Monday, January 30, 2006

People of Prayer

What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use -- men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men -- men of prayer. ( E.M. Bounds) One of the most noteworthy Christian classic books is “Power Through Prayer” by E. M. Bounds. It is recommended reading for every person who wants a successful life of ministry to the Lord. I believe that this classic addresses the needs of every Christian believer. Each one of us is called by God to do the work of God. Each of us is a minister. God is calling each of us to be a person of prayer.
It is unfortunate that today’s churches have compromised their time for prayer with entertainment of music, drama, performance, and a watered down gospel that refuses to call sin by it’s real name. The desire for numbers, finances, power, prestige, buildings, glamour, and honor have caused a corruption of spiritual values.
Prayer has too often been demoted to insignificance and irrelevance in the modern church of today. The loved preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne once wrote, “If Satan can only make a covetous minister a lover of praise, of pleasure, of good eating, he has ruined your ministry. Give yourself to prayer, and get your texts, your thoughts, your words from God.” But today, men and women don’t seem to have time for God. Sundays are filled with shopping, movies, eating out, sports, and personal interests of all kinds. Even Christians find it hard to dedicate themselves to attend the house of God for a few hours on Sunday morning, let alone spend the evening there too. Too many other things lure the unsuspecting saint away from the presence of the Lord into the allurements of the world. In a recent study I have been making of other religions and cults, I have noticed that there has been a sudden resurgence in the last 150 years of ‘religious’ groups that are totally in error when measured up to the standards of the Word of God. The last 50 years have been the worst of all. Today it is not surprising to find once main line denominations sucked into the promiscuous lifestyles of the homosexual community, not only allowing them to participate in church leadership, but to be ordained as clergy in these ‘Christian’ churches. Others equate Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism as all the same...all following God. Other Christians embrace reincarnation, practice ‘Christian’ yoga or accept Harry Potter and Wiccan beliefs as Christian. The churches attempt to lure the world into the church has caused them to adapt to a lower standard of ‘holiness.’ This has occurred as men and women of God have moved away from the closet of prayer and come ‘out of the closet’ instead. The further we distance ourselves from the presence of the Lord, from His Word, from daily reliance on His input into our lives, the more we will find ourselves become like the world around us instead of like our Savior.
The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. (Bounds) Becoming that ‘better man or woman’ of God does not mean getting more education, developing more talent, seeking that better position, or earning a better pay check. It means becoming spiritual men and women of God with a spiritual integrity that does not waver in the face of temptation, who will not lower the standard for any reason, who will stand tall on their knees in the place of prayer. In the past 30 years of ministry I have watched the church move from one fad or program into the next, in their continual struggle to win the world. As each program ran it’s course, peaked and waned, the church tired more and more of the promises unfulfilled. Our hope was in man’s new idea, but all the time, God was wanting our hope to be in Him. So often I imagine God standing on the sidelines, wondering if we are tired of doing things our way, wondering if we will ever get to the place of letting Him take charge of it all. The book of Hebrews tells us how God sent Jesus who was better than angels, better than the prophets, better than the old Levitical priesthood, a better sacrifice, bringing a better covenant with a better promise. We already have the best there is, yet we seek outside of it for something better still. Our desires tells me that we do not know what we have. We have not spent time with the Master. We seek answers from amateurs when we have the Master Craftsman waiting for us to come to Him. The Word tells us "the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him," He is continually looking for men and women of God He can flow through to show himself strong… I want to be one of those! I long to see God moving in supernatural power once again like the disciples saw in the early church…. Miracles, healings, changed lives, and people seeking the creator instead of the creation. I’m weary of stuff. I long for Him. What do you long for? What price will you be willing to pay to have your heart’s desire? Will you be willing to pray while others want to play? As antagonism against Christianity continues to increase, we may be facing genuine persecution, even in the nation declaring the right of ‘freedom of worship.’ The loss of freedoms has occurred due to the churches failure to stand it’s ground. That ground must be secured in the place of prayer.
“The man -- God's man -- is made in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his secret communion with God...Prayer makes the man.”. (Bounds) Remember the scripture in Ezekiel 22:30 that says God, “sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” What a sad day ! When all of God’s highest creation fails Him! Is it a wonder that He also says in Luke 18:8 ‘Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?’ As our world deteriorates it can take one of two roads…. It can continue to reject God and spiral into athiestic oblivion, or it can turn back to God once again. History has taught us over and over that a person with a heart for God can change the world, but that person must be a person of prayer! Luther, Huss, Wycliffe and Tyndale all chose to take a stand and their determination changed the world and began the protestant reformation. For some, it cost them their life as Christian martyrs.
As we face an unwritten future, I wonder what it will take before the church of today wakes up to a realization of the path it is on. Can you imagine this world you are living in, without the church, without the presence of God, without spiritual freedoms? We are almost there! It is time for the body of Christ to arise from their slumber, go to their knees in prayer, take the Word of God in their hand, and go out into this lost world with the message given to the church… "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He has given us the mandate. We cannot ‘go’ and sit idle at the same time. To ‘make disciples’ we must reach out to the lost as never before. Water Baptism requires that they take a public stand against what they used to be. Teaching them is our responsibility as believers. The promise is ours...He will be with us...always… to the very end of the age.!
The beginning of the new year is always a time of introspection. We look back at what we have done, the good and the bad, and we choose to make some mid-course adjustments. Sometimes it calls for us to go on a diet, change a habit, and look to the future with new eyes. It is a good time for the believer to place our lives under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to speak into our hearts the truth about issues we have swept under the rug. It is time for genuine repentance. Church, it is in our hands...God gave us the charge to win the lost. Let us not get so caught up in saving endangered species, and preventing world pollution that we forget the pollution of sin that is endangering the souls of lost men, women and children. Giving a dollar to prevent AIDS or help anti-abortion groups does not free us from our responsibility to reach our neighbors, one by one. One day, each of us will stand before the Lord, giving an account of what we have done with what He gave us to do. I always think of the old song… “ Shall I empty handed be, when beside the crystal sea, and my Savior’s face I see?”
We can do nothing for God without the power that we find in the place of prayer. Prayer is our link to the dynamic resources of God. Our failure to maintain that link will keep us from fulfilling His mandates. We cannot do it in our power. We need His power. Prayer brings us into relationship and reliance on His power. Begin today by taking time to pray and seek Him before anything else. Ask Him to help you. Pray the Word! Prevailing powerful prayer brings victory, cleansing and reform. Church, it’s time to pray. God is calling all believers to be powerful people of prayer!
Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgiven--healed inside and out……. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” James 5: 13-16 The Message Bible.
J. Johnson