By Jerry L. Dean
It seems to me that everything should crescendo at this important part of the church service. It’s Selah time, the Holy pause. This is a time for reflection and a chance to respond to what we’ve experienced and heard. Countless times after the hammer ( Jeremiah 23:29) had broken up my heart, the altar service became the hallowed spot where I could repent and be renewed. I felt the Lord calling me to preach during an altar service. I have frequently rededicated my life to the Lord while lingering in His presence around the altar. I am certain that I would have lost many valuable spiritual blessings had it not been for the altar service. I have witnessed a trend today to rush through this important part of the church experience. God forbid. Listed here are seven things that are important to me about the altar service.
- Respond Quickly. Don’t wait to see who else may be going to pray or look around to note who may be watching. Move on out when the appeal is given. Jesus taught us what can happen very quickly after the seed of the Word is sown: “Then corned) the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts” (Luke 8:12). There is no delay on the devil’s part. He goes to work immediately. Move out quickly and start water the seed with prayer and meditation.
- Recognize the Value of Corporate Prayer. When instructing on prayer Jesus taught that we should enter into our closet and shut the door (Matthew 6:6), However, the Scripture is filled with many examples of the corporate prayer meeting. The Holy Ghost fell in a corporate prayer meeting in Acts 2. The saints gathered at the house of Mary to pray for Peter’s deliverance in Acts 12. The altar service is pretty much the only time when the entire church can pray together corporately. It is imperative that we take advantage of this opportunity.
- Stay Alert—Sometime May Need A Prayer Partner. Sometimes praying alone is sufficient and at other times a prayer partner can be a welcome addition. It is obvious that when praying with others, a person must be sensitive to the Spirit. Be cautious about intruding into someone’s space when it appears that a work of the Spirit is going on and privacy would be appreciated. Be respectful. Most people just need you to pray with them; they don’t you to shake them A quivering hand will likely distract them, Loudness in my own ears will definitely distract me. And please„ no bad breath in my face. How can I keep my mind on God with someone breathing down my neck with bad breath? Further, I don’t need 10 different hands laid on my head. This is neither the place nor time for holy power hand competition to see who can get the job done. With this being said there are times when a comforting hand and shoulder is greatly appreciated. It lets me know that I am not alone and that someone is covenanting with me in prayer. An uninvited and unwelcome prayer partner with too much zeal may be one reason some people don’t frequent the altar area more often.
- Get Involved. Please, do something during this time. If you are going to stare at Facebook or Twitter on your cell phone, move on to Applebee’s. When you are uninvolved in the altar service, the message is clear that you’re not interested. Enough already. If you choose not to come to the front, please pray in the pew. The last thing we need is a spectator section during an altar service. Someone may desperately need your help to lay claim to victory. When you pray you are saying, “I care:’ We cannot always know what personal challenge someone may be facing in their life, but our prayers not only can but will help bring about the needed breakthrough.
- Be Patient. People can easily spend an hour on Face-book or Twitter but after only ten minutes around the altar they are ready to leave. We may be into microwaves, but God is still into marinating. “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Is there anything going on in your city as important as what’s happening around the altar? I think not! Working to create the guest-friendly short service may have cost us the art of waiting on God. The great work that has been done by the Spirit while the saints waited on God around an altar is immeasurable. A note to myself and other ministers: Perhaps a shorter sermon would allow for more time around the altar.
- No Fellowshipping Until the Altar Service Is Complete. The prayers of the lingering minority who are tarrying around the altar have often been drowned out by the fellowshipping and laughter of the majority who have lost interest. When the difficult moments come in your life (and they will come), you will then want the entire corporate body will pray with you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t expect the whole church to rapidly respond to your special needs in the altar if your pattern has been to show disinterest in others when they were seeking God. “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Ephesians 6:8).
- Don’t Criticize People Who Go Pray In The Altar Every Service. Stop asking those tired and worn out questions ,”Wonder what’s wrong with them?” Or, “Wonder what sin they have committed?” I have personally heard this statement, “I worry about people who go to the altar every service:” Some people, like myself, happen to love this special time of the service and are always ready to respond. It’s just that simple. Rather than criticize others who always go to the front to pray, make involvement in the altar service a pattern for your own life. The church needs you.
Somebody say, “Amen!”
The above article, “7 Things About the Altar Service,” is written by Jerry L. Dean. The article was excerpted from Apostolic Sentinel.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.