Prayer


As you read these words, my family and I will be in the big middle of our life-changing trip to Vietnam. By this time, barring any hiccups along the way, we will have taken custody of our Esther Noelle, and be finalizing all the details to bring her to her new home, AMERICA!

For many who are reading this Vietnam is a blip on the history channel, a bad memory of a rough time, or the source of some pretty amazing Asian cuisine. I would like to share with you some spiritual points that you can use to make this small corner of the world a part of your daily prayer cycle:

The country is increasingly opening up as economic progress continues. Most of the population was born after the Vietnam War and are more interested in capital gain and the outside world than Communist propaganda. They are proving responsive to the gospel – for reasons good and bad. At the same time, newfound prosperity has opened the door to rampant materialism and other competing ideologies. Pray that the Truth might be clearly and effectively proclaimed, particularly among the growing masses of young professionals.

All open Protestant missionary work ceased in 1975. CMA had laboured for 64 years (for 50 years as the only Protestant mission). Other agencies arrived in the 1950s, notably WEC, IMB, and UWM. In 1974 there were 280 missionaries in South Vietnam from about 20 organizations. Those years of sowing are today reaping an abundant harvest. Current economic development gives opportunity for Christians in business as well as for English teachers. Christian NGOs who propose legitimate aid projects are increasingly invited to work here. Literally hundreds of organizations from both Asia and the West now claim some kind of work in Vietnam. Many of these organizations work in deliberate partnership together. Pray that Vietnam may become fully open to Christian workers, and that many committed and prepared workers may respond. (from Operation World)

At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  — Philippians 2:10

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In recent months, I have heard of and/or counseled with friends (fellow pastors) who have faced discouragement, firings, or left the ministry altogether because of struggles with discord in their church, personal burn-out, or any variety of other issues. As I look back over these months, I think of how stressful and difficult it is to be a local church leader in our day and age.

In a time when it is more fashionable to let church commitment be a matter of convenience rather than conviction; when members are looking for all manner of reasons to excuse their lax attitudes; when society at large has all but turned her back on the church (making decisions to make church a preference rather than a persistence all the easier), it is no wonder that those who are called to spend their lives and their livelihood in God’s service are feeling crushed to the point of abandonment.

In such a time as this, it is more important than ever for us to rally together to lift up our leaders in prayer. Pray for lay leaders who volunteer their time to prepare and guide Bible study lessons on a weekly basis. Pray for others who fill important places of leadership within the local congregation. Pray for staff members who have given their lives to a calling (whether they serve in volunteer, part-time, or career-level capacity). Pray for all the spiritual leaders that you can think of for protection from the battles they face. Particularly pray for your pastor (and other local pastors) who feel the pull away from their calling often.

Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  —Jesus, Matthew 9:38

Something there is that is intimate about a walk. Especially if that walk is with someone meaningful. Early in the last century, if a young man and woman were beginning to see one another exclusively with the eye to possible matrimony, they might say to their friends that they were “walking out” with that special someone. From time to time, when a person wanted to discuss something without the prying ears of an audience present they might ask the friend to “take a walk with me.”

When you take a walk with a person, there is a certain level of privacy achieved even though you may be in the great outdoors. Conversations can be deep and meaningful in which the participants can truly get to know one another. We can learn each other’s thoughts, emotions, and heartbeats. In the case of young sweethearts, there is the opportunity to walk hand in hand and truly feel the presence of the other. In the case of close friends, there is the opportunity to grow closer and even participate in private, unhindered conversation.

This is what it is to walk with Jesus; to sense His presence as we pass through life, to converse with Him in the heartfelt conversation of prayer. This is the desire of the heart of every person: to walk with the Maker, conversing and communing with Him at the most intimate of levels. It was for this kind of walk that we are created. It is toward this kind of relationship that we are constantly running. It is only in this kind of relationship with Jesus that we can find completeness.

Set aside some time to walk with Jesus this week. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Let His presence in your daily routine refresh you, mind and spirit. It is what you seek. It is what He desires.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze”  —Genesis 3:8a

Building anything that will last starts with a strong foundation. It doesn’t matter whether you want to build a house, a skyscraper, or some free-standing structure, you want to have basic foundational material that is sound and worthy.

In the case of a permanent building you want to have a foundation made out of strong material that will stand up to anything that nature might throw at it over the course of the long haul. If you are building, say, a car, you want to use the best materials for the frame—something that won’t give way and crumple at the first high wind.

God gave the church the foundational stone of Jesus Christ—a worthy material if ever there was one—and then sound teaching and committed foundational members that would allow for her to grow strong and weather the ages. She’s done pretty good so far, with the only minor chinks attributed to faulty materials in the superstructure, not in the foundation.

As we build on the foundation laid for us, we want to test the material that we are providing through our faith and commitment to be sure that what we add to the structure of God’s church is worthy to be used in His building. This requires faith in the Messiah (Christ), commitment to the mission (Church), and obedience to the message (Scripture), and then we can continue to build a strong house of faith.

“Let each one take care how he builds upon it.”  —1 Corinthians 3:10b

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .” Brings back some memories, doesn’t it? Jim Phelps sitting at a table in some exotic location with a small reel-to-reel tape player and an envelope filled with photos; the disembodied voice describing some clandestine goings-on that require the Impossible Mission Force to correct for the safety of the world and the American way; and closing with the warning that the tape would self-destruct in 10 seconds.

Everyone has a mission. Ours may not be as thrilling or adrenaline-pumping as the ones accepted weekly by the IMF back in the 1960s, but it is important. Our mission is set foundationally on the groundwork laid by Jesus’ own mission. His mission—the most difficult of all—was indeed one that was impossible for any other person who has ever lived to accomplish.

In the Garden, just before His final hours, Jesus surrendered (again) to the mission that His Father set for Him. I could not accomplish it, even if I had wanted to. You would never live up to the task, even if the idea crossed your mind. So aren’t we glad that Jesus found and completed His impossible mission. That way we can live up to the mission we have been assigned through Him.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  —Jesus, Matthew 26:39b

We often refer to the prayer that Jesus used to teach us to pray as “The Lord’s Prayer.” However, there is a better example of Jesus’ prayer to give that name to. We find Jesus’s prayer in John 17. In this prayer Jesus prays about His mission, His disciples (who are with Him), and those of us who would believe because of the testimony of these disciples.

Jesus not only gives an example of how to pray, but He begins by showing us what we ought to prioritize in our prayers—God’s direction for our life. When was the last time that you or I prayed for God’s will to be done in our life? Sure we say the words—even quoting the Model Prayer—by saying “Thy will be done.” But think it through, when was the last time that we really, genuinely, and earnestly sought the direction that God wanted us to go?

My guess (including for myself) is that we gave a head nod to God, and went on about our business as usual, without taking time to consider the full impact that God wants to make on the world through us. Nor do we pause to consider the price that following that path of obedience would require.

Even so, as costly as following Jesus is, as difficult as taking God’s direction might be, it is well worth the effort.

Let us, today, pray with our Master, “Thy will be done.”

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”  —Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 6:10

Prayer is the word we use for communication with God. This implies a couple of things. First of all, prayer is the opportunity for us to open our hearts up to our Maker. Tell God everything that is on your heart, in your mind, and that you are concerned about. This is important. It is our opportunity to ask God the questions that we have about life.

The other thing that the word communication applies is that God responds to our cries of prayer. Too often we don’t hear the response because we walk away from the conversation before giving God the chance to respond. When this happens we think that God doesn’t even listen to our prayers.

The truth is that God not only hears our prayers, but he answers them. He answers them sometimes with the exact response that we expect. Often  he answers our prayers with something that looks absolutely different from what we were expected. Listen for his response.

 “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

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