Dave Butts "Prayer Strategy for Ministry" resonated strongly with me, as does Nehemiah's prayer life.
I also liked Phil Miglioratti's thought provoking Take-Away questions on this article which resulted in my responses below. (If you haven't read Dave's article then please do that before proceeding..)
- As you were reading, did this seem more relevant to you personally or to your role as a leader or change agent?
As a retired engineer / change agent, and a lay ministry leader, I do not compartmentalise my life into personal and leadership domains. I am who I am in Christ, born again, following him, and seeking to bring glory to him in whatever he calls me to. The article spoke equally to all of this.
- Where do you agree? Disagree - and why?
I agree with all of it; I disagree with none of it. Why? because I have learned the truth of it through 35 years of Christian living and ministry practice.
- What did you read that resonates with the leading/guiding you have sensed recently from the Holy Spirit?
With God’s impeccable timing, a link to the article appeared in my inbox immediately after discussing - with a Christian brother from my church fellowship - the place of prayer relative to vision and planning within God’s mission. As the article expressed my view better than my words in the discussion, I passed on a link along with some additional reflection and comments as follows.
This world is but part of God’s creation.
Christian mission is God’s Mission to redeem broken people and a broken world.
Yet he invites us to participate in his Mission.
He knows the end from the beginning.
So why would some think they can do mission without him?
Why would they think they could develop vision, strategy, or plan without him?
Some claim “God is in control of all things” (correct) so “let go and let God” (incorrect). Why? Because many of those to whom he has given vision, are also those he is calling to implement that vision. A failure to act on a God given vision may be to deny God’s calling. As Dave Butts pointed out: Nehemiah's vision was God's vision (Neh 2:12)
Our faith is not a blind faith - not a leap in the dark - but a trusting in a God’s assured promises. So too when we “step out in faith” in a new ministry direction, we should not set out with merely good intentions to do God’s work as we see fit, but we should seek his vision, his will, his blessing, before we conclude what he wants of us. We must follow him, not ask him to follow and bless us.
- How can you move from analysis to application to implementation?
It takes prayerful intent, perseverance, and self discipline, but it leads to a joy-filled life. I don't think it's something we do for it seems to come along with other fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
In my early days as a born again Christian (having been redeemed by a new-found faith in Christ from the darkest nihilism of my then atheistic beliefs) prayer was but one of the daily spiritual disciplines that I learned to practice. As I grew in my knowledge of God, I desired him more, and served him better. It was as if His Spirit moved out of the pages of Scripture and into my heart. Now, I don’t just know of him: I know him! He is with me wherever I go, whatever I’m doing. I’m never alone. He is in me, guiding and leading me, bringing both joy and sorrow. My daily communication with him (Bible reading and prayer) transitioned into a constant communication with him throughout my waking hours: the Spirit bringing to mind memorised Scripture and calling me to prayers of thanksgiving, praise, confession, intercession, and lamentation as applicable to the various matters he brings before me. It's as if he's saying: "Here, see the world through my eyes, and respond to it as would my beloved Son!" As he is with me constantly, it is only natural for me to consult with him on almost everything before I speak or act, to wait on him as appropriate, and to bring him thanks and praise for answered prayers. Times of solitude with him can be spiritually overwhelming as nothing can drown out his voice.
Prayer is a direct line to God. Not to use it is an insult to him: it not only breaks our communion with him, it breaks his heart! Like a grandchild ignoring my love, my presence, my desire to advise and teach, as I watch them struggling to figure out things on their own, and finally giving up in disgust, too proud to ask for help. Mature adults wouldn’t do that - would they?
Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It speaks of a personal relationship with the living God through faith in Christ. A love above all other loves. A desire above all other desires. A fascination with God’s wisdom above all other facts and knowledge. A dedication to Godly living in all aspects of life. Communication is at the heart of all relationship. Relationship with our infinite God demands constant communication through prayer and the reading or recall of Scripture.
Do you have a loved one in your life - a spouse, parent, child, or close friend? How often do you listen to your loved one? You should listen to God more often than that by reading his word.
How often do you talk to your loved one? You should talk to God more often than that in prayer.
Put another way, the amount of time we spend with God in Bible reading and prayer is a measure of our love for him. So how much do we really love him? How does our time spent in Bible reading and prayer compare with our time spent on our other “loves”: people, hobbies, TV, sports, etc?
Does that scare you?
Fear not, for Jesus died for our sins, and His Holy Spirit will sanctify our sinful nature, so trust him, and learn to love him more, by reading about him in the Scriptures, and speaking with him in prayer.
Christianity is not principally about righteous living, but about a personal relationship with the living God. How is your relationship going?
If prayer isn’t natural for us, then we must ask God to help us desire him, and to turn away from unnecessary distractions. If we don’t do that, then he may remove those distractions anyway. He could completely break us to get our full attention. It need not be like that. We must get our priorities right that we may serve him better.
- Who do you need to talk with about the ideas you have encountered here?
Many people in my church fellowship.
- Finish this sentence: "Jesus . . .
Jesus, despite being God incarnate, did not act on his own. His ministry began during prayer at his baptism when God the Holy Spirit descended upon him, God the Father spoke directly to him, and the Holy Spirit directed him to the wilderness where he confronted Satan with the word of God (Lk 3:21-22; 4:1-13). Jesus said and did only the will of his Father (Jn 14:10; 24). To this end, Jesus went out to solitary places to be alone, and to spend time in prayer with his Father (Mk 1:35). He prayed all night before he chose his 12 Apostles (Lk 6:12-16). When daunted by what lay ahead, Jesus prayed and deferred to his Father’s will (Mt 6:36-39). As his earthly mission was about to reach its climax, Jesus reported back to his Father in prayer (Jn 17:1-26). If Jesus needed such communion with, and direction from, the Father for his earthly ministry, how much more we broken, sinful, conflicted followers?
His disciples recognised the power and necessity of prayer even in Jesus' life, which is why they asked him to teach them to pray (Lk 11:1-4). Has he taught you? Does your ministry for God lack power because you fail to pray?