Child of prayer

Child of prayer

I believe that Samson was a child of prayer and I have to believe that he stood out as a child from the other children because of his religious training.

Samson’s father was used to coming before God in prayer and whenever he faced difficulties, God was there being part of the answer. As with others, it would seem that his intimacy with God was pleasing to Him.

Samson’s mother was also made to look like she followed his footsteps. The honour they had of having an angel visit and the special gift that was given to them (Samson), proved that to some measure. I would say there was some reflection that should up in Hannah (Samuel’s mother).

Samson’s parents would be ones who practiced prayer, and they continued that practice as their son grew up.

“It was a notable event for God to put heaven, in some sense, under the control of Elijah’s prayers, to be obedient to his requests. By his prayers, Elijah kept heaven shut for two years and a half. Then he opened it, and made it suddenly pour with a great rain, from which we may see the miraculous power of prayer”. – John Calvin

Public prayer that He hears and answers

public prayer that He hears and answers

The first serious conflict, that really affected me, was between Paul and Barnabas. These two changed the world as God called them to be missionaries to the world. They did amazing things together and their bond was strong and that went quite a few years back when Barnabas became a friend of Paul when he was known as Saul.

Here is what happened —

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in every town where we preached the word of the Lord, and let us find out how they are getting along.” Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul did not think it was right to take him, because he had not stayed with them to the end of their mission, but had turned back and left them in Pamphylia. There was a sharp argument, and they separated: Barnabas took Mark and sailed off for Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the care of the Lord’s grace. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. – Acts 15:36-41  GNT

I also struggled with the church’s response to the conflict. It seems that they favoured Paul and that all of a sudden Barnabas was of no concern as he left with his nephew to Cyprus. There was no prayer, no sending off, nothing. When Paul left, he was sent with prayers and blessing. Remember, they knew Barnabas much longer than Paul. I am thankful that Paul, in the midst of the disagreement and contention allowed the church to love him and pray for him.

Their prayer was to follow-up with the churches they had met and their prayer was similar to that of Jeremiah’s —

I will give them the desire to know that I am the Lord. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. – Jeremiah 24:7  GNT

There is a boldness that blind Bartimaeus teaches me about prayer. He also teaches me to pray God sized prayers that I can believe in by faith knowing that He will hear and answer them.

 They came to Jericho, and as Jesus was leaving with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up!” they said. “Get up, he is calling you.”

So he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

“Teacher,” the blind man answered, “I want to see again.”

“Go,” Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well.”

At once he was able to see and followed Jesus on the road. – Mark 10:46-52  GNT

I pray that my prayer walk with God will be evident when I pray with others so that my confidence and boldness, even in the midst of contention, will encourage others to know that God does in fact hear and answer prayer.

Prayer is not simply petition, but strenuous petition.  It is not just passive surrender but active pleading with God.  It involves not only submission to the will of God but seeking to change his will.  It consists not merely in reflection on the promises of God but in taking hold of those promises (cf. Isaiah 64:7).  It is often said by those who are attracted to mystical or to philosophical prayer that our petitions change our attitude toward God but that they have no real effect upon God, who is unchangeable and impassible.   My contention is that prayer does effect a change in God’s attitude to us and in his dealings with us. Prayer is reciprocal: it has a definite impact on both parties involved.  That God permits prayer to exert an influence on him is attested throughout the Scriptures (Abraham’s bargaining for Sodom – Genesis 18:22-33;  Nineveh’s repentance after Jonah’s preaching – Jonah 3:10; Moses’ intercession after Israel’s idolatry – Psalm 106:2; the staying of the plague when Phinehas prayed – Psalm 106:30; Amos stopping the judgment of God from falling on Israel – Amos 7:1-6).  In this light we can understand Spurgeon’s contention that “prayer is able to prevail with heaven and bend omnipotence to its desires.”  Prayer in the sense of striving with God in order to alter his ways with his people is utter nonsense to the philosopher… Against the philosophical understanding of prayer Karl Barth insisted that real prayer presupposes a living God who hears and acts – “He is not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts.  He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not.  Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence.  This is what the word ‘answer’ means.”  Christian faith, to be sure, affirms the essential trustworthiness of God’s declared will and purpose for the world; God cannot deny or contradict himself.  Yet Scripture makes clear that God has chosen to work out his purposes in cooperation with his children. His ultimate will is inflexible, but the ways by which he seeks to implement this will are flexible.  He does not change his final purpose, but he does alter his methods for realizing this purpose. He is unchangeable in his holiness and righteousness, but changeable in the giving of his grace.  Prayer, as Fosdick observed, cannot change God’s intention, but it can change God’s action. – Donald Bloesch

 

Begin to pray instead of saying prayers

begin to pray instead of saying prayers

I was reading the comings and goings of so many different judges and the revivals and backslidings that took place before and after each one – you can read about this yourself right here – Judges 10:1-18; 11:1-11

Here is what I understand – if my soul needs help right now and I have only one place to turn to – asking Jesus to fill me with His Holy Spirit. I must have access to the secret place of the Most High – it is His mercy that I depend on to redeem me from bondage and fear. Yet I know this truth – a right relationship with God is not when I call out suddently when help is needed. That kind of confidence has been established because I am serious about my relationship with Him and have committed to the habit of prayer and reliance on His wisdom. Only this kind of a relationship and only this practice of wisdom can bring help when the foundations of earthly things are destroyed.

In the act of praying for those in the front line of ministry, I found these prayer points to be helpful.

  1. Pray for joy in the midst of suffering and for kindness in the midst of slander

The same thing happened in Iconium: Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of Jews and Gentiles became believers. But the Jews who would not believe stirred up the Gentiles and turned them against the believers. – Acts 14:1-2  GNT

Suffering we know – we pray for intimacy with Jesus in the midst of it and that the character of Christ and the power of His Spirit will enable us to respond with grace.

2. Pray for supernatural power to be present.

The apostles stayed there for a long time, speaking boldly about the Lord, who proved that their message about his grace was true by giving them the power to perform miracles and wonders. – Acts 14:3  GNT

3. Pray for Christlike humility to be a mark of character and for patience – read Acts 14:4-18.   Pray against the temptation of being prideful in ministry while it is being accomplished through the power of the Spirit. There will be many ups and downs, even losses.

4. Pray for perseverance.

Some Jews came from Antioch in Pisidia and from Iconium; they won the crowds over to their side, stoned Paul and dragged him out of the town, thinking that he was dead. But when the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe. – Acts 14:19-20  GNT

For many there will be setback after setback, beatdown after beatdown and struggle after struggle.

5. Pray they will make disciples.

Paul and Barnabas preached the Good News in Derbe and won many disciples. Then they went back to Lystra, to Iconium, and on to Antioch in Pisidia. They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. In each church they appointed elders, and with prayers and fasting they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. – Acts 14:21-23  GNT

6. Pray that churches would multiply –  Acts 14:24-28.  Not just multiply them, but fill them with people who know the Word and led by pastors who teach the Word.

Jesus reveals the seriousness of being prepared for ministry and gives this pointer to HIs disciples.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive the spirit out?” “Only prayer can drive this kind out,” answered Jesus; “nothing else can.” – Mark 9:28-29  GNT

Could it be that Jesus was pointing out a flaw in their approach to ministry? Had they left depending on God and had somehow figured out the formula for driving out demons? I think when I am praying, I need to see that my ministry requires a constant attitude of humility and a reliance on Jesus – that is what prayer does.

O Lord, I fall into anxiety and fearfulness, but you faced the most astonishing dangers for me. You were torn to pieces, so bravely, for me, so I could be utterly loved and eternally safe in you. If you were courageous for me facing those overwhelming cosmic evils, I know you are with me now. Therefore, I can be steady as I face my problems. – Timothy Keller

 

Prayer found in Acts 13

prayer found in Acts 13

There once was a man who was learning how to pray and so one day he asked God, “God, a thousand years is a long time for us, but how about you?  What is a thousand years to you?”  God replied, “It is about a day.”  “Oh, very interesting.”  The man said.  The next day the man was praying again and asked God a similar question, “God, I was thinking, a million dollars is a lot of money for us, but what is a million dollars to you?”  God thought about it and replied, “Well, I suppose it is about a loonie.”  The next day the man was praying again, and this time he thought that he had finally figured this whole God and prayer thing out.  This time he was praying and he asked God, “God, I’m wondering if you would like to bless me with a loonie?”  And God said, “Sure. Just give me the day to think about it.”

The Holy Spirit calls Barnabas and Saul in Acts 13:2-3 and these verses will be the cornerstone of my observations on prayer.

While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, to do the work to which I have called them.” They fasted and prayed, placed their hands on them, and sent them off. 

There is something special about worship:

 – it is the first priority in the Lord’s Prayer 

 – I believe it is key to what pleases God and honours Him. 

 – The word “worship” meaning worship, praise, prayer, listening, honouring. 

Along with worship came fasting – fasting most likely because they sensed a need to seek God in a unique way. We actually do not know what they were fasting and praying about but based on the response of the Holy Spirit it may very well have been centred on how and where to share the gospel

I know there are some that have stated that this is the very reason they do not pray. Is it true that we know God is going to answer our prayer – by using us? God moves that way often does He not? He sends people who have it on their heart to pray.  

We have here, in this chapter and the next, one of the most pivotal stories in all of missions history. This is the account of the first recording ever of missionaries being sent by a local church in the Word of God. It all started in a worship service – there was singing, prayer, fasting and then it ended with laying on of hands.

John Piper has been quoted quite a bit on worship and mission – this one I had not heard before and it comes with his account of Acts 13:2:

“This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would make Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two-and-a-half centuries and would yield 2.2  billion adherents of the Christian religion today with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world.”

I am sure the people in that room were very different from each other – most likely as different as you and I are today. 

I also believe they found themselves agreeing on a common purpose and that is why they came together:

  • united by the gospel
  • enthralled in worship
  • intensely focused on mission

It had to be so – for when the Holy Spirit called there was immediate obedience.

“The synergy between the call of the Spirit and the prayerful response of the church resulted in a supernatural spread of the gospel that continues to this day.”

The whole church sent Paul and Barnabas – “we are with you.” Today is no different -prayer is the greatest support we can send out – invoking the very power of God to intervene in ways that are beyond my human limitations to save the lost.

Acts chapter 13 shows us the way in how we are to pray for our missionaries. I believe we have eight points.

  1. Pray that they would be confident in God’s Word (Acts 13:4–5).

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.

Missionaries are sent not just to learn culture or do humanitarian relief but to confidently proclaim the Word of God.

  1. Pray that they would be filled with God’s Spirit (Acts 13:6–9).

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 

My favourite story is still Jonathan Goforth, a Presbyterian sent by God to China.

  1. Pray for their victory in spiritual warfare (Acts 13:10–11).

And said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 

When our brothers and sisters take the gospel, they are going into a war. The devil is dead set on destroying souls and diverting mission.

  1. Pray for their success in gospel witness (Acts 13:12).

Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Pray that many would come to know Christ in all walks of life from the faithful witness of our missionaries.

  1. Pray for peace with other believers (Acts 13:13).

 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 

Satan attacks from all angles, both inside and outside. Pray for peace within families, in marriages, with children, and with companions and ministry partners.

  1. Pray for favor with unbelievers (Acts 13:14–15).

But they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.”

Pray that missionaries would find favorable opportunities to share the gospel with them.

  1. Pray that the gospel will be clear through them (Acts 13:16–44).

Although cross-cultural communication is difficult, pray that missionaries, by grace, would clearly communicate the character of God, the sinfulness of man, the sufficiency of Christ, the necessity of faith, and the urgency of eternity.

  1. Pray that God will open hearts around them (Acts 13:48).

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  

God alone draws people to Himself. Pray that He will open hearts and minds to believe and be drawn to eternal life with Christ.

The idea of world mission originates with God and not with you and I. These individuals in the room praying were not church leaders brainstorming on how to prep up their church program. The Holy Spirit initiates the work of missions.

I am not too sure what your relationship has been like with the Holy Spirit these days and I am not too sure how you interpret the fact that He spoke to them and told them what to do. It would seem that someone sensed the Holy Spirit guiding their thoughts to Paul and Barnabas and others confirmed they sensed the same thing. I mentioned that it was the Holy Spirit who initiated the work of missions and I would like to strongly suggest that it is the work of the Holy Spirit who calls workers. 

What I love about this is that this is not the first time that Barnabas and Saul knew anything about God’s calling to be missionaries. If you remember, Barnabas was called from Jerusalem to Antioch. If you remember, Paul was told by Ananias that God had declared him as a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel”

I have to believe that individual prayer is alive and well.  If anything, Acts 13 and those in the early church have something to teach us about corporate prayer, corporate learning of biblical truth, corporate evangelism and corporate Christian maturity.

 The personal dimensions of Christianity are difficult to maintain and practice consistently unless they grow out of a proper corporate experience on a regular basis’. – Gene Getz

‘The New Testament churches were churches where the people made a priority of prayer’. – EM Bounds

Jesus himself promised that ‘where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them’. Corporate seems to have extra power. Preachers and preaching needs the prayers of the church. Those running Alpha programs on-line need the prayers of the church. Corporate prayer has also been a key to church revival.

‘A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses’. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We have talked about worship, we have talked about prayer, let me touch base on fasting. They were all fasting – a mark of deep spiritual concern. A time where I forego the demands of life in order to concentrate on finding what God wants – to express my desire for God to accomplish what He wants to do.

I need to understand that prayer isn’t just us talking to God. It’s God talking to us  as well. Prayer is so much more than us letting God know what we desire.  It is God letting us know what He desires.

So more important than praying expectantly, or praying persistently or praying persuasively, there is –  Pray Receptively: God gets the deciding vote in what happens.

  1. Receptive prayer rises from worship and fasting (Acts 13:2)

In a corporate setting – if we want to really hear God speak, we focus on worship.  I think it means that when we come together, every other agenda is left at the door. Every political opinion, every attempt to impress someone else, every selfish thought about how whether or not my needs are being met in the worship service—all that gets left in the parking lot. 

Fasting is the discipline of going without something, usually food. The idea is that whenever you would normally be eating a meal, you spend that time in prayer instead. And throughout the day, whenever you feel a pang of hunger, you let that be a reminder that your spirit needs God the way your body needs food, and that we should hunger for Him the way we hunger for food. Do you see how worship and fasting leads us to open handed praying?

When we are focused on God’s glory, we are acknowledging that His ways are so much higher than our ways. His desires are so much more important than our desires.

And when we are conscious of our sin, which is what fasting does for us, we are in the mindset of saying, “Lord, I don’t deserve anything from you. I don’t need anything apart from you. Nothing I would desire compares with you. So Lord, I’m just going to open my hands before you and let you fill them. I’m going to open my heart before you and let you direct me.

Receptive prayer rises from worship and fasting.

  1. Receptive prayer lets the Holy Spirit speak (Acts 13:2)  the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

 

Power of prayer time

in-times-of-crisis-prayers

I forgot completely about the barley bread story found within the Gideon story.

When Gideon arrived, he heard a man telling a friend about a dream. He was saying, “I dreamed that a loaf of barley bread rolled into our camp and hit a tent. The tent collapsed and lay flat on the ground.”

His friend replied, “It’s the sword of the Israelite, Gideon son of Joash! It can’t mean anything else! God has given him victory over Midian and our whole army!”

When Gideon heard about the man’s dream and what it meant, he fell to his knees and worshiped the Lord. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, “Get up! The Lord is giving you victory over the Midianite army!” – Judges 7:13-15  GNT

I love how Spurgeon comments on this story – just reading it revived me and reminded me of the power of prayer.

But, then, God ever uses effectual means. Even if He works by barley-cakes, He makes a clean overthrow of His enemy. A cannon-ball could not have done its work better than did this barley cake. Wherefore, be not afraid, ye servants of God, but commit yourselves into the hands of Him who, out of weakness, can bring forth strength. Do you not think that this smiting of the tent of Midian by the barley cake, and afterwards the actual overthrow of the Midianite hordes by the breaking of the pitchers, the blazing of the torches, and the blowing of the trumpets, all tends to comfort us as to those powers of evil which now cover the world? When we are thinned out, and made to see how few we are, we shall be hurled upon the foe with a power not our own. Were things worse than they are, we should still cry, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” and stand each man in his place till the Lord appeared in strength. Another lesson would I draw from the text as to our inward conflicts. You are feeling in your heart the great power of sin. The Midianites are encamped in your soil; in the little valley of Esdrelon which lies within your bosom there are countless evils, and these, like the locusts, eat up every growing thing, and cause comfort, strength, and joy to cease from your experience. You sigh because of these invaders. I counsel you to try what faith can do. This seems a very poor means of getting the victory, as poor as the barley cake baked on the coals; but God has chosen it, and He will bless it, and it will overthrow the throne of Satan within your heart, and work in you holiness and peace. Once again, still in the same vein, let us try continually the power of prayer for the success of the gospel, and the winning of men’s souls. Prayer will do anything–will do everything. It fills the valleys and levels the mountains. By its power men are raised from the door of hell to the gate of heaven. – C. H. Spurgeon

Another reminder as to why revenge never works – it belongs with God.

But, Almighty Lord, you test people justly;
    you know what is in their hearts and minds.
So let me see you take revenge on my enemies,
    for I have placed my cause in your hands. – Jeremiah 20:12  GNT

I am committed to making time to be alone with God in my prayer time.

At once Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida, on the other side of the lake, while he sent the crowd away. After saying good-bye to the people, he went away to a hill to pray. – Mark 6:45-46  GNT

It keeps me centred and keeps me in a place where my trust is not in me but in God.

“Oh Lord when I fall into coldness and irritability with people I remember this, that in the garden just before you died you were so gentle and affirming of us when we went to sleep on you. On the cross you were giving yourself to people who abandoned you and mocked you and the more I thank and rejoice that you did that for me it melts away my hardness heart and makes me able to be patient and attentive to the people around me.” – Timothy Keller