the time to worship the only One Who is worthy of all our praise.
At the National Day of Prayer breakfast, people thanked me for coming and thanked me for singing, and I was glad to come and to sing, but it cannot stop with me. My assembly and my generation, every one of us, needs to have the courage to go, the courage to sing, and the courage to worship our King wherever we are, even if we feel like we are alone.
I always need to go where God leads, I always need to sing praises to His name, and I cannot stop praying. This world desperately needs Jesus. They need to know that there is always a reason to sing, a reason to rejoice, a reason to hope; the reason is Jesus Christ, all that He has done and all that He will do.
Thank you, Jesus, for the ability and the freedom to worship you. Even if I am the only one singing, and even if my voice is drowned out in the crowd, may I never cease to praise your name with all of my being. You are the reason I am alive, the reason I breathe, so how can I keep from singing Your praise? May I never cease to sing Your praise.
I love You, Jesus.
How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love!
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King,
And it makes my heart want to sing. (Chris Tomlin)
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. (Civilla D. Martin)