I'm going to talk about prayer tonight, but I'm also going to talk about discipling because I don't think you can talk about prayer without talking about discipling. I am going to start with quoting from the paper "The Priority of Prayer", by Mark Bair. He covers prayer from every angle. John Owen wrote a book called, Sin and Temptation. John Owen was a puritan that J.I. Packer said influenced him more than anyone else. This book talks about how strong our sin nature is. How Satan can trigger our sin nature.
Mark Bair in his paper quotes, "There is no service for God which sin does not oppose. The more spirituality there is in a thing we do, the greater is sin's opposition to it. Thus those that seek most for God, experience the most opposition." Sin hates God and sin opposes God. I don't think we begin to have enough of an awareness of how our sin nature opposes God. That is why prayer is something we really do not like to do. Our flesh does not like to pray. We can come up with all sort of excuses not to pray, not realizing it's really the flesh that is reluctant to pray. O'Hallesby, in his book, Prayer, concurs by saying, "We shall have our sin natures with us as long as we live here on earth and we must endure the discomfort occasioned thereby."
The thing to remember is that our sin nature will not refuse directly to participate in prayer. If this were the case our warfare against our flesh would be comparatively simple. On the contrary the protest of our flesh is indirect. Instinctively and automatically it will mobilize all the reasons it can conceive of for not praying. Therefore we come up with all these good reasons for not praying, and don't seem to realize that it is our sin nature that's coming up with those reasons.
O'Hallesby comments, "Most of us do not understand how prayer can involve difficulty and suffering. Why should our prayer life be a constantly flowing source of anguish? It really cannot be otherwise. If prayer is, as we have seen, the central function of our life as we walk with the Lord, it is obvious that our prayer life must become the target against which Satan directs his best and most numerous attacks. This is not only Satan's most painless way of stealing our spiritual life, it is the quietest way which creates the least sensation. Our disinclination to pray should not make us anxious or bewildered; it confirms that we are at war." Of course the Bible tells us that we are at war, and that we war against Satan and our flesh. We blame Satan for a lot of the reasons that we don't pray when it is actually our disinclination to pray.
Praylessness for a Christian is a sin. For the disciple of Christ it's not an option to pray; it is an absolute necessity. If you are a disciple of Christ it is a must that you pray. When you don't pray, when you have a prayerless life, you eliminate from your own life the vitality that God wants you to have. You rob yourself of the power that God says is available. Christ offered us His power and His authority, but we only get that as we appropriate His power in prayer. And we cheat ourselves out of this intimate relationship with Christ because praying is just talking with the one who saved us, the one we should be building an intimate relationship with.
Even more sadly than that, we have no impact on the world for Christ. We look like the world system, we live like the world, no one even notices our life. We are totally irrelevant. That is what a lot, a lot, a lot of Christianity is like these days. Irrelevant to the world. When you have the malady of prayerlessness, it produces a mediocre life. Your Christian life is just mediocre.
The rationalizations that we use for praylessness:
- I can't find time to pray. The best example I've ever heard goes like this: It's sort of like the guy who tries to get to a meeting that he is late for in a Cadillac. He realizes that it is close to empty, but he is going to try to get there. He runs out of fuel on I-71. Someone stops and gives him a gallon to get to the gas station. He decides to skip the gas station because he now is getting later and later for this meeting, and with a Cadillac you only go about 7 miles on a gallon. So he runs out again. You think, well this is really stupid. Why didn't he stop at the gas station? He was in such a hurry to get to that meeting, he had to be at, that he just didn't fuel up.
It sounds stupid, but that is exactly what we do in our Christian life. We feel like we are so busy doing God's work. We have to get to the next meeting, we have to press on, and we don't stop for fuel. Our fuel is prayer and the word. So when praylessness is part of your life, going to meetings doesn't do any good because you are not consulting with the One who is responsible for your Christian life. That's not an excuse. J. Oswald Sanders says in his book, Prayer, "The problem is not that of needing more time, but of making better use of the time we have." Selection of priorities is the key, like Mary did. Jesus said to Martha, "You are worried and upset about many things, only one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her". It is not a matter of not having time, it is a matter of having the wrong priorities. That excuse just doesn't wash.
- What about our feelings? We may feel too discouraged in our Christian walk. Frustrated. We may be unbelieving. We may feel we that are going through a dry spell and we can't pray. There are all sorts of feelings that come in. Never base your approach to the Throne of Grace on your feelings as though God is going to be more happy with you when you are feeling good and secure in His love. No, God is always loving you. He is never rejecting you. So when we put our feeling as a reason not to come to the Lord, we're really just being self-centered and an idolater. We are putting ourselves and our feeling at the center of our lives. Jesus told parables all the time about prayer, and the one in Luke 18 says, "We should always pray and never give up." He said that before He told the parable about the widow importuning the unrighteous judge. We should pray and never give up. And if an unrighteous judge gives in to this widow, He says, "Wouldn't your loving Heavenly Father answer your prayers?" Of course He would.
- Arrogance and self-confidence. Because you had so many past spiritual victories and successes, I think it is an easy thing for Christians to feel like I've got this Christian work and this Christian life all figured out. "I've been very successful, and now I just need to do this and this and this, and it's going to go well."
I'm afraid we're in that position at Xenos right now because we have this beautiful piece of property, because we have moved into a new building, and we are building yet another building. I'm sure that we all have that sort of smug self-confident attitude that God is really blessing us. Isn't that great. He really is blessing us, and it is great. Now we need to pray even more because it is when we are feeling self-confident that we do not depend on the Lord. It is usually when we are in deep trouble and having trials that we rush to Him. But it is the times we are doing well, that we become careless in our relationship with the Lord and that is the very time that Satan trips us up. The very time that he is going to come in and divide us and cause some terrible thing to happen that will be a disgrace to the name of Christ and we will bring God's reputation down. I'm speaking of Xenos.
So especially now I urge you, I exhort you that you pray constantly for our fellowship, pray for our elders, pray for every aspect of the ministry, pray for your own lives, your own small group, pray that each of us would be growing in our sanctification and our discipling walk with the Lord so that Satan cannot trip us up. Paul says, "If you think you will stand that is when you are going to fall," when we think that we have really figured out how to do this Christian life because we are successful. We love our independence. We love to be in control. All of us have a flesh that loves independence and control.
Joshua did this very thing. He talked to the Lord constantly about Jerico and got complete directions and followed them exactly. And of course God fought the battle for them, but when it came to the Gibonites it says that, "He did not inquire of the Lord", and the Gibonites completely fooled Joshua. As a result, he had to have them in Israel all the time Israel was there because he had promised them that without inquiring of the Lord. You could also go into several other incidents that he didn't inquire of the Lord. So being successful doesn't mean that you have your Christian walk and your ministry licked. It means you should be on your knees even more with greater dependence and gratitude for the Lord's blessing and using you.
- Content with mediocrity. Joseph Stowell, in his book, says, "It is called orbiting around Christ." In other words, you are enough of a Christian to be identified with Christ, but not seriously inconvenienced by Christ or the Christian life. Such Christians the whole world watches and says, "Why should I be a Christian? These people are living just like the world, so why should I get up Sunday morning when they are living just like me?" James says when you are praying and you have this kind of a lifestyle, the Lord calls it adultery. James says, "When you ask you do not receive because ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures." He says, "To be a friend with the world is to be an enemy of God." So if you are content with mediocrity, and you don't consider being a disciple an important and an integral part of your ministry, then you prayers will not be answered. You will just be a friend of the world, not a friend of Christ.
Reasons why prayer is important:
The importance of prayer is something we underestimate. I am convinced of that because it is so important in our own spiritual growth. It's so absolutely vital when we reach out the unbelievers. Paul puts a great deal of emphasis on prayer in his epistles.
1. There is a devil and he is out to get you. In Eph. 6:18, he talks about the fact we need to pray "with all prayer, at all times, with all perseverance for all the saints." He's just really emphasizing that it is vitally important to pray. The reason is: there is a devil. You not only have your own flesh, but there is a devil. He has a host of demons who are assigned to defeating the will of God in your life and these demons dog your footsteps everyday. They never get tired and they are faithful workers of Satan without interruption. They never have to rest. So they're out there all the time trying to get you to fall. So if you blithely go on your way without prayer, as though those demons are not after you, then you are going to find that you will be set up for a fall. Satan will find a weakness there, and your weakness will be that you haven't prayed. You haven't enrolled yourself and asked for the Lord's protection.
If Satan is going to defeat God's purpose on earth, he has to do it in you and through you. You are God's agent here for God's Kingdom on earth. He concentrates on leaders. He concentrates on those who have been put in positions of shepherding the flock. That is another reason why it is absolutely mandatory for you to have an attitude of prayer and dependence on the Lord at all times.
Jesus said about Peter, "Satan has desired to have you, but I have prayed for you, and when you turn again, help your brothers." Satan demanded to have Peter, and yes, Jesus prayed for Peter, but Peter obviously didn't pray for himself. So he fell, but Jesus knew he would turn back. Satan heard Jesus say to Peter, "It is wonderful that you see that I am your Messiah, and I am going to let you open the door for the church. You're the rock." Satan decided to get Peter to fall, and Peter had a big fall, didn't he? Denying Christ.
Paul said to his believers in Corinth that he was so afraid that they would be led astray from obedience to Christ and the simple gospel. And he prayed for them a lot. So do you pray for your disciples? Are you on the alert all the time against what Satan might be trying to do in your life, in the lives of your disciples, and in the forward movement of your small groups?
2. Prayer is God's appointed access to His help in life and in your work. The neglect of prayer is the secret of failure. God has told us that He wants us to pray about everything. "You have not because you do not ask." Jesus told His disciples over and over "to ask, and to seek, and to knock", and that He would give them whatever they asked for. We just don't bother to ask.
Jesus and His apostles had prayer at the very top of their list. You find when you get to Acts 6 and the history of the early church that when problems came up the apostles appointed others to handle the problems because "we will give ourselves continually to prayer." They did that all through the history of the early church in Acts. They were filled with the Spirit and directed by the Holy Spirit because they gave themselves continually to prayer. Of course Jesus prayed all night. We don't know how many times, but we do know the night before he choose His disciples he prayed all night. It mentions several other times as well. It must have taken a lot of His time and strength. It takes a lot of time and strength to pray like that. It wears you out. Jesus was always ready then to give of Himself to those same disciples the next morning after He prayed all night. Now if Jesus felt He needed that, I think we should realize that we need to pray also. It says in Rom. 8 that He is interceding for us at this present time. Jesus, Himself, is interceding for us. So He considers prayer very important.
3. It's how we "receive mercy and grace in time of need," according to Heb. 4:16, especially when we have a sin problem, or we're hurting, or we're being attacked or going through a trial or we're lonely or we're failing. That's when you run into the Throne of Grace. I like to picture running into the Throne of Grace and calling my Father, daddy, and receiving help in time of need. That's not the time to withdraw from Him and just ignore His help because He gives us grace. He gives us His love and His mercy in time of need. That is the best help to get when you are hurting, when you are in trial, when you have a sin problem.
4. This is how we obtain fullness of joy. The Psalmist's tells us, "In your presence there is fullness of joy." Jesus said in John 16:24, "Ask that your joy made be made full." He promised to give His disciples His joy and His peace. So if you are lacking joy in your Christian life, it's probably because you are not praying. You can have joy in the midst of deep trials when you have a close, intimate relationship with the Lord and you are spending time with Him. I saw my parents going through severe trials on the mission field and then going around singing. My mother was one of those women who went around singing all day. Very irritating at times, but also evidence of her dependence upon the Lord and her joy in the Lord. She always woke us up Sunday morning by getting on the piano there and singing hymns. So we knew we had to get up.
5. It frees us from anxiety. That's what Paul tells us. He said in Philippians that we should be "anxious for nothing" and that will "allow the peace of God to rule our hearts." (Phil. 4:6,7) When you pray, you will not be anxious, and the peace of God will rule your heart. That is a pretty important reason to pray.
Prayer accomplishes so much. The way that our spiritual growth occurs is through prayer. Yes the word, too, but I think prayer is what flavors and covers all the other means of growth. Prayer is the foundation stone. It's the greatest weapon that God ever gave us.
The personalness of prayer:
I often ask people, and I always ask my disciples, "How is your prayer life?" I usually get the answer, "Well I'm not praying as much as I should." You know what that tells me? It tells me that they feel that prayer is a have-to, not a want-to. They feel under the Law about prayer. They have misconceptions about prayer being boring, or that they aren't good about prayer, or that their prayers don't matter to God, or that there's no power of God evident in their lives. Those are all wrong conclusions. Let me say again, prayerlessness for the believer is a sin. When you say "I'm not praying as much as I want, as I should, then you know you are in sin right-off-the-bat. Prayer is not an option or a choice; it is an absolute necessity, a must. So make the decision to pray. To pray. To pray.
"Discipline yourself for godliness," Paul tells his disciple Timothy. Disciplining yourself for godiness is to discipline yourself to pray. Then, from that decision to pray, pray about everything. Trust God that He will transform your mind to the place where you will enjoy prayer. Where it will be a vital important part of your life, and where you can say, "I love my prayer life, and I pray about everything." It will transform your life and transform your mind, and transform you in every way. So keep an appointment frame of mind in planning your time with God. Keep accountable to that frame of mind. You do that about everything else in your life, the irrelevant things like brushing your teeth. Now I believe in brushing your teeth, but that's not eternally important. Yet I am sure we are very disciplined about that. We need to make the decision that we are going to pray, and we need to discipline ourselves to pray, then we need to do it, and we need to pray, and we need to pray.
When you do, God will transform you. He'll lead you to His word. He'll speak to you through His word. He'll transform your mind. You will find that prayer changes you. There used to be a plaque in fundamentalists' homes, "Prayer changes you." One of the things prayer does is uncover personal sin areas that we try to keep hidden from God. God uncovers those sin areas as we pray and He deals with them gently, but firmly. He helps you get rid of them, because it is only God, the Holy Spirit, who can put to death the flesh, and put to death the deeds of the flesh. You cannot. So waiting until you get rid of a sin area is not going to help you at all. But coming to the Lord and asking Him to put to death the flesh in that area of sin is effective because He'll do it. He'll transform you in that way.
You will find, therefore, that prayer no longer becomes no a drudgery, but rather it's liberating. It's addicting, because you realize that's how I am able to appropriate God's power. Getting to know Him well enough to talk with Him about every area of my life. Letting Him put to death the areas I'm having problems with. Letting Him help me with the problems in my ministry, instead of me trying to figure them out. Giving me direction in how we should move forward in this small group, and how we can best evangelize the people we are trying to talk to. We should be praying about them. It's healing, very healing, and you feel good about your life. When you pray and talk everything over with the Lord. You feel good about your life because you are able to "cast your burdens on Him," Peter tells us, "for He cares for you." As you cast your burdens on Him and allow Him to take over areas that you haven't been able to deal with, and ministry that you feel that you just don't know which way to turn with , He gives you complete direction.
Prayer creates an insatiable appetite to learn more about prayer, and to pray more. Read Andrew Murray's, The Prayer Life. He says, "Prayerlessness is a deep rooted problem resulting in a lack of spiritual power. Prayer is the pulse of your spiritual life. If you don't pray, you have no pulse." If you are praying a lot, you'll have a strong pulse. Persevering and believing prayer means a strong and abundant life. In spiritual work everything depends on prayer. God himself is the helper of those who wait on Him. O'Hallesby says it very succinctly, "Neglect prayer, neglect God." If you neglect prayer, you are neglecting God. Keep remembering it is just talking with Him.
I didn't appropriate the power of prayer at first. I was a rebellious young woman, and my mother was praying for me, and that seemed good enough for me, because what she prayed for usually came true. As I have fallen in love with the Lord, and spent a lot more time in prayer, I find that this relationship with Jesus now is delightful. It is because I pray. Learning about Him is one thing, but when you build an intimate relationship with Him through prayer, you find that He is delightful. He is my constant companion. He is the one I talk to constantly and complain to and cry with, and seek advice from, and deeply relate with. "He is closer than a brother," the Bible says. The Lord, Himself, wants to be closer to us than a brother. What He does is give me fresh insights into the character of God and that is exciting. We don't know much about the character of God. Oh yes we can recite His attributes, but to really see God as He is when you pray. That is exciting. It is awe inspiring. It gives you a deep sense of reverence and an extra sense of gratitude to realize that He loves me as an individual.
I receive an extra boldness then in trusting Him for evangelism, for moving forward in the ministry He has given. Since He has placed me in this ministry, and I'm talking it over with Him, then I receive boldness to walk forward with Him. He is interested in every circumstance and in every plan, and every minute of my day. In Psalms 139 it talks about how God knows all about us in our mother's womb and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but did you know that God has so many thoughts about you that they are more than the sands of the shore? "How precious are your thoughts to me. How vast is the sum of them. If I should count them they would out number the sand." His thoughts about me, towards me. He is interested in every aspect of my life. Invite Him to be involved in every aspect of your life. When you make Him your close friend, you can receive detailed instructions from Him for every day's activities. Peter Marshall called them, "His marching orders from God."
Prayer changes my priorities and my perspective. I am no longer looking for time but am making God the center of my life and I have plenty of time to talk with Him and spend with Him. Murray again says, "God needs time with us to exercise the full influence of His plan in our lives." I changed from failing to plan or planning myself what I should do, not having results, to allowing Him to plan my life and my ministry. That became a priority to invite Him to be a part of my plans and my ministry and my whole life.
This is pretty important when you are raising kids. They are not praying that way. They are not living that way. You need the Lord with you in raising kids. You need His plan for their lives. He will come along side you sovereignly and help to implement those plans. If you have your own plans they can very easily not be God's plans for their lives. When you spend time with the Lord being able to discern God's will becomes much easier. You are easily able to discern God's will for your life. You begin to experience the leading of the Holy Spirit, which the old saints used to call the "unction of the Spirit", "the burden of the Spirit", or "the quickening of the Spirit". My mother used to talk about "praying through" a about certain problem. I am sure she "prayed through" about me. When she got peace, then she would have had cast that burden on the Lord. I had that experience when I had boys who were rebelling. You learn to pray through and are able to hand them over to the Lord. It doesn't mean you stop praying, but you are not just in an uptight knot. You are able to cast that burden on the Lord. Don't stop praying until you have prayed through. Sometimes it takes hour and hours and nights and nights and nights.
The Cost of Discipleship:
Discipleship and prayer are totally intertwined. That is the way you become a disciple is to pray. As you walk the path of discipleship you will be praying. This is a definition of discipleship by Wesley Duhl, which is in his book Ablaze For God. He says, "It is only when we are so filled with the presence and beauty of the Lord that our life is radiant. Filled with the Holy Spirit power through prayer, and filled with the love and compassion of Christ that we can accomplish the work that He has set us out to do." So filled with the presence and beauty of the Lord, and being able to appropriate Holy Spirit power because we have prayed about it. That is when we are filled with love and compassion, and can do the Lord's work the way He did when He was here on earth. This is entirely beyond our ability to drum up. When we try to drum up it up ourselves we can only keep going for a limited period of time and then we burn out. It really isn't Holy Spirit power, it is sort of drummed up fervor.
It is important to understand how to appropriate this Holy Spirit power. It is what Andrew Murray calls absolute surrender. He says, "Absolute surrender occurs when I am at last convinced that it is impossible for me to live the Christian life." He prays, "God, let there be an end to my trying, an end to my self-life. Let it be my delight to be helpless." That is the secret of appropriating God's power. That is Hudson Taylor's secret. That is Andrew Murray's secret. The secret of absolute surrender is you come to the end of yourself. That is the secret Paul is talking about in Romans 6, 7, & 8. You need to realize that your old life is dead and buried with Christ, and you are raised into new life. You need to be able to move from Rom. 6 to Rom. 8. You need to be able to give the members of your body to the Holy Spirit to righteousness, then move to Rom. 8 where the Holy Spirit, Himself, will put to death the body of sin, and will write on your heart the Laws of God. But we always have to go through Rom. 7, don't we, to become convinced to come to the end of our self-life. Rom. 7 is where I try and try and fail and try and fail and finally cry out, "I see there is no good thing in me. Oh, wretched man that I am. Who will help me escape from this body of sin?" Then you are a candidate for absolute surrender. You are a candidate to move back to Rom. 6, and present the members of your body to the Holy Spirit for righteousness, and move to Rom. 8 by not going through Rom. 7.
"Absolute surrender occurs when I am at last convinced that it is impossible for me to live the Christian life." He prays, "God, let there be an end to my trying, an end to my self-life. Let it be my delight to be helpless." When you get to that place, Christ just loves and longs to fill us with His power, and the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to allow Him, He wants us to be filled with Him, and allow Him to write God's word, God's law, God's way of living on our hearts. That is in Rom. 8 where it says that the Spirit is the only One who can put to death the deeds of the flesh. You have to be convinced that you can't do in yourself. You need to come to the end of yourself. "Let is be my delight to be helpless." Oswald Chambers calls it, "Being broken bread and poured out wine." "My utmost for His highest." His oft repeated words were, "I want to be completely broken bread and poured wine, so I can be my utmost for His highest." That is why his wife chose that phrase for the book which has helped so many millions of people.
Listen to what else Oswald Chambers said. He came through the "dark night of the soul" which is an old fashioned way of saying, "Going through Romans 7," where you try and try and fail and the Christian life gets to be such a drag. Where you are just barely functioning along and you're just thinking, "I'm failing. I can't do this. It's just not working." That is the "dark night of the soul." He came through that by the age of 27 which is very, very young. This is what he said after he came through it, "The right to ourselves is the only thing we have to give to God. We cannot give Him our natural gifts or our possessions because God has given them to us. We are only the stewards of them. If we did not have the right to ourselves by God's creation of us, we should have nothing to give, and consequently could not be held responsible."
That is an impactful way of saying what Jesus said, "You have to deny yourself." Giving God the right to ourselves is saying what Andrew Murray said, "Coming to the end of ourselves and being delighted to be helpless." That is giving the right to yourself to God. That means you have denied yourself, and picked up your cross to follow Christ, which is what He says you have to do to be His disciple. We imagine that picking up the cross means we're going to carry the trouble and trials we have. No, you'll have troubles and trials whether you are a disciple or not. People in the world have troubles and trials. That is not the cross of Christ at all. Nor is the cross something we assume to make our conscious feel better. No, the cross is the result of this special deep relationship with Christ where you have given yourself up to Him. You are His disciple. You are identifying with Him completely. Your life now evidences Christ. Now you have denied yourself and picked up your cross and you are walking in the yoke with Him. "My yoke is easy," He said, "and my burden is light. Come to me." That is why Paul could say, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20). That was Paul's picking up the cross; that's the way he described it; that's how he described his helplessness. That is how you start being a disciple of Christ's. To come to the place of saying, "It is a delight to be helpless. I want to deny myself and pick up my cross."
The cost of discipleship: "You need to count the cost", Jesus said.
- The first cost is joy. You experience the joy of the Lord and the presence of Christ. That is not such a bad cost is it? Oswald Chambers said, "The last aching abyss of my heart was filled to overflowing with the love of Christ. Love is the beginning, love is the middle, and love is the end. The power and tyranny of sin is gone, and the radiance of the indwelling Christ has come, and His joy has filled my life." So the cost of discipleship is enjoying the presence of Christ.
- The second cost of being a disciple is experiencing the leading of the Holy Spirit in all your intimate decisions. That's not such a bad cost. Chambers says, "The filling with the Spirit comes as I am willing to put all on the alter and sacrifice myself up to Jesus. Holiness is not human effort, it is the gift of God. He makes me holy. He does it all. All I have to do is let go of my right to myself, and act on Rom. 12:1,2. It is never do, do and you'll finally be. It is always be, be and then I will do through you." We always do, and do and think we will finally be, but Jesus says, "No, you be my disciple. You be on the alter, and then I will work through you." It's a case of hands-off and then entire reliance on Him. If you aren't filled with the Spirit, and aren't walking in the Spirit, your Christian life is a hand-to-mouth existence. You are unable to discern God's will and wear out doing God's work. You get discouraged and no one lifts you up. Walking in the Spirit you depend on His power. It is a glorious walk.
- The opportunity to glimpse the mystery of Christ's Kingdom on earth. In the present, right now, and also being able to see the future. He has given us this privilege. God doesn't put any premium on our ignorance of this. He wants us know what He is doing here on earth. He doesn't want us to hinder His plan, He rather to fit in with His plan. We can know very clearly what God is doing and be a part of it. We can look forward to the future, and be able to see when it is coming true.
- You can experience, in prayer, this close, personal relationship; this intimacy with Christ. As you meditate on His word, you will find that the Holy Spirit makes His word "living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword" in your life. As you read the Psalms or read the word it will build you up. You eat it. It is the Word of God; the bread of life. God is His own reward, as He speaks to us this way. Tell God, "As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for you." Look in the Psalms and see how often David says, "I meditate on your word." That was David's key. Chambers great word was, "abandon". He abandoned himself to the Lord. He says, "My Lord Jesus Christ grows grander and more central to my mind and heart daily." He talks about how the Word of God came alive.
- You experience a nourishing fueling of your faith. We have faith enough to accept Christ, but sometimes our faith grows very weak and very small as we walk with Him. Walking with the Lord as a disciple, you will find that He, the Holy Spirit, fuels your faith. He says in Rom. 12:11, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor in serving the Lord." O. Chambers said, "Be reckless for Jesus." This was his proposal to his wife, "I have no home to offer you. I have no money to give you, but I have the great wild world, and His commission, 'Go and make disciples'. I see serving Him and nothing else more exhilarating." She said, "Amen, that's what I want." That is what they did. They had open house for the universe. He said he wanted his home to be always open. He says, "If you have a home, it should be given to hospitality. When we try to economize, God puts dry rot in us instantly. When we have a lavish hand, He gives us abundance. God keeps open house for the universe and so should we." That is the kind of home they had. When Paul said to keep our zeal, our fervor high, he went on to say, "Be joyful in hope; be patient in affliction; be faithful in prayer; share with God's people who are in need; practice hospitality."
This was my experience as I was raised in Africa. My parents practiced hospitality. Their zeal was always at a white hot heat. What I observed in their life was hours and hours of prayer. As a young kid, I couldn't understand how they could pray that long. I would leave the prayer meetings after the first hour, but they would go on for hours. On the mission field, you had better pray because you are invading Satan's headquarters, the heathen culture, and he is going to fight you every step of the way. You need to appropriate the power of God, and you need to know what He wants you to do. Missionaries pray or they collapse.
I don't know if you realize it or not, but you are on a mission field. This is a heathen country now. This is as heathen of a country as Africa ever was when my parents went there in 1911. If you are going to penetrate Satan's kingdom here, you're going to have to pray, you are going to have to appropriate His power, you are going to have to build this intimate relationship with Him.
Let me give you my personal testimony: The cost of discipleship is wonderful. It is so well worth it, I would not want to live any other way. As an old woman, who is facing death, I can face that with joy. I can say with Paul, I would rather be with Christ which is far better, but if the Lord wants me to stay here for your sake, I'll stay for awhile. My life is full. Full of the Lord Jesus Christ. I just love spending time with these young people. I will close by saying one of the things that made me so excited this winter is our College Home Group has started getting excited about praying. This is the first time I have ever had success convincing people that it is exciting to pray. Every Sunday night we pray for an hour, then every Thursday night we pray for an hour. Sunday there were 32 there out of 40. Several of them work in the High School Ministry, so they weren't there. That is almost 100%. They love to pray. They are excited to pray. They come built up and you have the close them down, so that you can go to bed. I've never had that experience before.
(1). I do set specific times, but I do have Him all day long. I do set specific times in the word with Him and me alone, but as I am working around the house or whatever, I'm talking with Him a lot also. How long? It varies. We are close enough friends that I don't feel under the Law that I have to do it for any set amount of time. Sometimes, like Tuesday, I spent a lot of time because I am preparing the next Challenge Group, and I am helpless. When you are helpless you spend a lot of time.
(2). Groups tried to have prayer meetings without success. What are your comments on that? You need to teach on prayer. I don't think people are convinced that it is that important for their ministry, or for their own walk. People haven't walked with Lord long enough yet, to fail enough, to be convinced. Try to convince them early on. If you can get them convinced at an early age in the Lord, I think they will become addicted.
Papers and books mentioned in this teaching:
- "The Priority of Prayer", by Mark Bair
- "Sin and Temptation", by Martha McCallum
- Sin and Temptation, by John Owen
- Prayer, by O'Hallesby
- Prayer, by J. Oswald Sanders
- The Prayer Life, by Andrew Murray
- Ablaze for God, by Wesley Duhl
- My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers