Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prayer & the Parting of the Ways

“Listen! We have come—you and I—once more to the parting of the ways. All our past failure, all our past inefficiency and insufficiency, all our past unfruitfulness in service, can be banished now, once and for all, if we will only give prayer its proper place. Do it today. Do not wait for a more convenient time” (35).

This is the clarion call of the third chapter of The Kneeling Christian (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids: 1971). Our anonymous author had earlier stated that he was setting out to do the impossible in this chapter, namely, to exhort Christians to a life of prayer by relating stories about answered prayer. He thought this task impossible, “For if men will not believe, and act upon, our Lord’s promises and commands, how can we expect them to be persuaded by any mere human exhortations?” (29)

But he quickly pointed out that even the Lord once urged his followers to believe in him on account of his works if indeed they were unwilling to believe on account of his person and words (John 14:11). Thus, our author set about to relate a number of stories of answered prayer, most of which, by the way, took place in India.

The story that perhaps moved me most was of a young fifteen-year-old woman. She was a student at a boarding school who had converted to Christ from Hinduism, and had recently gone on a missions trip of sorts within India. One evening a missionary who was supervising the group noticed some light coming from the girls’ tent and thus went to rebuke them. But when she arrived she found that the light was emanating from a candle in the corner of the tent where this young woman was bowed down and praying for 500 unconverted souls, lifting each name before the Father.

Oh how I pray that we will have ears to hear: a fifteen-year-old young woman denying herself sleep in order to pray for 500 souls. Perhaps we would see more people coming to Christ at Glory of Christ Fellowship if we would sacrifice less to pray for only one or ten or twenty.

The point is not to pressure God’s people to prayer by means of guilt but to wake us up to the reality that we can accomplish much more by praying that we can by working or worrying, for when we pray we move the heart that rules the world.

Longing with you for a Spirit of intercession to descend on us,

Pastor Charlie

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Are we Willing to Pray?

“I am quite certain of this fact: God wants me to pray, he wants you to pray. The question is, are we willing to pray?” (27). So writes the anonymous author at the close of the second chapter of The Kneeling Christian (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids: 1971). He had just laid out for his readers the stunning nature of Jesus’ promises regarding prayer in the gospel John, skillfully drawing attention to the fact that Jesus repeats his promise seven times in the hours before his death—seven times.

The first iteration is found in John 14:13-14: “13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” The final iteration is found in 16:26-27: “26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

These promises are truly stunning, and so is the fact that the Lord of the universe repeated them seven times in four chapters. If I were to make such promises they would be devoid of power because I do not have the ability to fulfill them. But the One who in fact made them rules over all things and therefore these promises contain a power as vast the One who made them.

On the one hand, this ought to produce much hope and joy in the heart of every believer but, on the other hand, it does leave us with a perplexing difficulty: why, in light of such promises, do so few Christians pray?

The author doesn’t spend much time answering the question, rather, he simply acknowledges that we are fraught with weaknesses and that the Holy Spirit has promised to help us in the same (Rom 8:26). He then pleads with us to contemplate the words of our Lord, lean upon the Holy Spirit, and passionately pursue communion with God. And throughout his lengthy plea we can feel both his sense of desperation toward his siblings in Christ and his sense of hope in our Savior.

He closes the chapter with these words: “Gracious Savior, pour out upon us the fullness of the Holy Spirit that we may indeed become Kneeling Christians” (27), to which I say, amen.

Longing with you to hear and heed our Savior’s commands,

Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Secret of all Failure is our Failure in Secret Prayer

“We may be assured of this—the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer” (12). So writes the anonymous author of the classic little book on prayer entitled, The Kneeling Christian (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids: 1971). He means that the reason we so often fall into sin or live in discouragement or fail to bear fruit is because we do not cling to God in Christ above all things. We do not diligently seek him or lean on him or plead with him or draw on his strength. We give ourselves to busyness over communion with God and in this way we seek to accomplish in our flesh what can only be accomplished in the power of the Spirit.

Giving first place to what our dear author calls “secret prayer” is indeed a key to the Spirit-filled life but let’s be clear: prayer is not magic, its relationship. It’s not as if we simply have to file requests with God, being careful to use just the right words so that we can get him to respond as we wish. God is not a vending machine.

Rather, prayer is communication between the Father and those who have become his children in Christ. Prayer is conversing with our Father in Christ, discussing every circumstance with him, tackling every problem with him, celebrating every victory with him, growing in love with him. Prayer is one means of communion with God.

When we approach prayer this way—rather than seeing it as magic or some sort of duty—it is indeed the key to victory and fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit. It is the pipeline through which the power of God is delivered to the child of God. When we fail to tap into this pipeline, we guarantee our failure. Indeed, “the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.” The secret of all failure is our failure to pursue communion with our Father above all things.

For this reason, our dear author issues a call to prayer in his first chapter. “And today I pass on that great call to you. Will you give heed to it? Will you profit by it? Or shall it fall on deaf ears and leave you prayerless?” (17) His desire is not to criticize or condemn, he makes that clear earlier in the chapter (13-14). But his heart is to encourage, even to prod, us down the road of communion with God that we might come to know the power of life in God. May we reverence the God who inspired this prodding by heeding the call to secret prayer.

Longing with you to know the joy of secret prayer,

Pastor Charlie

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Sovereignty of God & the Call to Prayer

After twenty-four years of following Jesus Christ, I am still amazed by his sovereignty. When he determines to issue a message to his Bride, he sees to it that the message is articulated by the right man at the right time, and that the message reaches all for whom it was intended. Nothing stops him from accomplishing his purposes.

As I shared last week, I have been re-reading the classic little book on prayer entitled, The Kneeling Christian (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: 1971). It was written by an anonymous author “by request, and with much hesitancy” (7) and it was first published in England. Some years later, not long after brothers P. J. and Bernard Zondervan founded the Zondervan Publishing Company, P. J. stumbled across the work as he made a sales call in Seattle, Washington. The bookseller there had been blessed by the book and therefore commended it to Mr. Zondervan who in turn secured the rights to distribute it in the United States.

However, due to the devastating effects of World War II upon England, the publisher was no longer able to print the book and thus Mr. Zondervan secured the rights to print and publish it. Between the years 1945 and 1971, Zondervan executed twenty-four printings and sold over 100,000 copies. This is how a little book by an unknown author came to have such a massive impact on the body of Christ both in England and the United States.

This story is not primarily about an author and his publishers. Rather, it is about a sovereign God and his Bride. When God chooses to speak to his Beloved nothing stops him from doing so, not even a great world war! As Isaiah declares in 55:10-11, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

The message of this little book is as clear as it is profound: learn the joy of secret prayer. It is not a book designed to inform our minds about prayer so much as to inspire the practice of prayer. Therefore, we would best honor the God who issued the decree by joining our author in saying, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Rejoicing with you in the God who calls us to pray,

Pastor Charlie