Leaders in the Body of Christ are called, among other things, to be lifeguards. Watching is the key function of a prophet or intercessor. Rescuing is a priority for the evangelist. Guarding is elementary for the pastor.Warning is a main component of teaching. Vision is essential for the apostle. Believers in the Kingdom of God are expected to be on guard, or more specifically: to keep watch.
My pastor runs a waterskiing ministry at the lake near his church in the summertime. On days when he is alone, the kids know that if he is out on the water training someone, no one swims until he gets back to the dock.
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Last week I began a series of blog posts calling for extraordinary prayer that in the power of God might sweep the earth. Such extraordinary prayer will need to come from several fronts. One of the most important focuses of our prayer needs to be Bible colleges and seminaries. If we look back through history at times when God moved mightily on human society, we see that He always raised up men to work through. So it stands to reason that if we want to be a part of an end-time revival, we should direct extraordinary prayer toward young people who sense the call of God on their lives.
We have begun this on one campus of a large multi-site seminary on the west coast. The students, faculty and staff were given questionnaires with questions about how we could pray for them. We also invited volunteers and support staff to fill out prayer questionnaires. Janitors and secretaries play an important part in what God is doing on campuses. They are often used by God to impact the lives of students. Brother Laurence touches lives to this day. He was a dishwasher in an obscure monastery.
We compiled the answers given, put them on flash drives and asked people at a regional denomination meeting to commit to pray for the seminary. People signed up pray leaving their e-mail addresses where they could be sent additional prayer requests. All of our prepared flash drives were given out before the program could be announced on the floor of the meeting.
This ministry could be contagious. Students could be sent to speak in churches asking people to commit to pray for the students and the school. Pastors’ could encourage church members to sign up. People who have hardly prayed for anyone but themselves could catch the vision to pray for a new generation of spiritual leaders.
Please pray for me as I write college and seminary presidents to present this idea. Pray that they will be receptive. Pray that they will become passionate for this. This will require busy staffs to take on new responsibilities. This will cost time and money. Pray for God to provide. And such an undertaking will certainly arouse spiritual opposition. Pray for spiritual protection for schools, students, and churches we will ask to become involved. And watch with me as God glorifies His name by raising up a mighty spiritual army to touch the world in these days.
This is a big week for politics in America. I need to say I am not sympathetic with believers who put their hope in politics. However hopeful or cynical you may be about the election this week, it is crucial that believers join together in prayer for those who govern our country. In his first letter to Timothy Paul admonished us to pray for them.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Do you pray every day for our president? Are you praying for God’s hand on individuals in Congress?
The reason the scripture gives for this is so we may live peaceful quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. It is important to understand that government affects our lives as much today as it did in the Roman Empire where Paul urged Timothy to lead people to pray for their ungodly leaders. For many of us the complexities of politics are too complicated to unravel. But they are not too complicated for God. I read a review in Books & Culture this week of a book called The Myth of Persecution. The book disputed the stories of persecution in the early church. The author made the pedantic distinction between persecution and prosecution. She said it was not persecution if Rome was simply prosecuting Christians for shaking up the fragile stability of the empire. I suspect the same distinction could be made about much 21st century persecution.
Government effects our lives even if it is not necessarily aimed at persecuting Christians. We are living in days when Christian values are no longer a major influence upon the thinking of those who make the laws and determine the values of our culture. Make no mistake, spiritual and cosmic issues are involved in politics. But we pray to the God who is sovereign over the Kings and governors of the earth.
I am copying this from my original post over at www.cityonitsknees.com.
This past week, a local youth leader of a ministry called The Basement here in Birmingham, AL was arrested a second time for impersonating a police officer. The fallout from the arrest will most likely be messy. People are very divided in their opinions about the situation. I debated and prayed for several days about whether or not to post anything, and if so, if it should be a whole blog post or just a post on our Facebook page. I also wanted to be careful not to just post my opinion on the situation. See, I'm the wife of a Birmingham police officer, so I have strong feelings regarding the case.
One of the tragedies, though, in any situation where a well-known person gets into trouble, is the onslaught of public opinion that person, and their family, have to endure. No matter how deserving the person is of the arrest/trouble they've brought on themselves, the comments are horribly abusive. We forget it's a real person with real feelings, and that but for the grace of God, we could find ourselves in a very similar situation someday.
So how should we, as Christians who are called to pray, respond? I think one of the first things we must do is choose to fast from our opinion and emotions about the situation. I had to choose to set them aside, because otherwise, I was too angry at the pride that caused such wrong choices, at foolishness, at sin. I was too hurt for all the young people who are very hurt and confused because of these events by someone they greatly admired. I feared for the direct harm he may have caused some of those young people, if they got sucked into his bad choices. I could not hear how the Holy Spirit wanted me to pray with all of those emotions and opinions drowning out His voice. It doesn't mean I shouldn't feel those things, but that I need to choose to lay them at the feet of Jesus.
The next and real first thing we do is pray for Matt Pitt. If we still can't bring ourselves to pray as we ought, and are tempted to either pray for his complete downfall so that he "gets what he deserves", as some comments have said, or if we are tempted to pray for so much grace that he gets off scott-free, then we can turn to Scripture and pray the Scriptures.
We can pray out of Genesis 50:20 by praying, "God, what the devil and man have meant for evil, You meant it for good. We pray that You would cause Matt Pitt's present result to accomplish Your purposes, to bring many people to You."
We can pray out of the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 - "Heavenly Father, You are holy and Your name is holy. Would you preserve and display Your holiness in the face of this public fall-out from a Christian leader's bad choices? Let Your kingdom come through Your people, and let it stand in stark contrast to the kingdom of darkness. We pray that Your will would be done for Matt Pitt and The Basement here on the earth, as it already is in Heaven. Cause Matt to feed daily on Your Word so that He can receive Your forgiveness that You freely grant to all who sin and have fallen. Deliver him from the evil that has gotten a hold of his life right now. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Those are just two examples of how we can use Scripture to pray for Matt Pitt and any leader who lets us down by succumbing to sin. This kind of praying does not excuse their sin, nor does it condemn him. We have no right to do either of those things. This kind of praying lines us up with the heart of God for all of His children. May we all be so blessed to receive such prayers on our behalf in our time of need.
What are some other Scripture-based prayers the Lord has led you to pray for Matt Pitt or for The Basement ministry?
My Dear Brothers and Sisters, I greet you today in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know that many of you are very troubled by yesterday’s election outcome and even more by the overall direction our country appears to be taking. You, like I, care deeply for this country and know that its ultimate hope lies in a set of values and beliefs that we appear to be rejecting as a nation. You view President Obama’s reelection as even further indication that the country we love is becoming something other, something different, something, quite frankly, you don’t respect as much. I understand that.
But I feel compelled to remind you today that what you and I do right now is very important. I feel this compulsion, in part, because I share some of your frustrations, but also because I have been quite frankly shocked at some things openly confessing Christians have said and/or written about our President over the last few days. It has not been a good reflection of the Christ we serve.
Our Lord described us as salt and light. He said that we are to be the preserving and directing forces in our culture. He said that it would be our love–not our theology, our religious performances, and certainly not our political persuasions–that would be our greatest gift to our society. But he also warned that if we ceased to be salt, if we ceased to be light, and if we ceased to love, then we would become ineffective and lose our right to serve in his name.
I am afraid that we are getting dangerously close to becoming like the gripy Israelites who God left to die in the desert, or worse, the churches in Revelation who were dangerously close to losing their holy lampstands.
Perhaps we need to be reminded that God never promised us a certain way of life, or that the pursuit of happiness is an American, not a biblical virtue.
Perhaps we need to be reminded that for two thousand years Christians have lived under oppressive, repressive and even hostile governments and yet were still commanded to pray for their leaders.
Perhaps we need to be reminded that the vast majority of believers around the world live hand-to-mouth, sleep on the ground or in extremely rough, impoverished and unsafe settings, will never own a Bible, will never go to college, don’t have retirement accounts, don’t own or drive cars, don’t play golf on weekends or go on spontaneous shopping sprees, don’t have air-conditioned and heated church buildings, and never have to decide what they are going to wear out the next day. Americans, even in the economic challenges of the last several years, still have far more wealth and enjoy far more freedom than any nation in history.
And to all of that Jesus would say, to whom much is given much is required.
Christian brothers and sisters, we have work to do. It is the Church (believers in Jesus), that are the thermostat of a nation. Whatever we are set on is what our nation will become. If we are troubled by the direction our nation is going, then perhaps we need to compare our American Christianity to biblical Christianity, and adjust our thinking so that we are more of the latter than the former.
The future of our nation depends on it.
Read more at willdavisjr.com
Focus on prayer - Attendees pray during the 19th annual Calhoun Prayer Enrichment Workshop in Calhoun, La.
The recent 19th annual Calhoun Prayer Enrichment Workshopattracted 100 people from 33 churches in eight states.
“Small churches can do great things if you ask God to be in it and guide you with his voice,” said Keith Roberts, the 55-member Calhoun Church of Christ’s minister for 31 years.
Roberts, author of the book “Why God Waits For You to Pray,” said the workshop began as an effort to “take prayer off the back burner and make it something that was really a part of the life of the church.”
Since 1994, a Tuesday night prayer group has helped the northeast Louisiana church keep its focus on conversing with God. About eight to 12 members meet in a different person’s home each week.
“We fellowship a little bit,” Roberts said, “but mainly, we pray.”
A sign outside the red-brick church building declares: “Need prayer? Call our prayer hotline ... or use our drive-thru prayer request box.” At various times, the congregation has prayed by name for everyone in the Calhoun phone directory. The town has a population of about 7,500.
Speakers at the recent workshop included Patrick Mead, minister for the Eastside Church of Christ in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Albert Lemmons, pastoral care minister for the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, Tenn.
Louvenia Williams, a member of the University Church of Christ in Monroe, La., said the workshop helps improve her prayer life.
“With the way the economy and the world is in such turmoil, we are leaning more toward prayer,” Williams said.
Like Williams, Karolyn Parsons, a member of the Airline Drive Church of Christ in Bossier City, La., said she wouldn’t dare miss the workshop.
“I found the thing that improved my prayer life and my Christian walk the most is when I started praying ... that God would keep my eyes, ears, hands and heart open to do service for others,” Parsons said. “He has put me in some interesting situations and puts many speed bumps in my way, so that I slow down and handle each one.”
Five members of the Southwest Central Church of Christ in Houston drove more than 300 miles to attend the workshop.
“This is a must-go for our prayer ministry,” pastoral care minister Steve Sandifer said.
Three Strategic Prayers for Our Spiritual Leaders (Part Two)
Charles Spurgeon noted, “I know of no greater kindness than for my people to pray for me.” Every wise church leader seeks and cherishes the prayer support of his people. Yet, why do we pray? How should we pray? What should we pray about?
In Part One we began to unpack Paul’s appeal for the prayer support of the believers in Rome as we looked at Romans 15:30-33. Paul wrote,
Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Why and How
We saw last week that we should pray for our spiritual leaders because they need it and ask for it. More significantly, we pray because we regard the name and honor of Christ and because we love the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The nature of our prayers is described by Paul as “agonizing” prayer. We strive with all of our energies, feeling the great weight of the spiritual burden of the Gospel’s cause and spiritual battle.
Three Specific Prayer Targets
Paul describes three specific needs that are pressing on him as he serves the Lord and travels in obedience to the call.
First he seeks prayer for protection from spiritual enemies. He asked the Romans to pray that he might be “delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.” In this context, Paul was journeying back to Jerusalem where his most violent opponents would come against him.
He was not concerned with survival but with the satisfaction of his mission. On one hand Paul said, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). On the other hand, when faced with inevitable threats on his life, he states, “Chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:23-24). Paul’s prayer request was rooted in a longing to effectively finish his task, not a fear of dying.
Today, Western believers do not feel so compelled to pray this way since our leaders are seldom threatened. Yet, I am reminded of a story told to me by a church member named Ted. While on a plane in California Ted sat next to a man who appeared to be praying and fasting during the flight. Ted eventually asked the gentleman about his evident devotion. Indeed, the man was praying and fasting – to Satan. Ted learned that this man had joined other Satanists in a commitment to fast and pray once a week for the downfall of the marriages of Christian leaders. Indeed, the battle is real, the attacks are subtle, and our prayers are vital.
Second, Paul asks the church to pray for the prosperity of his ministry efforts to the saints. He stated, “...that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” In taking funds collected from the gentiles, he faced the possibility of rejection, suspicion, or division depending on the response of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
Still today, we need to pray for the soil of the hearts of God’s people to be receptive as the Word and work of the ministry is shared by our leaders. So many times the enemy fuels misunderstanding, confusion, and criticism, which undermine the fruit of Gospel ministry.
Third, Paul sought prayer for the provision of his personal needs by the believers in Rome. After a long, demanding journey Paul anticipated making it to Rome, by God’s will and with his joy intact, but needing personal refreshment from the saints there. Whether they speak openly about it or not, our leaders need the refreshment of encouraging words, thoughtful actions, and supportive expressions of kindness.
When we review Acts 21:17 – 28:31 we find the answers to these prayers. Paul’s gift to the believers in Jerusalem was accepted. In addition, the Jerusalem church rejoiced in the work of the Gospel and wanted to learn more about the spread of grace.
While in Jerusalem, the antagonistic Jews attacked Paul again, seeking to kill him. The Roman military, seeing their hatred and learning of their murderous plots, sent him to Caesarea (under the guard of 470 soldiers!) where Paul appeared before several Roman magistrates. Eventually, Paul sailed to Rome to appeal to Caesar. On the way, they experienced shipwreck and Paul was bitten by a viper – only to survive everything. Throughout it all, the Roman church was agonizing in prayer for Paul’s protection.
Paul was under house arrest in Rome so he did not make it to the 11:00 a.m. worship service to enjoy the refreshment of the believers there. However, it is apparent that believers were able to come to him and refresh his spirit. Most notable was a man named Onesiphorus, of whom Paul spoke in his final letter (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
As we see these amazing answers to prayer we must obey the call to pray for our leaders. God invites us to play a vital role in the advancement of His Gospel purposes as we intercede for pastors and missionaries.
The Peace that Comes Through Prayer
Paul’s appeal for prayer ends with this benediction: “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Prayer replaces worry. Prayer produces a Christ-alignment in our hearts that results in unity, trust, and spiritual health. For the sake of the Gospel, for the good of our leaders, and for the spiritual health of our own hearts – let’s resolve to pray for those whom God has appointed to shepherd our souls.
A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal. Along with the DVD you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Go to http://www.strategicrenewal.com/cddvd/your-most-strategic-investment-cd-dvd/
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
Three Strategic Prayers for Our Spiritual Leaders (Part One)
I am not much of a bowler but I know that it is virtually impossible to get a strike if the ball does not hit the head pin. Satan is a calculating and destructive enemy of God’s people. He knows how essential it is to eliminate pastoral leaders in order to decimate the church and thwart the work of the Gospel.
Yet, we can all make a powerful difference in opposing the attacks of the enemy. Samuel Chadwick wrote, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Oswald Chambers agreed: “The prayer of the feeblest saint who lives in the Spirit and keeps right with God is a terror to Satan.” When we pray for our leaders, we counteract Satan’s attacks and play a vital role in the advancement of Christ’s cause.
Paul’s Word on Why, How, and What
Paul understood this, which is why he often called on the churches to pray for him. In Romans 15:30-33, we find one of the less familiar but most powerful appeals for prayer. This passage offers vital guidance for us all as we intercede for our spiritual leaders.
As Paul wrote to the Romans (probably from Corinth), he reflected on his planned visit with them on his way to Spain. First, he was going to deliver a love gift to the persecuted believers in Jerusalem, which he had been collecting among the gentile churches. He knew his serious need for prayer support in these ministry endeavors so he appealed to the believers to pray for him.
Why We Pray for Spiritual Leaders
In Romans 15:30 Paul writes, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” Most obvious, we see Paul’s basic encouragement to pray when he says, “I beg you.” The Greek, “parakaleo”, simply communicates Paul’s effort to come alongside these believers, urging them to pray. But there is something even deeper here.
Paul writes, “through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly we pray, only because of the finished work and present intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:25, 10:20-22). Most literally, Paul is urging us here to pray because of our regard for Christ. As the Amplified reads, “for the sake of our Lord Jesus.” Our prayer for pastors and missionaries must ultimately be motivated by our love and worship of Jesus Christ because it is His name, His cause, and His glory that are at stake. When we are Jesus-worshipers we will also be reliable, passionate intercessors for our leaders.
Third, Paul says that we should pray “through the love of the Spirit.” The most literal interpretation of this phrase speaks of our love FOR the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a vital part of supernatural power and Gospel advancement. Because we love it when the Holy Spirit is working in extraordinary ways, we should commit our hearts to pray for our leaders. If we are dissatisfied with the level of spiritual power in the pulpit or ministries of the church, our love for the Holy Spirit compels us to pray for a greater manifestation of His presence and work.
How We Pray for Spiritual Leaders
Paul’s appeal for prayer intensifies as he continues with this urgent appeal: “Strive together with me in prayers to God for me” (v. 30). This is not a casual word about shallow, short, simple prayers. The Greek work here is sunagonidzomai, which communicates the idea of agonizing with another person in the midst of an intense struggle. Paul is asking them to join him in feeling the weight and warfare of all he is facing. This is a heart of real intercession. Yet, we are so often casual and complacent in our prayers for leaders.
The late David Wilkerson, a pastor and founder of Teen Challenge, spoke about our need for a greater sense of spiritual anguish in a powerful message (see “Anguish” by David Wilkerson on YouTube):
“Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God? Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age. Anguish means extreme pain and distress – the emotions so stirred that it becomes painful; acute, deeply-felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Anguish...the sorrow and agony of God’s heart.”
He continues, “We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk, but we’ve become so passive. All true passion is birthed out of anguish. All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish. You search the Scripture and you find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation He would share His own anguish for what God saw happening to His people. He would find a praying man and he would take that man and literally baptize him in anguish.”
This month, as we recommit to pray for and support our church leaders, let’s ask Christ for a fresh sense of intensity. He is worthy of our passionate intercession. Our love for His Spirit’s supernatural work compels us to pray. As we do so, we can feel the serious nature of the work of the Gospel and agonize in His presence as He shares His heart with us, for His glory.
(Part two will outline three specific prayer targets to pray for on behalf of every spiritual leader.)
A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal. Along with the DVD, you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Go to http://www.strategicrenewal.com/cddvd/your-most-strategic-investment-cd-dvd/
|It Seems to Me . . .
. . . prayer must be more than an answer to a survey question.
Sometime back at a training conference, one of the organizers told me this group of churches had recently surveyed their pastors and, on their list of what topics they wanted the most help with, prayer was in the top three (he may have even said #1). I was encouraged, until only two persons attended my workshop on prayer that day. Conferees had plenty of additional choices, each workshop focused on a topic or skill essential to the health of either a Christian believer or a Christ-honoring congregation. Every workshop deserved a room full and even the best attended had only 8-10. But my troubled spirit was not that only two came to my workshop.
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As Joshua was finalizing all of the details of Israel’s conquest of Canaan, we find a remarkable verse: “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (Joshua 21:45). Every promise the Lord had made to the Israelites concerning captivity in Egypt, plagues, wandering in the wilderness, conquest, and the peaceful new land, etc. was fulfilled. Hundreds of years of history came to pass in perfect alignment with the Lord’s will!
Almost as an exclamation point to His sovereign will, this chapter gives a special glimpse into God’s heart for a nation. The Lord disperses his priests to serve the people in every part of the country. The Lord is very specific about which of the priestly clans were to go to each of the 48 “cities of refuge” listed in scripture. These priests would later set up synagogues and act as mediators and intercessors for God’s people.
As the final ingredients of the Jewish nation, these safe havens were places of mercy and justice; mercy for the one who unintentionally killed a fellow Jew, and justice for the family of the deceased. It is here that we find that not one of the Lord’s “promises to Israel failed.”
As we intercede for our country, we as the dispersed priests in the land must remember God’s promises for our nation, praying that every one of them would be fulfilled. Our lives as intercessors are evidence of His “special possession” (1 Peter 2:9-10) as we declare His praises and watch for unfolding answers. What a privilege to glimpse firsthand the Lord’s heart to administer justice and mercy for His people here in America!
Do you think our Founding Fathers knew that they would set in motion a country that would send more missionaries and more relief dollars to foreign countries than any other nation in the history of the world? No. These men of prayer could not have known, but their conviction and obedience worked hand-in-hand with God’s faithfulness to pave the way for far-reaching promise.
Ask our Lord, what is it that You still desire to accomplish? By faith, let’s continue to intercede that our nation’s leaders would not derail the Lord’s promises for this country.