When is the last time you prayed for persecuted Christians?

Today I was reminded of the need to be praying for our brothers and sisters who are in chains for Christ. It is reported that in North Korea Christians are being used for chemical experimentation and having their heads crushed by steamrollers in front of their families. This is distressing and compelled me to pray for them and others all around the world. Here are some things I brought to the throne of grace that I thought I would share with you to encourage you in your prayers:

  1. That they would not be surprised by such suffering – 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12
  2. That they would remember that suffering is a privilege and they will be wonderfully rewarded – Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 25:23
  3. That God would flood their hearts and minds with his promises and his character not the least of which is that God is forming Christ in them – Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13
  4. That God would use their sacrifice to strengthen and advance His church – Read the whole book of Acts but at least Acts 8:1-8.

There you have it, four ways to pray for our persecuted church family. Now start praying!

11 Encouragements Not To Be A Prayerless Christian

Why eleven? Just to drive you perfectionists crazy, that’s why! No, not really. I am making my way through On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. Most recently I read the fourth chapter titled “Prayer.” I was so encouraged by it that I decided to post a few snippets from it with the hope that God will use it to build up your prayer life also. It just so happened that it was eleven phrases/paragraphs that I highlighted.

More important than being a shepherd or teacher is being a son of God. Prayer is the principal expression of our relationship to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. No privilege is greater than being able to call God “Father,” and knowing that it is true. – pg. 62

 

A prayerless Christian is a contradiction in that if our life is under the control and influence of Christ’s Spirit, we pray to the Father with delightful confidence. – pg. 62

 

Prayer is our principal and main work. It has priority over the ministry of the Word in that it must come first. It is by prayer that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is effectively unsheathed. Prayer perfectly complements the ministry of the Word. – pg. 65

 

It is one thing to say that prayer is an undisputed priority and another thing to practice it. – pg. 65

 

Prayer is crucial because of the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. The importance of a shepherd and teacher’s work automatically makes him the target of the enemy of souls. Like a Christians, we know a constant struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. The strength of Jesus Christ, obtained through prayer, is the necessary and sufficient resource for victory. As spiritual leaders, some of the temptations we experience will be unique to our tasks, and it is through prayer alone that we find insight to recognize them and power to avoid them. An unrelenting foe demands unrelenting spiritual watchfulness through prayer. Satan delights to make casualties of those who have encouraged others to fight the good fight of faith. Satan places an amazing variety of temptations in our way, and it is foolish to imagine that we know them all already. He will try to overwhelm us by the sheer magnitude of our task of shepherding and teaching, especially when people are a disappointment to us. He will try to sow the seeds of discouragement as we realize how hard the hearts of men and women can be toward God and His truth. He will do his best to make us focus on our weakness and limitations. But prayer can thwart all Satan’s attacks. Through prayer, disappointments turn into opportunities to prove God. Through prayer, the hardness of men’s and women’s hearts melts. Through prayer, the limitations of our human nature are countered. The primary way to overcome Satan is on our knees. – pg. 66

 

Every time we find it difficult to maintain prayer, we will be helped by remembering that this is simply an indication of its key importance in the spiritual battle. It is sheer foolishness to pray only when we feel like it. – pg. 67

 

Called to be shepherds as well as teachers, we must be intercessors for the members of Christ’s flock entrusted to us. Prayer is one way in which we keep watch over the spiritual well-being of the lambs and sheep of the flock. If no one else prays for them, we must. It is significant that the ministry of intercession is the one ministry that our Lord continues in heaven now on our behalf. We are never nearer to His heart than when we bear up in our prayers the concerns and well-being of His flock. – pg. 69

 

No prompting to pray is to be ignored, and often we discover later that there was an acute need in the lives of those for whom we prayed. – pg. 72

 

It is as impossible to understand the Scriptures without the Spirit’s help as it is to read a sundial without the sun. pg. 74

 

Shepherds and teachers need the prayers of God’s people and should not hesitate to ask for them. “Pray for us,” the writer of the letter to the Hebrews urges his readers (13:18). – pg. 80

 

No Christian knows how much he owes to God for the prayers of others, and not least shepherds and teachers. – pg. 81

A Prudent Preacher

Back in March I attended a church conference near Grand Rapids, MI and picked up the little work, “A Labor of Love” by J. Stephen Yuille and it has been immensely encouraging and convicting. Essentially Yuille has extracted Swinnock’s 16 prayers in The Christian Man’s Calling and has enlarged upon the central truth within each prayer, supporting them with other Puritan quotations and his own thoughts. As I was reading tonight I came to chapter 9 called “A Prudent Preacher” and it begins with this heartfelt minister’s prayer. I enjoyed it so much I had to share it.

The minister’s principal work is the preaching of the gospel, with which he undermines and overturns the stronghold of sin and the kingdom of darkness. Therefore, I wish that I might prepare for this work diligently, handle this weapon carefully, and deliver this message soberly, in a manner that is most for my God’s glory and my people’s good – not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

Prayerfully

To this end, I desire that all my sermons might be, like Monica’s son, children of many tears and prayers, and thereby unlikely to perish. Martin Luther says, “Whoever prays hard studies hard.” Lord, may all my sermons be heaven-born. May they drop down on my people like rain on the grass. Let prayer be the key that opens the mysteries of Christ to me. Let prayer be the key that locks them safe inside me. Let prayer open and close all my reading, writing, and preparing. Let prayer begin and conclude al my sermons. In every sermon, I preach my beloved neighbors into eternal burnings or eternal pleasures. Oh, how I should pray for my preaching and before my preaching!

Passionately

I also wish that I might preach every sermon to my own heart before I preach it to others, so that – preaching feelingly – I might preach effectually. May the Word come naturally, like milk from the mother’s breasts, to nourish my children. Why should I plead God’s cause without having a personal interest in it? Oh, let me be like the doctor, who takes the same remedy he prescribes to his patients.

Purely

I desire that I might never play the huckster with God’s Word – adulterating it with my own additions. May I receive from the Lord what I deliver to others. May I feed all under my charge with the sincere milk of the Word, so that they might grow. As an ambassador, may I keep close to my instructions. As a builder, may I set every stone in God’s temple by the line and rule of His Word. as a doctor, may I never experiment upon my people’s souls, but prescribe those tested and approved remedies, which the great Physician has entrusted to me.

Plainly

Because my work is to touch and pierce my people’s hearts, and not to tickle and please their ears, I wish that I might preach a crucified Savior in a crucified style. May I not paint my sermon with a showy display of words, but employ all plainness, stooping to their lowest capacity. May I be “made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). I am a foreigner to my people, if I preach to them in an unknown language. I starve their souls, if I give them meat that they can never digest. Let me not read commentaries as the butterfly goes to the flower to gild her wings, but as the bee goes to the flower to gather honey to supply her young. Lord, let me never be guilty of painting the windows, thereby hindering the light of Thy glorious gospel from shining powerfully into the hearts of men and women.

Prudently

My prayer is that I might not strengthen the hands of the ungodly nor sadden the hearts of the godly, but distinguish between the vile and the precious, and preach to each accordingly. May I give milk to babes and meat to adults. May I order my prescriptions in a manner that is suitable to their constitutions. May I use the needle of the law to make way for the thread of the gospel. May I lead my people – like Jacob his flock – as they are able to bear it. And may I teach my people – as Christ His disciples – as they are best able to hear it.

Powerfully

Oh, that I might not only preach prudently, but also powerfully. May my sermons be delivered, not as prologues to a play, but as the message of a herald with all seriousness and fervency, containing conditions of life and death. The Word is a hammer, but it will never break the stony heart if it is not brought to bear. What is preached coldly is heard carelessly. Lord, let me not – like the moon- give light without heat. Cause me to lift up my voice like a trumpet to give – like fire – heat as well as light. May I be consumed with zeal for Thy house. May I beseech poor souls to be happy, as if I were begging for my life. May I preach so successfully that I might produce much fruit.

– Swinnock, A Christian Man’s Calling as found in this work by J. Stephen Yuille

A New Year Prayer

O Lord,

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me grace that precedes,

     follows,

     guides,

     sustains,

     sanctifies,

     aids every hour,

          that I may not be one moment apart from thee, but may rely on thy Spirit

               to supply every thought,

               speak in every word,

               direct every step,

               prosper every work,

               build up every mote of faith, and give me a desire

                    to show forth thy praise;

                    testify thy love,

                    advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

     with thee, O Father, as my harbour,

     thee, O Son, at my helm,

     thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,

     my lamp burning,

     my ear open to thy calls,

     my heart full of love,

     my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,

     thy comforts to cheer,

     thy wisdom to teach,

     thy right hand to guide,

     thy counsel to instruct,

     thy law to judge,

     thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy.

– The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions

What the Church Needs

 

What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit 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, “Power through Prayer”

Prayer-less

Greg Nichols:

A prayerless person is ungrateful because he doesn’t thank God. He is self-righteous because he doesn’t confess his sins to God. He is self centered because he doesn’t ask God to bless other people. He is presumptuous because he doesn’t pray for his daily needs. He is irreverent because he doesn’t praise God. And he is unfriendly to God because his prayerlessness evidences that he doesn’t enjoy being with God.

Enough said?

God’s Eternal Purposes and Praying for Healing

The last time pastor and author James Montgomery Boice addressed his church before succumbing to cancer he spoke these words:

A relevant question, when you pray is, pray for what? Should you pray for a miracle? Well you are free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles – and he certainly can – is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition. A miracle has to be an unusual thing.

…Pray for wisdom for the doctors…Pray also for the effectiveness of the treatment.

Above all I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t be delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have. Jesus said, ‘Don’t you think I could call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my defense?’ But he didn’t do that. And yet that’s were God is most glorified…

When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by…God does everything according to his will…

But what I’ve been impressed with most is something in addition to that. It’s possible, isn’t it, to conceive of God as sovereign and yet indifferent? God’s in charge, but he doesn’t care. But it’s not that. God is not only the one who is in charge. God is also good. Everything he does is good.

…If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?

‘Sing to the Lord, all the earth, proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among the peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…’

Along similar lines Bryan Chapell encourages all who will listen with these words:

With faith in God’s sovereignty over eternity undergirding our prayers, I have often encouraged others not to pray for God to heal if it is his will – as though maybe he will heal and maybe not. Instead, I encourage my friends and family to pray for God to heal according to his will. Then, whether he answer with the temporary healing that keeps a loved one with us longer, or whether he answers with the perfect healing of taking that one into Jesus’ arms, we remain confident that he has blessed. We have faith that our God’s blessings will be according to a sovereign plan that is as beautiful and boundless as he.

Disease and suffering are inevitable in our fallen world. Yet amid the hurt and confusion, we can pray without doubting that these afflictions are not the ultimate reality or the final chapter of King Jesus’ response to the prayers of his people. Our Lord Jesus will use our prayer in his name to extend his rule through this world and the next. He is able because he is sovereign over all things for all time.

God is sovereign.

Do you pray that way or do you pray as if you are?