The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Prayer – The Preparatory Priority of the Spirit

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,  . . . .”

United prayer paves the way to Pentecost. There were “about a hundred and twenty” disciples gathered in the Upper Room. These included the eleven remaining apostles, “with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:12-13). This was the small group upon which the Holy Spirit came in power (Acts 1:15; 2:1ff.). Jesus had previously taught them that their love for Him must go beyond mere word to demonstration in obedience. If they obeyed, Jesus would pray the Father and He would send the Spirit to help them (John 14:15-16). Jesus later instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Those who would be baptized with the Holy Spirit’s power loved Jesus enough to obey Him. They, “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,” (Acts 1:14). We need the power of the Spirit today.  We need to unite in prayer.  We need to obey the Lord.

Our best efforts apart from the Spirit, prayerlessly never attain the desired results. The absence of prayer exposes a work of “the flesh.” The flesh is mere human strength and resource (Gal. 5:16-26). It’s foolish, frustrating, futile and doomed to failure to think we can address ministry needs by throwing a few bills and checks in the offering plate, buying a few new gadgets, and organizing some programs. This is too often a mere fleshly response (e.g. Gal. 3:1-5). Our efforts, no matter how expensive and exhaustive, will fall flat without prayer and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Prayer needs to be our priority.

 When the Spirit came upon Jesus He was praying. Prayer opens the windows of heaven (Luke 3:21-22). Jesus prayed when He was transfigured. Prayer changes us from the inside out (Luke 9:29). Prayer is contagious. It was as Jesus prayed that His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1f.). If we want to unite in prayer we must take the initiative and pray. Try this the next time you are hanging out with your friends. Suggest you all spend some time in prayer. Who knows how the Lord might bless such prayer.

 Interestingly, how to pray was the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them to do. They never asked Him to teach them to teach, preach, do miracles or even walk on water. They asked Him to teach them to pray. They equated prayer with who Jesus was and what He was able to do. What do people acquaint with you? Are you known for prayer?

 Jesus taught the disciples to persevere in prayer (Luke 18:1f.). He showed them to pray in times of difficulty. He prayed as He agonized over the cross in Gethsemane. He also taught them the spirit was willing but their flesh was weak. They needed to watch and pray that they wouldn’t succumb to temptation. This is a valuable lesson for us to learn (Luke 22:39-46).

 Jesus taught the disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). And it is the Holy Spirit who will continue to teach us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). We are weak and need the Spirit’s leading and empowering to pray. We are called to follow in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21). We must walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). Jesus prayed. So should we.  Pray and the heavens will open and the Spirit will come. Pray for the Spirit’s empowerment and then pray in the Spirit (e.g. Jude 20-21).

 Prayer is very practical to the needs of the church. Prayer makes the church run right. Prayer brings the presence of the Spirit. I like what R.A. Torrey stated about the importance of prayer for the church:

Praying will do more to make the Church what it ought to be than anything else we can do. Prayer will do more to root out heresy than all the heresy trials ever held. Prayer will do more to straighten out tangles, misunderstandings, and unhappy complications in the life of the Church than all the councils and conferences ever held. Prayer will do more to bring a deep, lasting, sweeping, real, God-sent revival, than all the organizations ever devised by man. . . . Humanly speaking, the Church today, owes its very existence to revivals. Time and time again, the Church has seemed to be on the verge of shipwreck; but just at the right time God has sent a great revival in the Church as a result of prayer. There have been revivals without much preaching; there have been revivals with absolutely no organization; but there has never been a revival without mighty praying.[1]

 We need a revival in the church. That revival is only going to come when we unite in prayer to seek the empowerment of the Spirit. If a congregation wants the Spirit to come in His reviving power they need to unite in prayer. And they need to particularly prioritize revival in their prayers. But first they need to unite in prayer.

That unity in prayer should go beyond the walls of the local church. We need to set aside the walls of sectarian denominational non-essential doctrinal differences and unite in prayer. I’m not speaking about overlooking any essential doctrine of the faith. And I’m not talking about a one world religion.  I’m talking about setting aside Christian non-essential beliefs or traditions that are often no more than petty differences that divide us.

We need to trust each other. There is a lot of mistrust in the body of Christ. Unfortunately it is frequently warranted. Those in the church need to stop robbing other shepherd’s sheepfolds. Are we really concerned for the Bride of Christ or just want a larger church or to win an argument? There needs to be some integrity and accountability. We need to stop “evangelizing” the church. We need to stop with our pet dogmas seeking to win converts to our side from the converted. There are enough sinners in this world to go around. They are lost and the Lord wants to use us to find them and bring them home to Him. He has elected us to reach them; “we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

We need to come together in love and respect for one another. Jesus said His disciples would be known by their love for one another (John 13:35). Where is the love? Whatever we do, including the adherence to sound right doctrine, if it is done lovelessly, is “nothing” (1 Cor. 13). Without love everything we do is ear-splitting, heart-poisoning, Spirit-quenching static. We need to unite in love and prayer.

Some churches are dead or out of breath. At such times the church needs reviving. Like with Israel, the Spirit can revive the church like bringing dead bones to life again (Ezek. 37). A revival is when the Holy Spirit breathes life into the church that is out of breath. The Book of Acts is a picture of revival. When the Spirit came in Acts, He breathed incredible life into the people of God. United prayer preceded that outpouring of the Spirit.

The need for revival is not limited to the church. Our world needs revival. Our world needs the overflow of the life of the Spirit from the church. I quote Torrey again:

The greatest need of the Church today is a general, widespread, deep, thorough, genuine revival. That is also the greatest need of business, the greatest need of human society, the greatest need of human government, the greatest need of international relations, and the greatest need of missions. In every department of life today – business, social relations, politics, international relations, education, the Church – we are facing the most menacing problems and the most important crises that have confronted the human race in centuries, in fact in human history. Since the incarnation of God in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the birth of the Church, which was the outcome of that incarnation, the only hope of the Church is a great revival or revolution throughout the civilized world. It is a real and larger coming of the life of God into the Church and through the Church into society as a whole. If not, it will be universal Communism: Communism in the Church, state, school, home, and everywhere with consequent chaos and midnight darkness on the Earth. It will be utter universal dissolution, desolation, and destruction.” [2]

Torrey wrote that in the early 1900s and God also stemmed the tide by sending revival. Today we have returned to a state not dissimilar to the one Torrey described in the above passage. We are in need of another revival from God. We need to unite in prayer for the Holy Spirit to come upon us in power. Prayer is the preparatory priority of the Spirit to come in power. Christian, unite in prayer!

[1] R.A. Torrey, Torrey on Prayer: The Power of Prayer & The Prayer of Power, (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2009) p. 63, 64.
[2] R.A. Torrey, Torrey on Prayer: The Power of Prayer & The Prayer of Power, (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2009) p. 216

No comments:

Post a Comment