The podcast at the end of this article is no longer a simple reading of the Coffee Stain, but a short message based on it. When I first come back to Europe I suffer 'withdrawal pains” from American sports. I don't know why, but my wife never seems to have the shakes over missing a football game. I guess I'm not as spiritual as she is. So, I content myself mostly with reading about my teams on internet and occasionally watching a European sports match. Some are a little lame. My friend Roger always laments the time he was reduced to watching women's' synchronized swimming on television. That's when you really are desperate for any kind of sports. But I'm mildly interested in soccer and once in a blue moon I'll watch a rugby match because the French are among the best in the world at this rough sport. You can easily recognize a rugby player by his crooked nose and his cauliflower ears.
One thing that intrigues me about rugby is the scrums. That's when both sides lock up against each other and push. It's looks slightly like two crabs in a wrestling match as the attacking side seeks to push forward and gain an advantage before the ball flys out and all the defenders dash to try to cream the runner.
I'm really impressed when these large fellows lock their arms around each others shoulders and plunge against the heavyweights from the other team who are plunging against them to start the scrum. I've wondered occasionally how they keep from conking their heads together. Maybe that's why their noses all look broken. Can you imagine, though, what would happen if they decided that working together against the other team wasn't really that important? 'Hey Pierre! How long has it been since you've used deodorant? I'm not locking shoulders with you!” Or maybe, 'I don't need you guys. I'm one mean scrummer (or whatever they call them). Just watch!” Whereupon he charges into the behemoths on the other side all by himself and soon finds himself with a broken nose and even larger ears as they work him over. No, if a rugby team is going to win, they're going to have to win together.
When the Church Prays
I have this image of a rugby team when I think of the Church praying”"shoulders locked together, lunging against the works of the devil, feet churning forward, taking ground from the devil.
When the enemy pushes, the Church pushes back in prayer, each one animated by the same thought of victory. That's the way the first Church did it. Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. And they did, digging forward together in prayer,
'They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus' mother, Mary, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:14, The Message).
We find them doing the same thing ten days later when the Spirit fell on them at Pentecost and they rose from the place of prayer to convince thousands to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Later powerful politicians tried to intimidate them, promising dire consequences if they didn't quit talking about Jesus. These were tough characters, well able to carry out their threats. But the Church pushed back in prayer.
'As soon as Peter and John were let go, they went to their friends and told them what the high priests and religious leaders had said. Hearing the report, they lifted their voices in a wonderful harmony in prayer”¦” (Acts 4:24, Message)
Their prayer shook the heavens and the Spirit shook the place of their prayer meeting as He refilled them with boldness and power to keep on preaching Jesus.
It's important for each of us to pray individually daily but I fear we've forgotten how powerful the prayers of the Church are, when its member are all gathered together calling on Jesus. We've got plenty of time in our services for singing, preaching, and fellowshipping. But how often do we lock shoulders in prayer and push against the enemy? Now be careful. Sometimes the super spiritual want to criticize and feel they are so much better. That solves nothing. We need to pray. As a young pastor in the States, I preached hard work in order to win the lost. You would have found us all over the town trying to get people to church and win them to the Lord. That was good, but one of the most powerful weeks we ever had in that church, we did nothing but come and pray together. There was such a spirit of faith in those nightly prayer meetings as people told of what they felt in their heart that God was going to do. The following Sunday there was nothing special but we had more people in Sunday School than we ever had had in the history of that church. We broke the record each of the next two weeks. That first Sunday morning after the prayer meeting there was a powerful presence of the Lord in the services and a lady was healed. Our work is important but no more important that our prayers together. Let's lock our shoulders together and push against the works of the devil. The Church desperately needs to pray.