prayer

Holding the Ropes

The greatest missionary was almost stopped before he got started! Acts 9:23-24 tells the story of Saul who had just come to Christ and was sharing his new faith in 1st century Damascus. Knowing his enemies wanted to shut him up, his friends took him to the city wall one night, put him into a basket, and lowered him by rope to safety outside the city walls. From there he was able to make his way back to Jerusalem, then eventually on to Antioch, Asia, and Europe. We also know him as Paul the apostle.

 Paul’s friends are unknown to us. They most likely didn’t seek honor or publicity for their brave deed. As the years went by, though, they saw the value of holding the ropes for Paul. I’m sure God noticed!

 It’s a truth that missionaries cannot work alone. Yes, they might go out in teams, they might interact with national workers and churches, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

 They need people to figuratively hold the ropes for them so they can concentrate on going where God sends them and doing the work for which they have been called.

 As surely as God calls some to go, he calls others to support them prayerfully, financially, and in encouragement.

 I’m looking today for some people to hold the ropes.

 Beginning next Monday, Mandate’s four-person leadership team is leaving the U.S. for a two-week visit with our national ministry partners in Vietnam and Laos. We want to encourage our front-line workers. We want to personally see the results of their ministries. We want to come back with photos and stories to share so that we can encourage more people to join them in their works.

 We are going into spiritual battle. We have prepared ourselves as best we can. We have our tickets, our visas, accommodations booked, packed suitcases. Now we’re looking for people like you who will join together in praying with and for us as we go.

 PRAY for our travel. We’ll leave our individual homes in the U.S. on September 17 and arrive in Da Nang, Vietnam the next day. So PRAY for safety and comfort through our travels.

 We’ll spend days visiting ministry sites in Vietnam. So PRAY that we’ll have good communication with our hosts and Vietnamese people in general.

 I’m hoping to share my testimony with one specific communist official I’ve met before. So PRAY he will be receptive to me and, especially, the gospel.

 Lord willing, I’ll come back to this page next Friday (or when I have a safe and secure internet connection) with updated prayer requests for the second part of our trip – Laos, and the following week with news for our journey home.

 We can’t do this without the help of God’s people. That’s you.

 Will you join together to hold the ropes for Mandate?

Praying the Goal

It’s kind of insulting. The book of James records Elijah was a person just like us. Poor Elijah. I like to think of God’s prophets as heroes. The truth is, he was just a man, like me. On the other side, if we’re that similar, and God used him so powerfully and specifically, how would He like to use me?

Over the past several months, I’ve been asking God to heal some people, while also asking Him to bring others to salvation. For the most part, all of these people are personal friends, so I have a deep interest in the outcome of my prayers.

I’m goal-oriented. In prayer, this means I understand and pray towards a specific end. If healing, I pray the person will be healed. That’s it. When I’m praying for my specific unsaved friends to come to depend on Christ for salvation, I pray only for that end.

I am also a planner and strategist. I love starting with a goal, then planning how to get from where I am to where I want to be. I do this goal-setting and strategizing with something as simple as entering and training for a marathon race. I follow the same pattern when planning the Sunday School class I teach, and in developing multi-year strategic plans for Mandate.

Praying for my friends, I began to see that I was drifting from goals to strategizing. Instead of just praying for salvation, I began praying a plan which would lead to salvation. Maybe my friends would meet someone, or hear a radio broadcast, or randomly pick up a Bible which would fall open to John 3:16. You get the picture.

I began doing the same thing in praying for healing. God, work through the doctors, or lead them to alternative healers, or just do a total mind-blowing miracle.

Then I realized Who I was talking to in prayer. I had gone from praying for specific goals to dictating methods. Who am I to be telling God how to work?! His mind is much better than mine.  He knows the end from the beginning. And, in the end, I don’t really care how my friends find Christ or how others are healed. I just want those results.

Back to Elijah, whose story you can find in 1 Kings. As James records, Elijah simply prayed for a drought on Israel, and it happened. He simply prayed for rain to end that drought, and it happened. He did not pray the means, he prayed for a specific end. His requests are similar to many others throughout the Bible, including the well-known Lord’s Prayer.

My morning prayer times have changed. When I ask God to do something, I realize I can pray for the result, but have to leave the process to Him. I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. I do believe I should pray for one specific end to each request, and I have to continue praying in that direction until God answers in some way or tells me to stop.

This new insight is interesting. I now spend more time praying for specific needs and am able to include more people in my prayers because I’m not following the rabbit trails of how I think God might answer, but leaving that totally in His capable hands, and I’ve now seen Him answer in specific ways that I would not have imagined.

God is doing the work. I am just praying the goal.

What goals are you praying towards?

Specific Prayers, Specific Answers

I am both purpose driven and goal oriented. When I set goals, I am very specific about what I want to do or to happen. If I don't know what I want to get done, it usually does not get done. Even worse, if I don't know what I want to get done, I don't know if I am really accomplishing anything at all!

In a similar way, shouldn’t our prayers also be specific so that we can see specific results from that prayer? Think of Elijah's prayer referenced in James 5:17-18, Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

This passage refers back to 1 Kings 17 and 18. Elijah prayed specifically for a drought and got a drought. Later he prayed specifically for rain and got rain. In between that time, he challenged the prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mt. Carmel. He prayed specifi­cally that God would send fire from heaven to consume his offering, and God answered in that specific method. God not only answered the prayer, but made that answer a visible testimony to his power, causing a turning from Baal to Himself.

I wonder sometimes if our general prayers are not from fear that if we pray too specifically we might not see the answers we're looking for and so fail. Seriously? Once we give something to God in prayer, it’s His. It’s up to Him to respond in whatever way He thinks best. We neither succeed nor fail in prayer, but trust in God’s judgment. God will work out all situations for His good and the good of those that love and follow Him.

A former missionary to Indonesia has written:

We had just built a new house for a co-worker and were planning a house warming to thank the other missionaries who had helped. We had invited them and our local missionary pilot. The only problem was that dry season was upon us and we didn't have enough water in the river for a float plane landing.

People started to pray for this. Up to the afternoon before the housewarming, we had no rain. Esther, a nearby missionary and one of the invitees, radioed that she and the Christians in her village were praying for rain. The next morning, she radioed over early, with obvious disappointment in her voice. She was so sorry they couldn't come, because there had been no rain on their river, and assumed none on ours.

"Esther," I said, "last night after dark it began raining here. It rained all night. Then, just as the sun came up, it stopped and the clouds broke up. We're fine for a landing!"

I later checked around. Five miles to the east, west, north and south of our station, there was no rain. Over us and in the surrounding jungle, it rained all night. Then, just at dawn the rain stopped, the clouds broke up, and the conditions were perfect for a landing.

Specific prayer brought a specific answer.

On another continent and another time . . .

In 1984 Open Doors with Brother Andrew and other Christian organizations "called for a seven-year campaign of prayer for the Soviet Union . . . with the specific goal of complete religious liberty and Bible[s] available for all." In 1990 multi-party democracy was instituted. In 1991 a failed coup led to the total breakup of the Soviet Union and the banning of the Communist Party.

Do the math! 1984 + 7 years of prayer = 1991 on the dot!

But there’s at least one more story of prayer here.

When dictator Joseph Stalin wanted to stamp out Christianity in the 1920's, he confiscated Bibles. For some reason, though, he did not destroy them. He stored them in local warehouses. In the early 1990's a mission team discovered a storehouse of Bibles not far from them and received permission from local authorities to take and distribute these Bibles.

Going to the warehouse, they hired some locals to help with the work of transferring the books to cars and trucks for transport back to the city. One of the young men hired was not a believer and spent his time mocking and harassing the Christians. As the day wore on, the missionaries realized that this guy was no longer around. Searching, they found him crying in the back of the warehouse.

This young man had decided to see why these books were so special, but did not want the Christians to see his curiosity. He went to the back of the warehouse to look at one. Choosing a Bible from the top of the stack, he opened the cover and found his grandmother's name written on the first page. God had arranged to have his grandmother's Bible taken from her and stored in that warehouse for 50 years until this very man came along to find it.

They later found a prayer written by that grandmother when her Bible was taken. “God, don’t let the church die. Help my grandchildren to know you and believe.”

How specific can you get, in both petition and God’s response?

I’ll not say much more, because I don’t want to take away from the impact of these true testimonies. Go through the Bible yourself. Look at the prayers, in the form of specific requests, spoken by God’s people through the word. Look at God’s responses. Then, by faith, make your own prayers as specific as theirs and watch what God does.

Beginning Practical Prayer

Let’s take a practical look at prayer. I admit I don’t understand how prayer works or why God would even want or need us to pray. I do know that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, suggests, encourages, and commands God’s people to pray. With that as our bottom line, how can we put prayer into practice and see it make an effective impact on life.

In a quote I’ve come to enjoy, Dr. Ralph Martin has said, “Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God.” As nice as that sounds, it is more the outcome than the action of prayer. More basically, prayer is conversing with God. It includes talking to God and hearing/perceiving his return conversation. The conversing from our side includes such shades as praising, asking, even complaining. The return conversation can come in such forms as direct audible response, scripture, or circumstance. Don’t take this as a comprehensive definition, but it sets the tone for prayer.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God offers the freedom of prayer primarily to those who give him their allegiance. For example, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a covenant promise by God to the nation of Israel, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” There is the promise to God’s people that he will hear them in repentant prayer. This offer is based on a relationship. Such promises were not made to other nations, then or now.

Jesus gave a similar promise to his disciples in John 15:7-8, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Going through other biblical teachings, we see the same principle. While God sometimes responds to the prayers of specific people outside his own, he is not bound by covenant or promise to do so.

From that, I conclude that prayer and effectiveness in prayer is tied to our relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ.

Can you see how the totality of prayer, whether adoration, petition, or thanksgiving, comes back to our relationship with God? More specifically, prayer molds us to be effective disciples of Christ and bear fruit. 

I don’t have any tattoos. If I did get one, it would be the Greek word Onesimus, printed on my right hand. The New Testament book of Philemon refers to a servant with that name. It comes out that his name means “useful.” My imagined tattoo would always remind me to be both useable and useful to God.

With that somewhat weird thought as a base, prayer is not given to make us rich or comfortable, but to make us useful.  Our prayers will be effective so long as we are willing to be useful to God.

Effective Prayer Begins and Continues

with a

Personal Relationship with God,

which can only come through

Jesus Christ.

Pray for Russia

Lord, thank you for our brothers and sisters across Russia. Thank you for their faith in you. Thank You that there is a time of freedom for people to share their faith. Strengthen them so that they will be ready to stand strong and share Your love no matter what hardships they face and no matter where they go. Please continue to grow in Your saints in Russia this faith in You as well as their love for one another. Lord, we pray for this faith in you not only from the Russian majority, but also from the many minority groups native to this vast land as well as the millions of immigrants from central Asia and other parts of the world barely touched with the good news of Jesus. Show Yourself through the love that the saints from these various people groups have for one another.

May Russians find Your glory not only in the natural beauty across this vast land, but even more so in the work of Your Spirit in the hearts of all who believe in You. Lord, we realize that this will only happen if you pour out Your Spirit, Your wisdom and Your revelation so that they will know You. Lord free them from the various strongholds that linger from the system wide atheism behind the Iron Curtain, from alcoholism that entangles so many, and from the large pockets of Islam, Animism, Buddhism and other folk religions that keep people from putting their trust in You. Lord, free all the peoples of Russia from hopelessness or fear that keep them from Your peace and freedom. Let them press forward in finding what is true and right and may they find that the truth is only ultimately found in You. Bring light and joy to their hearts, as they understand the great inheritance that You offer by Your grace. May they see that true greatness will happen as they participate in growing Your Kingdom within Russia and across the boarders to their neighbors. Help them to see the righteousness, honor, and peace that You give to each of Your children. May they see that You and You alone are the ultimate authority and power no matter what difficulties they are facing. And help them to hold on to the hope of heaven.

Lord, build Your church in Russia and fill the church with Your fullness. Raise up men and women from Russia who will be disciple-makers of the nations. Raise up a movement of disciple-makers. Give them your perfect grace so that they will fulfill their role in bringing Your perfect good news to every people group and every person not only within their borders, but to all the ends of the earth. May we talk of Russia as a nation that is forever changed by Your glory and grace!

Footprints in the Mud

I was told of a missionary and his family who had been working in Africa in the strife-torn early 1960's.  In addition to the very primitive living conditions of the post-colonial and rebellion-torn continent of that decade, their lives were in constant danger from many sources.

Back in their U.S. church one day, one of their friends felt he should pray for the family. Wanting help, he called around and finally pulled together a group of six who also felt that urge. They didn't know why, but they knew they must pray and not stop praying until the Lord gave peace.  Coming together in one of their homes, they prayed for several hours through the day. As suddenly as the need to pray had come, it left. They could stop.  Again, they did not know why but it was a unanimous feeling.

On that day the missionary and his family were travelling by jeep through a dangerous part of his country. Knowing others had been stopped, robbed, beaten, and even killed on that road, he told those with him to stay in the jeep and to keep the doors and windows closed as they drove through a certain part of the rain forest. 

They began their journey in late afternoon, hoping to drive directly home before dark. Halfway there, the jeep broke down in the middle of nowhere. Night was falling and the only thing to do was huddle in the locked vehicle and pray.  Total darkness fell, as it only can in the tropics.  Through the night they heard the sounds of people talking and moving around the jeep.

The next morning there was no one there.  Around the jeep, facing outward in the dust of the road, they found six pair of footprints. 

Don't ask me, as some have, who these footprints belong to.  I give you the story as I heard it.  Six people prayed; six sets of footprints were there, facing outward.  The prayer group had surrounded their missionary with a circle of God's power so that nothing could get through. Sounds more than a bit like Elisha’s experience in 2 Kings 6.

The prayer group did not immediately know why they prayed or the results of that prayer.  The missionary did not know what those footprints meant.  Their understanding of God's intervention did not come together until sometime later when the missionary came back to that church and shared his experiences.  Comparing dates and times, they finally realized how God had brought them together at exactly the time of need (even accounting for the difference in time zones).

Friends who are reading this. You are, or can be, the footprints in the dust around your missionaries.  As you pray for their needs, for their health, for their protection, you will be standing around them, your backs to the workers, facing outward to protect and sustain them so they can get on with the job God has given them to do.

Pray for Tanzania

Dear Heavenly Father,

Today, I pray for the country of Tanzania through a prayer of thanks.

First, thank You for the Tanzanian people. All are fearfully and wonderfully made, all with a purpose. I pray that those who do not yet know You will see Your presence in a magnificent sunrise or through a helpful hand of a neighbor. I lift up those who do not understand their purpose and pray that they will find You soon on their spiritual journey.  I have hundreds of thousands of prayers for the amazing people in this beautiful country to be touched by the Holy Spirit, especially when they live without clean water, secure shelter, enough food or education.

Today, I pray to You, my Father, my Heavenly protector, to shield the Tanzanian people from the evils of this world. Guard them from false idols and sorcery.  Lord, hear my prayer as I lift up these welcoming and warm people of Tanzania so they may know You and understand that You are way, the truth, and the life. Through You, they will find a home and be secure. Lord, hear my prayer.

Today is Your day, the day You created for all people to rest and take time to remember their blessings and Your grace. I am thankful for You and Your perfect creation; You have made the country of Tanzania filled with many blessings and gifts. Today I saw You when I was walking through Your beautifully created landscape; birds singing, monkeys playing, perfectly made granite hills with acacia trees nearby. As I look out at the vastness of Lake Victoria, I am reminded that Your love is even more vast. Thank You for giving Your only son so we can see Your love on earth, then eternally with You in heaven.

Heavenly Father, today I am filled with joy, because I can hear songs being sung in Your name, and I know that one day, these Tanzanian people who praise Your name will come home to You. I am thankful for the church and the missionaries who have come to this land to teach Your truth. I pray that one day, all people in Tanzania will know You through Your son Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. Lord, thank You for not forsaking us and forgiving us of our sins.

In Your gracious name I pray. Amen

Pray for Earth

Father,

We pray for the tragedies going on on a global scale. We lift up all those who have experienced tragedy this year. We pray that you mold our hearts to be more like yours. May we have hearts that seek peace and love genuinely. May that peace and love overcome hate and violence. Open our eyes and ears to the needs around us, and help us be the hands and feet able to meet those needs.

So much has come against us this year- in the US alone there has been multiple shootings, hurricanes, fires, and much more. We pray for healing where there is hurt and fresh beginnings and hope where there is ashes. We pray against any lines of division in our global society. We pray to be able to unite with Your love that covers a multitude of sins. Above all we ask that Your will be done in us and through us and that we can be nations of good and faithful servants.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Pray for Canada

Gracious God and Father,

Thank you for your great grace extended to all men through faith in Jesus Christ. Thank you that you gave to Christ all authority over your Kingdom, and that we, his disciples, are sent as sons and daughters of the Kingdom to bring people everywhere to the obedience of faith through the gospel of Christ. Thank you that the Church in Canada was once one of the greatest senders of missionaries into the world.

But now, gracious Lord, this is no longer true. It makes us sad that under the pernicious influence of modernity and now post modernity, many churches have watered down the gospel till it is no gospel at all. Our nation is now totally secular, and it grieves us that godless ideas and philosophies are now indoctrinated in schools and social media to the point that these are unconsciously accepted by some believers. Canada has become a mission field.

Canada has always been a country of immigrants, and recently has welcomed thousands of refugees from Syria to add to the matrix of people from all over the world—from Russia and Eastern Europe; from the Far East and the Middle East; and from Asia and Africa. Now, more than 150 languages are spoken here. Truly this is a mission field, Lord, and we remind ourselves that you sent your disciple to keep making disciples of all ethné.

But Lord, the churches are so weak; Christians don’t study their Bibles any more, some even doubt it is the authoritative Word of God. These weak Christians don’t know how to witness; they are fearful of their Muslim, Hindu and Sikh neighbours; and even when they befriend their neighbours, they have been taught not to offend them by sharing their beliefs.

Our aching hearts cry out to you, O Lord. We pray for this mission field. Stir up the local church through faithful teachers and prophets who will be able to equip the church for the Christ-given task. Help the lively African, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other churches, who for years have focused on their own people. Now stir up these ethnic churches to lift up their eyes and look on the Canadian fields. And Lord, bless the young Christians, both Canadian and International, at universities and colleges to be powerful bearers of the gospel to the next generation.

Above all, Lord, may all Canadians who truly love you: enlighten hearts and strengthened them by the Spirit. Help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ that by knowing him experientially, they may reject the ways of the world in which they live, that in faith and obedience they will live in Christ and for Christ.

To Jesus be ongoing praise and glory. Amen.

Pray for Ireland

Dear God,

We thank you for our beautiful emerald Ireland and for its people.  We pray that you will touch and soften their hearts towards the gospel. Holy Spirit, lead them to Christians who can share the gospel and share your love with them. Open their eyes and hearts to experience your love, mercy and grace; that the gospel is good news and is for everyone.  They don’t need to work their way into heaven. Jesus, your son, has done a total and complete work on the cross. Jesus is the one who redeems, sets man free and closes the gap between you and them.  Heal their broken hard hearts.  Heal them from abuse and may they come to know you as a kind and caring God.  I thank you that as they rely on you they would come to understand their future and would not look back. Teach them to forgive others as you have forgiven them.

We pray for unity amongst Christians on this island, that they would respect each other’s view points and would love one another as you have loved us.  Guard their mouths and protect them from evil.  We pray that the world would see us as one, as you are one. We pray that your church will have a strong witness in these difficult times and that you will raise up wise and mature leaders.

May your name be glorified here in Ireland.

Amen

Pray for Nepal

This week's prayer comes to us from Ms Shanti Lama, a citizen and resident of the Asia country of Nepal. Nepal, best known as the home of Mt. Everest, has a long-standing Hindu identity. Over the past several decades, the church has grown to be a significant minority within this small nation. In the following prayer, you can feel Ms Lama's love for both God and her country, and the church within her country.

If you would like to know more about this beautiful country, we recommend you follow this link to Operation World's overview of Nepal.

Most who read this will not be Nepali. Nevertheless, please take time to join Shanti in prayer through this coming week by reading the prayer aloud as your own. 

Dear God,

I thank you that I get to be a citizen of Nepal. You have blessed this country with so many good things.  Thank you for all the natural beauties: all the mountains, rivers, animals, and of course! the beautiful people. You are wonderful and creative. Thank you for creating us in your own image and you love all your sons and daughters. As John 3:16 says, You sent your one and only son Jesus Christ so everyone who believes in Him have eternal life. I know that you want all your children to have eternal life in you. Thank you Lord that you love the people of Nepal and you want us all to receive the gift of life.

God, I pray against the power of darkness that prevails in this place because of the presence of false gods and idol worshiping. Lord, you have the power to break every chain and set your people free. I pray against the chain of poverty, pride, greed, corruption in this nation. Lord, I pray that you would soften up people’s hearts and open their eyes so they see and come to an understanding of your Love. I pray for the political leaders of this nation. I know that they are appointed by you and only you can change their hearts and minds. I pray that you would put love and care in their hearts for the citizens so they work for the interest of the citizens rather than their own selfish desires.

I want to lift up your church, your bride of this country. Lord, I pray that we would rise up and take stand for truth. I pray that our hearts would be full of passion for you and your work. Please give us hunger and thirst for you. Help us to be good citizens and work for the best interest of our nation and expand your Kingdom in the process. Thank you for being so kind and gracious. As your word says in Mark 16:17, signs and wonders would follow us as we believe in you so that the people around us can see your power and your greatness through our works.

May you be lifted up in this place; May your will be done in this place as it is in heaven, and May you be glorified through everything. I believe and expect great things for this nation through your power. I pray in Jesus name

Amen!