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:
- That they would not be surprised by such suffering – 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12
- That they would remember that suffering is a privilege and they will be wonderfully rewarded – Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 25:23
- 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
- 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!
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
That is what Erik Raymond tells us over at his blog Ordinary Pastor.
“What are “Dental Chair” devotions?” you ask. He writes:
I am afraid that too many of us practice dental chair devotions. We grab our Bibles, spend some time in it and then we are done. We promptly put down our Bibles and walk out the door or on to our daily tasks. Five to eight hours later someone could ask you, “What did you read in the Word today?” The answer, too often, is, “I can’t remember.”
What happened? We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly. This is because we often practice a “swish and spit” devotional time. We don’t really engage the mind and heart with the Word.
He then provides 9 simple but powerful suggestions (my favorite is number 8) to resist this “swish and spit” mentality and concludes with:
Bible reading is far too precious and important a time to just go through the motions. You must get that word into your heart, mind and life. This takes work. So, resolve today to not practice the swish and spit, dental chair devotional life. Instead prayerfully marinate in the text, interrogate it and take it with you.
I agree. For way too many people devotions are little more than reading a chapter or two followed by a few minutes of prayer that MAYBE amounts to increased knowledge and RARELY leads to any Christ-life conformity. Renewal comes through the transformation of the mind (Romans 12:1-2) and that requires we get a good, holy mental sweat going when we read the Bible and it means we should plead with God in prayer asking him to grab us, spin us around, knock us off our feet, flatten us, and pin us until all we can do is cling to him and wholly and solely surrender to him.
What are you waiting for – go read the article and be done with “swish and spit” devotions!
A great suggestion from Douglas Groothuis over at The Constructive Curmudgeon:
Here is a simple spiritual discipline. Pray for people as you talk with them; pray for people as you see them in everyday life. Perhaps say a benediction for them silently: “May God bless you and keep you, May God’s face shine upon you, and give you peace.” This orients you to love God and people. – Douglas Groothuis
Reflecting on Genesis 32:22-32 Charles Simeon asks this very penetrating question:
What resemblance do we bear to Jacob in this particular? I ask not whether we have ever
spent a whole night in prayer, but whether we have ever wrestled with God at all; and
whether, on the contrary, our prayers have not for the most part been cold, formal
hypocritical; and whether we have not by the very mode of offering our prayers rather
mocked and insulted God, than presented to him any acceptable sacrifice? Say whether there
be not too much reason for that complaint, “There is no one who calls upon Your name, that
stirs up himself to lay hold of You” (Isa. 64:7)? Dear brethren, I know nothing which so
strongly marks our departure from God as this. To an earthly friend we can go, and tell our
complaints, till we have even wearied him with them; and in the prosecution of earthly things
we can put forth all the energy of our minds: but when we go to God in prayer, we are restricted, and have scarcely a word to say; and our thoughts rove to the very ends of the
earth. The prophet Hosea well describes this: “They have not cried unto me with their heart.
They return, but not to the Most High: they are like a deceitful bow,” which, when it
promises to send the arrow to the mark, causes it to fall at our very feet. O let us not fancy
that we are of the true children of God, while we so little resemble Him whose name we bear,
and bear as a memorial of persistence in prayer. The character of the true child of God ever
has been, and ever will continue to be, that they are “a people near unto their God” (Ps.
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,
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
I just saw this over on Trevin Wax’s website and loved it so much I just had to re-post it:
Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God,
Grant us the desire to do only what pleases You,
and the strength to do only what You command.
Cleanse our souls,
enlighten our minds,
and inflame our hearts with Your Holy Spirit,
that we may follow in the footsteps of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
– Francis of Assisi