One of the marks of the Early Church was that they devoted themselves to certain values that were the reason behind their success. One of these marks was a high emphasis was placed on prayer. Note these references in the Book of Acts:
“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
Leonard Ravenhill says, “The Church has many praying men, but few men of prayer.” Why is this? Why is it so difficult to get persons to attend a prayer service, or even to spend time in prayer alone with the Lord. Jesus certainly gave us the example when “He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). Was it a command to do this or was it His desire that the Father work through Him in His ministry?
Prayer cannot be legislated or demanded. Devotion to prayer comes from allowing God to change our hearts and showing us how much He wants us to fellowship with Him in what He is doing in this world. When this happens, prayer will become our top priority and our devotion.
Randy and Jonathan arrived in Hmawbi last Sunday night and hit the ground running. They met with 21 hungry disciples for the past two days. Going through God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD) has truly been amazing to see the dedication to God's word in them. Three of the disciples from Rakhine state continued to work on GPHD while others broke for lunch. They also have 9 graduating today which is truly God's work.
The story about Hmawbi is that this is the fourth time meeting with the Pastor there and it has really been a 180-degree change. This work has literally been transformed from the first two visits being about money and a lack of faithfulness to the present day; not wanting to take ANYTHING from Randy and Jonathan, but simply asking for prayer to reach the surrounding area and Myanmar for Christ. We been asking the question; how did this happen?
Randy and Jonathan were talking over lunch yesterday when the story of the Canaanite woman from Matthew 15:21-28 and her "great faith" came up. Jesus commended her for "great faith" and that she came on behalf of someone else, not herself. At the heart of our material, GPHC and GPHD, is about others, someone else. We want to see God reach the nations through His Word and His way. We want tradition and institution to be brought to nothing and stop choking our brothers and sisters. We want transformation in God’s people so they think of OTHERS!
“Let us go to God on behalf of these brothers and sisters around the world and ask Him to do His work through His Word in His Way. Let us ask Him for the crumbs that fall from His table on behalf of OTHERS. I am guilty of wanting those crumbs for myself. What we are seeing in Hmawbi is a selflessness that I am jealous for and that I know only Christ can give to me. This is the key though, the empty self. Praise God for His work.” (Jonathan)
“Do you remember when the Lord Jesus fed the five thousand? Do you recall how he had them sit down, row by row, on the green grass? Then, do you remember how He took loaves and fish and blessed them and then broke them and gave them to His disciples? And do you remember how the disciples started at one end of the front row and went right along that front row giving everyone a helping? Did they go back and serve the front row again?
NO! – a thousand times NO! Had they done that, those in the back rows would have been rising up and protesting most vigorously.
There was an absolute equal distribution of the food. Should we be training the front rows to share what they have with the back rows, and thus reach them with the Gospel, those for whom nothing has been prepared?” (1).
“And they all ate and were satisfied” (Matthew 14:20). Are we paying attention to the back rows as equally important as the front rows?
(1) Oswald J. Smith, The Challenge of Missions, page 39.
I am convinced that few of us really understand the joy, the satisfaction, and the reward of a close walk with the Lord. As these precious moments come and go in my experience, I find myself needing repenting more often for my lazy mind and lack of diligence in making this walk of friendship with the Lord my ONLY PRIORITY.
Is this walk only open to a few; those ‘spiritual giants’ who stand out in the Bible? The invitation went out to individuals…to anyone. It still does. Consider the wide range of this invitation:
· “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
· “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (6:9).
· Abraham: “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless” (17:1).
These walked with God, but not in the same way you and I have opportunity to walk with Him. Arthur Pink summarizes the different relationship we have with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. “We walk before God as children; we walk after Him as servants; we walk with Him as His friends; we walk in Him as members of Christ’s body.” “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:6-7).
What difference will such a walk make in the way we live? Children want to obey the Father. Servants work to please the Master. Friends desire companionship so they are never alone. Members always realize they are connected to something much greater than themselves. All of these put together make a walk with God a powerful reason to have a closer walk daily.
“The intercessor lives very close to the heart of God. He has an intimacy with the Lord of creation that few ever know” (1). “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14). The intercessor often has foreknowledge of what the Lord will do; “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? (Genesis 18:17). “Abraham…was called a friend of God” (James 2:23).
In my own experience, I find that the more time I spend alone with the Lord, the more the Spirit teaches me what and how to intercede for persons and situations. It is out of this secret fellowship with the Lord that He gives us instruction on the heart of God about persons and circumstances. We must never assume to know everything about the things or the persons we pray for.
This friendship is right in line with how the disciples learned to pray. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Even Paul lumped himself with us and said, “we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26). It is through friendship with the Lord that we are taught the heart of God, and when we learn His heart by the Spirit, He gives words that reflect the heart of God.
Praying is a common practice of most Christians, but are you a “friend of God”? Is your “friendship with the Lord” because you love His Word and truth (covenant)? Are you burdened with what is on God’s heart? If you have not made this a top priority in your life, begin right now. The Lord is knocking at the door of your heart so you can learn His heart and intercede for others so they come to know His heart also.
(1) Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way – A Message for the Church, Bethany House, 1983, page 109.
One of the most necessary aspects of intercessory prayer is in asking God to open the hearts of those we present the gospel to. This is a vital part of any ministry. Preparation for preaching must include dependent prayer for persons to receive the gospel truth. From my own experience, I know that when I do not give proper time in fervent attitude of heart to prayer, I do not allow the Spirit to form the message and give power for its delivery, or open heart before I speak.
We must give ourselves to genuine intercession for the hearers. While the Spirit must work in us who preach and witness, He must also work in those who hear so they understand the message. “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God…The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:11, 14).
How then are we going to effectively preach, witness and minister since this is true? We have a perfect example in Paul’s ministry as he passed through Philippi. As he, Silas and Timothy met with a few in “a place of prayer…we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia…a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:13-14).
How often do we proceed with service of any kind without asking God to open the hearts of those we speak to? He alone can do this. This week I drove 50 minutes to a church to speak and spent most of the travel time in prayer asking the Spirit to prepare the soil of their hearts. HE DID! Even if you are not the speaker, intercessory prayer for others is your privilege.
My attention was drawn today to a great man of prayer – Daniel. This man of God stands out in history because of his unwavering commitment to be true in his relationship with God, even when faced with threats of death. But the threats did not impact him as much as the Word of God that came to him which revealed to judgment of God.
“He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end…Without warning He shall destroy many…but by no human hand. I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession” (Daniel 8:19, 27; 9:3-4).
As we watch the unravelling of governments and nations around the world, the tendency is to become more occupied with the details of these events. Prayer like Daniel’s is not understood or experienced by us because we are focused on the wrong event. Notice how Daniel combined seeking the Lord with confession of sin. Leonard Ravenhill spoke of a time on the west coast of Scotland where “Many sought the Lord. There was great grief over and repentance for sin. Now the revival was on!”
Paul felt a deep sense of urgency when he wrote; “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Reaching the lost with the gospel will only take place when the full force of God’s Word lays hold of our hearts and we put ourselves before God in humble prayer.
On October 20th, we looked at the “both and” principle Jesus presents in Acts 1:8. Paul expands this idea in 1 Corinthians 9, but through the attitude of being a servant. “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Though Paul was a Jew, God gave him a very expansive view of what He want to accomplish through him. This view included the Gentiles – all nations.
Like Jesus, Paul took the position of being a humble servant. That was a requirement in reaching “all” with the gospel. As those verses in chapter 9 continue, Paul listed many situations where he became like the people he preached the gospel to; “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22–23).
It is not just individuals that Paul was thinking of winning/saving through the gospel, but all people groups of the world. That is why he was sensitive in every people group he met and adapted to their culture; becoming like those he wanted to win in order to gain their ear, heart and be saved.
Remember what is said about Jesus; “For we do not have a high priest [one that serves God on behalf of men] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). That is worth pondering! Can you and I serve the unsaved without partaking in their way of life so they see our humility and genuine interest in their souls? Jesus did this. Paul did this. Are we following these examples?
There are a few places around the world where God has allowed us to present God’s Plan for His Disciples and God’s Plan for His Church in Bible Colleges and Seminaries. We view this as a distinct privilege. Understand that our materials are not strictly “academic,” but redirect the student back to Scripture so they can discover for themselves what God says. This is very different from the “lecture” approach which is used in most institutions.
Paul was not afraid to redirect believers back to the Scriptures, and in this case, Deuteronomy 30:14; “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)” (Romans 10:8). In other words, he was reminding the saints in Rome of the Bible they knew at the time and linked it with what he was presenting
in his letter.
At a Bible College in Thailand, we challenged some senior students to go and reach the nations and to move out of their culture and people group to those who have never heard the gospel. Several of the students had completed the Karen GPHC and several were in the process. It is exciting to see them teach the Karen GPHC even though we have not been there for some time. They definitely want to do more and want for us to return with the updated GPHC and also translate GPHD which they need in the worst way. Please pray for them.
Like Paul, God’s Plan for His Disciples and God’s Plan for His Church were created with a goal that every person grow in love with God’s Word and learn how to put its principles into practice. These resources will mature any believer who hungers for truth and wants to follow the Word of God. Please go to our “Training Resources” page and find these books that can be downloaded free.
My mind goes back to so many impossible events in history, where humanly speaking, there was no way that man could accomplish what God wanted. So, it is today. When we want the impossible to happen, we must be in deep prayer that God will make a way for His work to move forward.
In one of the Southeast Asian countries where New Foundations International has worked for years, we were hindered for a few years, but just gave 660 complete Bibles in their language last week. We also introduced God's Plan for His Church (Old Edition) in their language to 20 new church planters and will return in a couple of months for the follow-up. They are in process of translating God's Plan for His Disciples into two languages, and Lord willing, it will be ready when we return.
Though interpretation was not as good as usual while we were there, our Lord blessed His Word. The men have gained rich insights into God's Word. Let us pray that this training will lead to great expansion in this country and beyond. Let's also begin now to pray for the follow-up in January.
If we only listen to negative news that comes through many channels, we become prayerless, powerless and hopeless Christians. The great challenge for all is to rekindle in us God’s heart for the nations and understand that HE does the impossible. When this happens, our prayers will reflect that attitude. Paul left this heart for nations with his spiritual son Timothy; “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ramson for all” (1 Timothy 2:3-5).
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