The Passion For Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 2

I hope that those who read this article would have already read the first article in this short series on Prayer. (If you have not, I encourage you to click and read “The Power of Prayer“.) Before we can even begin to talk about having a passion for prayer, we must first believe that God hears our prayers and answers these prayers. Putting it in another way, if we do not believe God exists, or if we do believe He exists but don’t believe prayer accomplishes anything, then we would have nothing to be passionate about.

In some ways, we have another chicken-egg dilemma, the question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. At least that is how some people seem to operate. The Bible supports the view that “believing is seeing” (see Hebrews 11:6 and also John 20:29). But many people live more on the principle of “seeing is believing”, and when they don’t see God answering a prayer the way they think He should, then they question the practice of prayer and even question God Himself.

So as I continue in this article, I stand on the conviction that God exists, He hears and answers prayer, and praying is not only the normal thing for a Christian to do, but it is quite an exciting activity to do. Now let us dive into this second study on prayer. Again, I am summarizing some of the key points that were shared in a Sunday school teaching session at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.

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OVERVIEW: “This lesson is about the need to develop a true passion for prayer. Prayer is our source, the course of success, the secret to life, our supply and our strength. But an effective, powerful prayer life comes only when it is our priority. Our priorities reveal our passion.” (Taken from the outline handed to us in the Sunday School classroom.)

One of the Key Text passages for our study was Acts 6:1-4. The church in Jerusalem was mightily blessed by God in those early months after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. They grew rapidly as many thousands came to believe in Christ to be their Savior and Lord. The only problem when any group experiences rapid growth, is whether or not the leadership of that group is organized well enough to manage all of the people. And in Acts 6, it is apparent that some people, the Hellenistic Jews (Jews who grew up outside of Palestine), were not getting their portion of daily food rations.

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When the complaint became known to the Apostles, the leaders of the early church, and proved to be a valid complaint, the leaders had to make some important decisions. Now pause here and ask yourself what you would have done in this situation. I know what I would have been tempted to do. I would have called in the various other leaders, plus the key representatives of the disenfranchised group and we would have probably reorganized the activities and responsibilities that each person had. Then over the coming weeks and months we would convene more meetings to see that everything was running smoothly.

Not so for the Apostles. They did recognize the importance and seriousness of taking good care of all the church members. But they quickly delegated this responsibility to other capable leaders. But for themselves, they stated quite clearly that their two most important tasks before God and on behalf of the people were to preach the Word of God and to pray. It was their strong conviction, their passion, that their true source of personal strength and power in ministry was directly dependent upon the continued practice and commitment to prayer.

What I find interesting and dismaying at the same time, is that many of us profess a personal faith in Christ and also believe in the principle that prayer is important, but few of us actually practice the spiritual discipline of prayer. And I include myself when I write this. We give our mental assent to this truth that prayer is powerful and important. And it’s not that we don’t pray at all, but are we really passionate about praying? As the Lesson Overview puts it, have we made prayer a real priority in our lives?

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In a recent article, “Giant Step For Bible Translation“, I shared the excitement we all felt within our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, as we dedicated our first permanent home office building. This structure is symbolic of the rapid growth we have experienced in our personnel, going from 182 career missionaries in 2006 to 322 career missionaries right   2011. And the growth is not slowing down. In fact, the goal for the next six-year plan (2013 – 18) is to try to double our mission again to reach the point of having 800 career missionaries.

So what has made the difference? Hard work? Certainly! And an optimistic spirit and better skills in recruitment and retention of missionaries? That also has a part to play. But if you were to ask Greg Pruett, our current President of PBT, he would say, “Prayer is not just A strategy for seeing global mission work accomplished; Prayer is THE strategy.” And not only does Greg live out this principle in his life, he has also proven the truth of this principle in what God is currently doing in and through the ministries of Pioneer Bible Translators.

My question to you and I then is this:  Have we made prayer a priority in our lives?  And how do we know what are the priorities of our lives?  Basically, whatever we spend most of our time and energies upon, and especially whatever we think most about, those things are our priorities.  As for me, I’m not a super prayer person, but I do wake up each morning thanking Him for a new day, and then throughout the day, I often lift up a prayer concerning the events and people who come to mind.  How about you?  Do you have this kind of commitment to be a “People of Prayer”?  I hope you do.

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The Power of Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 1

While I have been in Dallas for these past two months, I have been attending Crossroads Christian Church in the nearby city of Grand Prairie, Texas.  I have enjoyed the worship and the teaching at this church.  The membership is in the thousands, and so they offer three morning services as well as having a Wednesday night teaching service.

It can be difficult for me to attend church with the muscle disease that I have, but thankfully the building is relatively flat, including their main sanctuary.  In the sanctuary they have very comfortable theater style padded chairs that don’t hurt my legs.  The church also offers multiple Sunday School teaching classes during each service.  Again, I am thankful that their smaller Chapel room, which can seat over a hundred people, has nicely padded pews. So I have been able to attend a class in there too.

Right now, the church is proposing an amazing building expansion that will focus just on Children’s Ministries.  It is a huge step of faith to believe that they can accomplish this over the next year, but it has the potential to reach thousands of kids in the surrounding areas.  And so they just had a church-wide emphasis on prayer.  I would like to share the summaries of the lessons taught on prayer over the next four weeks in my Thursday postings.

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Lesson Overview:  “Jesus never questioned whether or not if believers should pray. In Matthew 5:6, he said, “When you pray…” Paul knew how essential prayer was. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul reminded believers to “pray without ceasing.” Still, most believers will tell you that they do not pray enough and many will confess their lives are almost completely without prayer.”

The key text that our leader focused in on during this first lesson was Acts 12:1-19. The background to the story in this chapter is that the church in Jerusalem was flourishing well in the months that followed after Christ’s death and resurrection. The Jewish political ruler at this time was another King Herod and he tried to keep the Jewish leaders happy as well as the powerful forces of Rome which occupied and governed Palestine.

In order to do this, King Herod started to persecute the early church and even had one of its leaders killed, James the brother of John. This pleased the Jewish leaders, and so King Herod went on and had Peter arrested and put in jail. This galvanized the Christian believers into action as we can see from verse 5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Let’s now consider the main points that we can learn from this story in Acts 12.

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1.  “They were praying for the impossible.”

Looking at Peter’s situation from a human perspective, there was really no hope of Peter being released. Remember that Jesus had been arrested, put on trial, and killed in less than one day. The text also implies that James was immediately put to death. And to make sure that no one was able to come and rescue Peter, Herod put four squads of four highly trained Roman soldiers to guard him at the jail. And yet, the church’s immediate response to the situation was to gather the believers and pray.

2.  “They were praying specifically.”

It is possible that the Christians prayed about other things, but the text is very clear that they were earnestly praying to God concerning Peter. Looking at the Greek verb here, we also learn that this was not just a single prayer offered up, but they were continually, constantly praying to God. This sounds similar to the “Persistent Widow” in the parable found in Luke 18:1-8. That passage teaches us about the importance of persisting in prayer and then seeing the request being granted. The question for us to consider is whether we practice this kind of praying.

3.  “They were praying corporately.”

Verse 12 of our key passage tells us that “many people had gathered and were praying.” I believe there is an important lesson to be learned here. Think about what we do today. When we hear about a critical situation that needs prayer, what do we often do? Nowadays, we will usually get the news through an e-mail or perhaps by a telephone call, which does make it harder, but is our first thought to gather with other Christians and to pray together about this matter? Sadly, it is not.

4.  “They were surprised at the answer.”

I think this is the most amazing aspect about this story. The church responded quickly, decisively and specifically in prayer when the crisis happened. God answered their prayers and Peter was standing at the door outside, but the people did not believe this report of the servant girl that Peter was alive and standing at the door. For me, this actually makes the story more believable because it shows how human the early Christians were.

This raises the biggest question of all for us as believers. When we pray, do we not expect God to answer our prayers? Are we perhaps more similar to Thomas then we care to admit? Remember how Thomas heard the reports that Jesus was alive but it wasn’t until he saw Jesus with his own eyes that he believed.

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Recall what Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” and also 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” And finally, grab hold of and believe what Jesus said in Mark 10:27, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Dear reader, it is my hope that you will not only pray regularly to God yourself, but that you will seek out other believers to pray together with and truly experience the power of prayer.