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PURPOSE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER PRAYER WEEK: A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Date: June 20, 2017


By Aps. S. O. Asante – New Tafo Area Head

It seems of late, much attention is not being placed on the Lord’s Supper prayer week in the local assemblies as it used to be. Its importance is gradually declining and even where the week’s prayer meetings seem to be taken serious, some leaders of the local assemblies shift the focus on something different. In these days of “revivalism”, “deliverance” and “prophetism”, the Lord’s Supper prayer week has become another “prayer centre” type of meetings in many assemblies. There is, therefore, the need to take a retrospective look into the purpose for which the Lord’s Supper prayer week was instituted in The Church of Pentecost. It is unfortunate the way the word “revival” is being used in our days and some light would be thrown on it shortly.

As a child growing up in the Church, I recall how our parents took these prayer meetings seriously. Some closed from work very early so they could finish their household chores on time to participate in the prayer meetings. Others did not go to their homes after work or wherever they went, since they did not want to be late or miss the meetings. For some, time at the meetings was of essence; they were always at the meetings on time so they would not be deprived of any aspect of the meetings, including opening prayers. Furthermore, others made it a time for personal retreats and revivals, fasting without any directives from the local leadership or district ministers of the Church. It was the same with me as I grew up in the Church.

The Lord’s Supper prayer weeks were times with deep teachings of the word of God from the Pastorate, Elders and other leaders in the local assemblies, with the desire, like the apostle Paul, to see Christ formed in us (Gal. 4:19; cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:13). Prayer times in the week were largely, confession of sins with tears, weeping for any sins in our lives to be virtually eradicated (Joel 1:13-14); seeking the face of God for the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence, strengthening, and our availability to Him to use us. They were actually times of true personal and corporate revivals in the Church. The spiritually weak were actually strengthened and the Lord’s Supper Sunday was heaven come down.

However, in these times, the love for these prayer meetings is almost dead and as a Church, we need to arise if we can impact our generation and bequeath the right legacy of the Lord’s Supper prayer week to the next generations. There is therefore the need to call our attention to why the early fathers of the Church instituted the Lord’s Supper prayer week and loved it so much.

Though written documents cannot be found on why the week was instituted, I wish to share what I saw, the experiences I had with the Church from childhood, and certain things I picked from our parents during the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks, which I think could throw some light on the expectations of the fathers (and mothers) of the Church. In other words, we would look at some effects on the members in the early days of the Church during and after the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks which could propel us as a Church to renew or motivate our patronage during these periods in the assemblies. Five things come to mind, which are,

  1. Spiritual and Moral Preparation

The first and foremost thing I observed during the Lord’s Supper prayer week which informs me of a purpose for which it was instituted was to prepare members spiritually and morally through prayers and teachings to be fit to dine with the Lord at His table during the Lord’s Supper day. Reading from 1 Cor. 11:26-32, it is realised that when Paul taught the Corinthian Church on Lord’s Supper, he made them aware of the fact that they were to be fit spiritually and morally before partaking of it so that they would not eat and drink judgement on themselves. Since anyone who ate of the bread and drunk of the Lord’s cup in an unworthy manner brought condemnation on themselves, Paul admonished them to examine themselves critically before they participated in it.

By self-examination, God expects us to reflect on our own character, motives and actions, in order to judge whether they are truly in accordance with Christian values and His word. The self-examination is to be done on the basis of God’s revelation of himself and the example he has set believers in Jesus Christ. It is therefore to be done on the basis of God’s word and genuine convictions of the Holy Spirit. Self-examination is always important, especially, before confessing one’s sins. Though self-examination is not easy because of humanity’s fallen nature (Ps. 19:12-14; cf. Jer. 17:9), God is always ready to help (Ps. 26:2; also Job 7:17-18; 13:9-23; Ps. 11:4-5; 139:23-24; Pro. 5:21; Jer 17:10).

The Lord’s Supper prayer week should, therefore, be a period set aside for us to really examine ourselves in the light of God’s word to ensure that we are still in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5-6) which would also grant us the right and the boldness to partake in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:28). Thus, for this purpose, the Lord’s Supper prayer week is to be given all the serious attention it deserves.

  1. Teachings on the Lord’s Supper

Another prominent thing recollected as I grew in the Church in relation to the Lord’s Supper prayer week was the in-depth and intensive teachings given by the officers of the local assemblies on the Lord’s Supper. This was done so that we would partake in it with all the spiritual meaning and understanding it deserved. The apostle Paul did that for the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. 11:17-34; also, 1 Cor. 10:14-17). He taught them to really understand what the Lord’s Supper was, how they were to approach it in character and the manner in which they were to partake in it.

A day before Jesus Christ was crucified, the day He instituted the Lord’s Supper, where He together with His apostles ate it for the first time, He also gave careful teachings on the meal (Mtt. 26:17-30; // Mk. 14:12-26; // Lk.22:7-38). He also made allusions to it in Jn. 6:27-58. Thus, both Jesus Christ and Paul taught on the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament to encourage the Church to stick to it. As an ordinance, the Lord did not only talk about it, He also commanded His followers to commemorate it as part of their regular services.

Since the Lord’s Supper is celebrated on a Sunday immediately after the Lord’s Supper prayer week, it was only proper for the Church leaders to teach it during the period, before it was taken. This made it possible for members to attend the meal fully prepared and the presence of God was always felt.

The Lord’s Supper could be defined as “The commemoration and remembrance of Jesus Christ’s last supper, and all the benefits that result to believers.” Like water baptism, it is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” While “water baptism” indicates spiritual life begun, the “Lord’s Supper” expresses a spiritual life being continued. It demonstrates ones loyalty to Christ after becoming His disciple. I think that if there was a day that all members were to be present at Church service it should be the Lord’s Supper day. It is a day that one demonstrates to God, the devil and all Christians that their loyalty to Christ was intact as we partake of the Lord’s Supper meal.

However, with the Church today, if there is a day that many “intentionally” decide not to attend Church service, it is this special day of dinning with the Lord. Statistics in the Church indicates that around just 30% of our membership averagely partake in the Lord’s Supper monthly. This calls for a careful introspective look and examination of our Christian life, and more intensive teachings on this great sacred meal of the Lord with His Church. One thing that needs to be driven home is the fact that the Lord’s Supper is a continuation of the “sacred meals” that God had with His people in the Old Testament.

Scripture indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper at the occasion of His last Passover meal (a sacred meal) with His disciples (Mtt. 26:17-30; Mk. 14:12-26; Lk.22:7-38) just hours before He died on the cross. This link with the Passover meal demonstrates that the Lord’s Supper is also a sacred meal for the New Testament Church and for that matter, all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, just as the Old Testament sacred meals’ commemorations meant the celebration of God’s special relationship with the Israelites in like manner the Lord’s Supper also observes a similar relationship between the Church and the Lord. Again, the Old Testament sacred meals were viewed as sanctifying those who participated in them and it has the same significance for the church today as we partake in it.

These therefore makes the Lord’s Supper so important that whenever we set days aside to prepare ourselves for it, we need to give an in-depth teachings of it to the members so that we would dine with the Lord spiritually informed to obtain all its benefits.

  1. Teachings on Tithes and Missions Offerings

It was also observed that during the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks, teachings on tithes and missions offerings were also intensive. One thing we have adopted and do as a Church, which, I think, has really helped us is that on the Lord’s Supper day, we ‘formerly’ give our tithes (this does not negate the fact that one could give his/her tithes on other Sundays which are not Lord’s Supper days). As a Church, we believe that tithing is still relevant and that when we give faithfully, the Lord blesses us (Mal. 3:6-18). God told the Israelites to test Him in tithing to see if He would not bless them. We can testify that if we give our tithes faithfully to the Lord, He blesses us and that those who do not give at all or do not give faithful fail to receive the blessings God has associated with it.

We also need to note that within The Church of Pentecost, tithes are the main sources of funding all Church activities and projects from National to local assemblies. This also motivated our fathers to take teaching on tithing very seriously; something we need to emulate. Other sources of funding for the Church that goes to the Headquarters include Conventions’ Proceeds (Easter and Christmas) and Ministry Week funds (but they form just a small percentage).

On the contrary, while many think that “there is a room at the Headquarters where tithes are kept,” it is gratifying to indicate that a large chunk of the tithes we pay gets back to the areas, districts and especially the local assemblies. Right from the local through the districts to the area levels, 10% of all tithes are deducted as development funds at the respective levels before the net is sent to the Headquarters. In addition, the Church allows light bills, water bills, rent (where applicable), Lord’s Supper meals elements and ministers fuel to be deducted at the appropriate respective levels.

In addition to these, the Area is allowed to deduct 10% of the net tithes for Headquarters as Accelerated Infrastructural Development Fund (AIDF) to support ongoing projects, especially, projects nearing completion in the districts and local assemblies. Furthermore the Church has instituted other supports from what goes to the Headquarters to benefit, mainly, local assemblies’ church building projects. These are Headquarters grants and Community Base Church Building (CBCB or Pavilion) projects grants. At times, Head Office sends special grants to support other projects as when the need arise.

Furtherance to the above, it is out of tithes that all Church of Pentecost staffs (clerical and non clerical) salaries are paid as well as purchasing of vehicle for some Areas. The church’s projects at the national level are also financed from these monies.

With these understanding of the divine nature of tithes as instituted by God and the use of the Churches monies, intensive and well explained teachings are to be given on tithes during the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks so that we could be faithful to God in our giving of it. These were some of the things our fathers understood and taught during the Lord’s Supper prayer week and we need to continue.

But as they taught on tithes, I realised attention was also given to teaching on Missions Offering which is used to support both the church’s internal and, especially, external missions. Attention needs to be given to it to move the Church’s missions work in heaps and beyond bounds. The Great Commission is for all nations in the world.

  1. Spiritual Revival

Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper prayer week was noted to be a means of causing spiritual revival within the Church (individually and corporately) to enhance our spiritual growth as a Church. As a result of this, the leadership of the Church at the locals and district levels periodically called for fasting to accompany the prayer meetings. Some individuals on their own fasted even when they had not been instructed to do so. This was because they saw the prayer weeks as an opportunity to be in tune with the Lord and grow spiritually.

It is sad the way the word “revival” is being used in our day. Revival for many today is a time for “healing” and “deliverance” prayers and “prophetism”. But that is not how the church has used the term. It is true that during revivals, healings and deliverance could take place; they should be seen only as by products or fruits of true revival and not revival itself.

Revival is from the word, “Revive” which means to “bring back to life”; it could be “a dead person” or “someone who has gone into comma” whose life must be restored, or “a quenched fire” that needs to be rekindled. Spiritually too, if Christians are not alert, they could go into spiritual sleep, comma or even death and the fire of God in them could quench. The purpose of revival is to bring such individuals or churches back to life or on fire. The vital and fervent relationship between them and God that had declined must be restored. Reliance on the Holy Spirit is important since He brings about the needed vitality for God to truly reign in us.

One definition for revival is, “The sovereign activity of God whereby he renews his people individually and corporately in vigor, affecting both sincerity of belief and quality of behaviour [by the power of the Holy Spirit].” Thus the first focus for every true revival is to see a Christ like change in peoples’ lives demonstrated in true Christianity as we depend on the Holy Spirit. It is entirely the work of God; ours is availability.

Paul in wanting Timothy to come out of his timidity and weaknesses and to arise to his calling reminded him of his sincere faith which first lived in him as a result of the spiritual training he received from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. He admonished him to fun into flames (revive) the gifts of God in him since “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:5-7). In Eph. 5:14, Paul admonishes believers to wake up form their sleep and rise from their death for Christ to shine in them. Heb. 12:12 states, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” (also, Isa. 35:3). This is the kind of revival that needs to be seen in the Church after the Lord’s Supper prayer week as it did in the early days of the Church.

An eye witness narration of a taste of revival in 1907, a year after, when modern day Pentecostalism began in 1906 is noted as follows: “In Akron, Ohio, there is a general awakening. People carry their Bibles to the shop with them. And the revival is going on without preachers. People are coming hundreds of miles to attend the meetings. Many have gone from the meeting starting others.”[1] When true revival occurs, these are some of the things we witness. Even without preachers, people are encouraged to read their Bibles everywhere and at anytime, and open churches themselves. It happened in our Church and we can witness it again as we reorganise our Lord’s Supper prayer weeks.

For revivals to happen, the following are some of the essential things to note:

  1. We would have to desire or pray for it in our spiritual lives and the Church (Ps 80:17-19; cf. Ps 74:22; 85:6; Jn. 7:37-39).
  2. We must experience a new awareness of sin. That is, sin must be recognised as sin and not any other thing; and it should be rejected (2 Ki. 22:11; Ps 32:3-5).
  3. We must repent of our sins (2 Chro. 7:14; also, 1 Ki. 8:46-50 pp 2Ch 6:26-27; Isa. 64:1-7; Acts 3:19). It is unfortunate that prayers for repentance and confession of sins are almost gone in the lives of believers and the churches today.
  4. We would need to humble ourselves before the Lord in all situations (2 Chro. 7:14; Isa. 57:15; also Ps. 149:4; Isa. 66:2; Mic. 6:6-8).
  5. We need to know that revival is the work of God (Isa. 59:16 also, Jer. 24:7; 33:6-9; Tit. 3:5). It is a sovereign activity of God and as we make ourselves available to Him, He would bring it to pass in our lives.

These were some of the concerns and prayer topics of the Church during the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks. As we desire and refocus our teachings, preaching and prayers on these, there would be life again in the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks and our churches would glow and grow.

  1. Renewal of Spiritual Gifts

Last but not the least, due to its revival nature, the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks were times where spiritual gifts were renewed and sharpened for the Lord’s use in the Church. The Church was therefore active, vibrant and many people exercised their spiritual gifts. It is regrettable that today, many people run after miracles which were somehow common in our local assemblies and churches. Jesus said, these signs shall accompany those who believe in Him (Mk. 16:17) and not we chasing after them. With the revival of these gifts, the local assemblies became the centre of miracles and healings, and the churches grew though they were not Prayer Centres.

Peter Wagner defines a spiritual gift as “a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ according to God’s grace for use within the context of the Church.”[2] From this definition, at least, five key points could be noted: (i) Spiritual gifts are special attributes; (ii) Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit; (iii) Spiritual gifts are given to every member of the body of Christ (or the Church); (iv) Spiritual gifts are given according to God’s grace and (v) Spiritual gifts are to be used within the context of the Church (i.e. within the Church).

Therefore, we need to note that all believers in Christ Jesus, having received the Holy Spirit in them, have a gift giving through His enablement. The Spirit manifests Himself in all for the common good. To each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it and each one is to use whatever gifts they have received (1 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Pt. 4:10). Again, God wants us to use these gifts to build His Church. As a Church we need to guard against the “breakaway syndrome”, where some people, having received, especially, the power gifts (faith, healing and working of miracles), leave the Church to establish their own prayer groups or churches. Paul says that they do this for their personal self interests and gains (Rom. 16:17-20; Philp. 3:13-21; Tit. 1:10-16). God wants all gifts to operate in the Church and under authority for the good of all.

Furthermore, God expects us to revive or renew these gifts from time to time (2 Tim. 1:6-7; Eph. 5:14). Thus, one means God has granted the Church to renew these gifts is through the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks. Let us pay much attention to this great opportunity to renew our spiritual gifts always during the Lord’s Supper prayer week as it used to be.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, as the church moves into the hands of a new generation, most of whom did not witness the beginnings of the church, and with the desire of the current Church leadership to impact this generation and the next, it is essential that we go back to these fundamental purposes for the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks to bequeath the right legacy around it to the Church. To keep the relevance and success of the week, it should be a time to prepare ourselves spiritually and morally to dine with the Lord. Intensive teachings on the Lord’s Supper itself and tithing should always play key roles during the Lord’s Supper prayer weeks, not forgetting missions’ offerings. The week should also be a time of revival for the corporate church and individual members as we further seek to strengthen each person’s spiritual gifts. If we are able to maintain these, the Church would always march forward with all the vigour it desires. May the Lord God Almighty be with us all.