Some of the most thrilling prayer meetings I have ever attended were pastors' prayer meetings. Men who have given their lives to serving God came together to share and encourage one another and pray for God to work mightily in His own church and in a city. I have seen pastors pour their hearts out in honesty and great spiritual burden. I have been in groups where one pastor or another sat in a chair in the center of the group while the other men laid hands on him and prayed for him. I am not sure such pastors' prayer meetings will not be used of God to bring revival that would sweep an entire nation as pastors returned to their pulpits with their lives set ablaze by the Spirit of God.
I have also noticed that pastors who hurt the most and need prayer and encouragement most are often not part of pastors' prayer meetings. How often have pastors' noticed that a man who was hurting and in spiritual danger was not part of a group. That should not surprise us. If you were the devil, would you not try to isolate a spiritual leader you were preparing to attack? It is like a pack of wolves isolating an elk before they try to bring it down. So, the enemy uses pride or shame or some petty disagreement to separate pastors from the brothers who would or at least should give him the greatest help.
But as much as we need one another, it does not seem to be enough for a pastor to know he needs his brothers to faithfully participate in pastors' fellowships. I am convinced that the most important attitude a pastor can have to keep him part a of pastors' fellowship is concern for other pastors. If a pastor goes to a pastors' fellowship being burdened for other men, he will be less likely to be too busy to attend. If a pastor goes to the prayer meetings with a burden to pray for the others pastors, he will see it as a powerful ministry. He may even see it as a ministry that could bring about revival that would start in a brother's church. He could see this ministry that would mightily glorify God on the earth.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
My last few blog posts were on the extraordinary prayer called for in these days. That turned my thoughts to the question of ordinary prayer. I don't think it is a wrong to answer this question by simply asking, "What are your ordinary prayers like?" Let me point out three elements that are common to ordinary prayer.
A HEART OF PRAYER
If we to Scripture and to the Lord's Prayer we find a great exposition of prayer and the life of prayer. Jesus assumed His followers would pray. Verse 5 of Matthew 6 Jesus began with the words, "when you pray." I suspect everyone prays or has prayed occasionally. Begin where you are. If you seldom pray, know that God is inviting you to pray now. If your prayers have been insincere, cynical and unbelieving, tell God you want to get serious. He will help you pray. You will never do better over any length of time by simply trying harder. But God can change your heart. Be honest enough to ask for His help.
A HEART OF PRAISE
The first words of the model prayer praise God. Nothing lifts the heart in faith like praising God. If you want to pray as we should in these days, you must focus on the greatness and power of Almighty God. We are in a spiritual war. In the hymn A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD Luther wrote, "For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal." He will do anything to keep you from prayer. You must focus on the mighty power of God to keep from being discouraged by the world, the flesh and the devil.
A HEART OF PURPOSE
Jesus next called us to pray for His kingdom and for His will to be done. It is so easy to pray selfish and trivial prayers. But we can turn our prayers to God's purpose as He reveals it to us.
I believe the most exciting thing about these facets of ordinary prayer is that they all lead to more prayer. Prayer begets prayer. Ordinary prayer can lead to urgent prayer, sustained prayer, sacrificial prayer, extraordinary prayer, history changing prayer.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
When we are thinking about extraordinary prayer we have to think beyond the things we are praying or that we even imagine. We need God to stretch our praying to include mighty things He is bringing about on the earth. I believe this includes a worldwide prayer movement. I believe this means praying for the work of God beyond all human reckoning.
I don’t believe any scripture amazes me more that John 14:12.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do;
and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
Jesus told His disciples we would do the works He was doing. And then, as if that were not enough, Jesus actually said we would do greater works than His. What work could we accomplish that would be of greater significance than our atonement on the cross? I really don’t know. Possibly the gospel sweeping the earth with redemption before the end comes would be great enough to warrant such a promise. What works could we do that would employ greater power than the resurrection of Jesus? Well, the resurrection of all believers and the rapture of the church does come to mind. What about the resurrection of the just and the unjust to stand before a holy God?
But make no mistake about it. Whatever Jesus was referring to in these words, such great works will only be done in the power, will and timing of God. We will only be part of these things in prayerful union with God. The context of this verse is prayer. The very next verse is an overwhelming promise of answered prayer.
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Jesus explained the works that He did on the earth by saying in John 5:19 that the Son can only do what he sees his Father doing. Seeing His works done in our lives, seeing even greater works done than Jesus Himself did will require more than God’s cosmic power unleashed in our foolishness. If we are to connect with God’s thunderous power in the culmination of the ages, we will need to come to see the work of the Father as Jesus did. This will require deeper insight and greater faith than we could imagine without the Spirit working in us.
Heavenly Father, call us to see You more clearly,
and join You in greater prayer than we have ever dared to pray.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
The next facet of extraordinary prayer is expanding our prayer beyond our present perspective.
Are you praying every day for people who are hard to pray for? It stretches your faith and prayer life to pray for people you do not like. Do you pray for God to bless people with whom you disagree? Do you love your enemies in prayer? Shortly after the attacks on 9/11/2001, a young but precocious boy in our church said, “We need to pray for the terrorists.” Before I could curb my tongue I had said, “We need to pray that they will be caught and killed.” I don’t think I answered well, but I certainly believe it is sometimes right to pray for justice. More often I don’t know how to pray for an enemy. It is acceptable to leave such concerns up to the wise intercession of the Spirit.
We also need to stretch our concern and prayers for people we may not think about often enough. If the gospel is to be preached among all peoples before the end comes, we must stretch our vision beyond our borders. There is a prayer program on the Operation World website, www.operationworld.org . Many mission agencies have similar prayer programs. The Southern Baptist I.M.B. will send out monthly prayer guides with specific requests for a different people group every day. My wife puts this up on our bathroom mirror where we have easy access.
I wrote this poem several years ago.
AM I ASKING?
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
It is hard to sit among those content with the comfortable mundane
And say out loud, “I am God-endowed with a mission to fulfill.”
It is a step of faith to stand unflinching and to all proclaim,
“I hear His call, despite it all. I know; I have been shown God’s will.
I have a vision of distant lands and people beyond the seas.”
He’s not forgotten His Only Begotten, and He’s shown His will to me.
He told me, too, “You are my son! Today I gave you heaven’s birth.
My precious one, to know I Am will be your inheritance and wealth.”
The Firstborn of many chosen brothers shares His holy worth.
Like the Father’s promised only Son, He holds me to Himself.
He is the Vine and I’m a branch on the heavenly family tree.
He’s not forgotten His Only Begotten, and He keeps His hold on me.
So will I ask for healing, wealth or some other selfish blessing?
For temporal toys and shallow joys, and maybe a nice vacation?
The ends of the earth are promised to me, given for my possessing.
He tells me, “You are mine; ask me for the distant teeming nations.”
They can be ours to know and love and tell as far as God can see.
He’s not forgotten His Only Begotten, and He will answer me.
Have I prayed for the Berbers and the Bora, the Jula, or the Han?
Will I ask for Madagascar, Persia, or the isles of the Coral Sea?
I can seek Him for the nations, Africa, Asia and far beyond.
I can pray and preach and go out and teach as far as I will believe.
He’s not forgotten His Only Begotten, and He has promised me.