The Absent Family in Prayer

Here was our conclusion from “Shaken in Prayer.”

Romans 8:28 is not a standalone verse. It comes AFTER we begin to pray with the mind of the Spirit that we can then claim verse 28. Why? Because those who love God will have all things work together for good. Why? Because we are called according to His purpose. It is His way and His will that matters. Prayer is NOT about us and our wants and even our needs. It is about learning to pray in a way that matches the will of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

Sadly, too many who claim the name of Christ prefer to pray like this: “God, please do and accommodate my will in heaven as I want it to be done on earth.”

We go to church and say that we want the power of God to fall in our midst. Yet, we could not stand if it actually did. And the reason it does not fall as the Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing is that we have asked amiss. We ask the wrong questions, pray for the wrong things, and then stop praying and consider it a waste of time because we don’t get the answers we want from God.

Now, we raise our children to ignore prayer because they see no fervency in our times of prayer. Let me expand on this a few minutes.

For years our family have gone to prayer meetings in various churches that I pastored or where we were members. Apart from our children, I can count on both hands the number of children I have seen through the years in attendance. Our family believes firmly that if church is important enough to attend, then our children (even when they were little) should be sitting with us and learning why we pray.

As with many church services, the number of people in attendance drops drastically from a Sunday morning to a Sunday evening. Even more dramatic is the drop-in attendance from a Sunday to a mid-week prayer meeting.

When I pastored in England, we had some dear brothers and sisters who would come to mid-week prayer meeting. With not one week’s exception during our years there, the request would always come in to pray for wayward children to come back to God.

As disheartening as this will sound, I am convinced that one main reason that children flee from church and have no interest in the things of God is because that is the way they were raised.

English churches are no different than the ones here in America. Excuses were always given that it was too late because of school or whatever to attend anything other than a Sunday morning. Yet, having visited many homes I knew that many of those children that were supposedly getting ready for bed and then school were actually playing video games or watching television with the parent who chose to stay home.

What are they actually teaching their children? Let’s make this more personal. What are WE teaching our children? At no point have they engaged in prayer apart from the perfunctory blessing over the meal. At no point have they realized the wonder of God and the truth that He delights to bless His children AND He delights to hear the prayer of those who walk in righteousness before Him.

When your children are absent from times of collective prayer, you are teaching them that prayer is not important. You also teach them that you believe life is possible without having to resort to that old-fashioned notion of humility before the throne of God.

So, here is the order of events.

1) Send our children to junior or children’s church so they never learn to sit through worship and give attention to the Word of God being faithfully proclaimed.

2) Keep our children at home for any other scheduled events. Don’t get me wrong here. I know there are reasons why littles might be kept home if services are late. However, as they get older, they should be learning the true meaning of worship.

3) Refuse to keep them in during times of communion (like they do in England). Instead of being able to observe the testimony of believers one to another in the solemn rejoicing over the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the children have no idea why this little addendum to a service once a month is vital to our remembrance of the Savior.

4) During times of prayer, allow them to run around or play instead of paying attention to the prayers of the saints. This allows them to grow up without knowing the blessing of seeing prayers being answered.

5) As they grow older, let them “make their own decisions” as to whether they want to go to church or not.

6) Come to church prayer meeting as an older adult and mourn. Complain loudly that you don’t understand why they don’t know God. Cry for them to return to the fold.

Oh, my dear, dear readers. The reality is that they were NEVER in the fold. We taught them everything they know and don’t know about church because gathering collectively was not important to us.

Worshiping God and praying humbly before Him was not a priority.

Many times, I have visited churches and heard them invoke the reply of God to King Solomon about the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 and claim it for themselves or the church at large. While the principles of this verse can be found throughout the Scriptures, what we fail to comprehend is the requirement for God to hear us is that WE MUST PRAY!

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Prayer meetings are not usually humbling because we have grown accustomed to lives of ease. We trot our little wish lists, make a show of coming before the Almighty God of all creation, and then quickly leave so we can go about our lives.

It is as though we come to the foot of the cross just briefly, stand back up and with a backward glance, we call out, “Thanks God for listening. I’ll just pick up my burdens and take it from here again!”

Why, oh why is prayer so hard?

We will look at these in-depth in another post, but here are four reasons.

First, prayer is hard because it requires true humility that can only come from God.

Second, prayer is hard because it requires true confession of sin before God and before those whom we have offended.

Third, prayer is hard because it requires true dying to self daily.

Fourth, prayer is hard because it requires true faith that God does answer prayer. He does and will not always answer the way we want or like because His goal is not our happiness and our satisfaction. God answers in the manner and timing of His choosing so that He may be glorified in Himself.

Let’s close with these words from James 4:6-10 and a brief word of exhortation.

6 But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Parents, you are to be an example of Christ to your children. We are to be a witness to our own households. We must be taking time to pray or learning to pray if we have done little before. When you go to church and if there is a prayer time, INCLUDE your children. They have plenty of time to play and do games, but there will never be enough time in prayer.

If prayer is not important or you have no desire to humbly approach the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then you may need to do a heart checkup and see whether or not you are one of His children.

In the meantime, I encourage you to watch this video and maybe for the first time in a long time – Behold Your God!

—- To be continued —-

Shaken in Prayer

To begin with, I recognize that this post may not be well received due to the subject matter. I speak of prayer. Some would argue that prayer is a good thing and that they practice prayer in their homes and in their churches. Others ignore prayer because it is something that they seem to be afraid of being present in their lives.

One source defined prayer as – “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.”

As true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that prayer to an object of worship or to any man-made deity is of no avail. Even as Christians, it is important that we come before God in prayer in the right manner or He will not hear us.

On the side of self-deprecation, I know I am NOT where I need to be (or should be) when it comes to the discipline of prayer. Prayer takes discipline and it is hard work. Part of this is because it opens us up the face of the Almighty.

Facing God in His own throne room is humbling and allows no tolerance for the pride of depraved creatures. If we think that we can approach God on our own terms and ask based on the whims of our desires instead of what the Holy Spirit utters from the depths of our innermost being, then we are duping ourselves.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth, His prayers were addressed to the Father. Coming to the end of His earthly ministry, His sole prayer was, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

During my weakness in body and having to adjust to the reality of vertigo, the matter of prayer has become more important to me. Maybe, one reason is simply because there are times that I am not able to do much but sit in my chair. The Lord being gracious to me has brought different individuals and situations to my mind and I have used my downtime to pray for them.

Sadly, having served in ministry for over 25 years, I find a horrifying reality is ever-present in our western churches. The reality is so horrendous that it is hard to believe that it would be uttered in more than very hushed tones in the deepest closets of our homes and churches. Yawning open like the whale’s mouth ready to engulf Jonah, it reveals nothing more than this:

The church as a whole does NOT want to pray!

“Whoa!” You, as the reader, would probably implore me to stop for a moment and reassess the situation. But ponder the difference in the church-at-large that we find in western circles and prayerfully, soberly, with weeping read these next three verses from Acts 4:31-33.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Please, take a moment and go back and re-read ALL THE BOLD parts that I have highlighted.

Dear brothers and sisters, the person that spends time with God in prayer is an oddity. I am, by no means, referring to a perfunctory and ever so brief blessing over our meals. I am referring to that odd person who has chosen to punctuate their days with effectual and fervent prayer.

In my fifty plus years, ten decades, half a century – I have NEVER been to a prayer meeting where the gathered group was SHAKEN IN PRAYER!

I say this to my shame because I was part of the group. There were times I would pray aloud, while at others, I would meditate and commune with God silently in my soul.

But, again I say that I have NEVER been SHAKEN IN PRAYER!

Is it impossible for us to comprehend such a matter in the 21st century? Are we so far removed from the power of the Holy Spirit that we have quenched Him into silence?

Is there any wonder that we do not see revival?

Is there any cause for concern that the last known true revivals have not taken place in the USA or the UK for 80-100 years? Revivals such as the Welsh Revival in 1905, the Revival of the Isle of Lewis around 1950, and the East Anglian Revival in my British home counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

ALL of these revivals did not come because a notice was put on a billboard, advertising revivals taking place at 7pm each night. They did not come because an entertainment group was brought into the church and whipped everyone into an emotional frenzy.

REVIVAL ONLY COMES WITH FERVENT PRAYER!

James 5:16 is a shame to my own faith, or lack thereof, in my own testimony.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Yet, our prayers far too often are merely a litany of petitions as we beg God for this and beg Him for that. We are like a child going up to Santa Claus at the local shopping mall with our little list and trying to use Him like a genie let loose from a bottle and desirous to give us our three wishes.

Today, we have not seen revival because we lack prayer. We struggle to maintain high levels of missions work because we lack prayer. The world demands our loyalty and our allegiance to their wicked degradations, and the church has long been bowing because they have no great power to give their testimony.

No prayer and we run like a scared dog being pursued by an army of soldier ants. My friends, we read the words of the wise King Solomon and wonder how ashamed he would be to see the redeemed of God turning this next verse on its head.

Pro 28:1 – The righteous flee when no one pursues, but the wicked are bold as a lion.

No, no, a thousand times NO!!! The verse does not read that way. The Holy Scriptures say this:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

However, the brutal, painful truth is this. If we have no prayer in our lives – if we have not taken to ourselves the WHOLE ARMOR of God – then we will flee when the world is not even taking time to pursue us. The wicked are bold as lions because they think that they can laugh at the God of heaven and His anointed.

His anointed is you and I, if your salvation is found by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. That means that He has called you and I to be holy ones. He has called us and preserved us by His Holy Spirit given as a down-payment against the inheritance that is to come in eternity.

Further, when we are His children, we are to pray, even when we do not know how to. Romans 8:26-28 says that He takes even the groanings of our heart before the Father AND intercedes on our behalf. When the Spirit is helping us in our weakness, there is no wrong prayer that we can offer to our heavenly Father.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Have we noticed that Romans 8:28 is not a standalone verse? It comes AFTER we begin to pray with the mind of the Spirit that we can then claim verse 28.

Why? Because those who love God will have all things work together for good.

Why? Because we are called according to His purpose. It is His way and His will that matters. Prayer is NOT about us and our wants and even our needs. It is about learning to pray in a way that matches the will of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

— To be continued —

Stand in the Breach

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indigation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 22:30-31).

I have met people who think there is no use in praying because God is going to do what He’s going to do so prayer won’t affect anything. This makes no sense to me, as there are instances in Scripture where God declared that He would perform a negative action but changed His mind when people repented, interceded, etc.

I think of the city of Nineveh which God said He would destroy. But He spared them when the people repented. (See the book of Jonah in the Bible.)

Or what about the woman in Matthew who asked Jesus to heal her daughter? Jesus acted as if he wasn’t interested until she humbly responded, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table” (Matthew 15:27). If she had walked away muttering or even resignedly saying, “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry to have bothered you,” I don’t think her daughter would have received the healing that this mother yearned for.

My view is that we don’t see revival because we don’t cry out for it. We don’t see more healed because we don’t ask for it. We live apathetic, Spirit-less lives, and then we blame God for not doing anything when maybe He is just waiting for someone to stand in the breach and intercede for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves.

God is not obligated to do what we want. I am not promoting a “name it, claim it” doctrine. I am, however, calling for people to fall on their knees, to get the mind of God, and to intercede for our nation, our unbelieving loved ones, those who are sick–physically, mentally, and spiritually. God hasn’t changed; people have. The hearts of many have grown cold. How low do we have to get before we begin to seek Him again?

Jesus Our High Priest – Part 15

We are pleased to continue the Saturday Sermon Series again. This is the fifteenth in a series of twenty messages from John 17. It was sovereignly delivered by Akash Sant Singh, who is one of the elders at Community Bible Church in Reno, Nevada. May it bring conviction to each of us as we realize our deep lack of prayer, which should be elemental to our Christian faith. Sadly, our prayer lives tend to reveal more about our self-sufficiency than of our utter dependency on the Saviour of our souls.

Jesus Our High Priest – Part 15