Tuesday, 28 June 2011

An Encouragement To Prayer

An Encouragement To Prayer

As is our usual custom, I’m (Jim here) beginning our July 2011 Prayer Letter; Kappy usually shares from her heart in Page 2’s Kappy’s Corner-but in a departure from my usual reporting of ministry happenings, I want to share this month with you from my heart about an event that happened about a year ago in Kampala and what has resulted from that significant day. At that time I was invited to a prayer meeting by Pastor David Asibe, the pastor of Miracle of Faith Church, which is our primary ministry partner in our Street Kid Outreach. I was eager to attend the meeting as I’ve always enjoyed prayer but when I learned that the meeting was scheduled to be for 8 hours I wondered if I was going to be able to pray for that much time. Long prayer meetings are not uncommon in Uganda which is known for its Prayer Movements and I’ve attended longer meetings before (including overnight meetings or in my case late night meetings), but I was challenged by the thought of spending 8 consecutive hours in prayer. I enjoyed about 5 hours of prayer with the church that day and since that time God has been dealing with me about the issue of prayer in significant ways. Let me fill in the picture a bit for you.

Years ago someone left a book on my doorstep entitled Revival Praying. I was then deeply challenged and have been so challenged many times over about 20 years with important thoughts from this useful book. It’s really an encouragement to consistent and prolonged prayer for God to revive His church; the idea that God sometimes requires more than occasional and sporadic prayer to fulfill His Kingdom plans and purposes but that He often requires prolonged and dedicated prayer (as is the case in praying for revival) comes across loud and clear in the book. God later confronted me with that same idea when reading about South African Andrew Murray’s call to prayer for revival and missions. A quote from Murray's book has been etched  in my heart…“The ten days’ continued prayer” (after the Ascension and before Pentecost) “teaches us a simple lesson yet so difficult to master, that what little prayer does not obtain, much earnest believing prayer, continued long enough will bring down.” Murray, who saw revival and the wonderful effects of ‘much earnest believing prayer’ in his lifetime as he entreated the Spirit to come to His church and subsequently into a country and region, writes convincingly about this needed and often neglected kind of prayer. Another encouragement to consider ‘much prayer’ came my way when,  as a missionary,  I read about ‘Praying Hyde’ (John Hyde, missionary to India, died in 1912) and his desire and commitment to extended prayer and to holding himself in the presence of God in adoration, confession, intercession, supplication and thanksgiving.  One man wrote: “Hyde’s life of prayer and service stands as His ministry of prayer in India during the next 20 years was such that the natives referred to him as "the man who never sleeps." Some termed him "the apostle of prayer." But more familiarly he was known as "the praying Hyde." He was all these and more, for deep in India's Punjab, he envisioned his Master, and face to face with the eternal, he learned lessons of prayer which were amazing. Often he spent 30 days and nights in prayer, and many times was on his knees in deep intercession for 36 hours at a time. His work among the villages was very successful, in that for many years he won four to ten people a day to the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Another man wrote that it was love to Christ that enabled Hyde to give his life to prayer for the Redeemer’s glory. So with these and many other encouragements and challenges in my heart over the years regarding this issue of prayer, in Kampala I began to seek the Lord to know if I should simply pray more and asked Him for grace and teaching about this. The Lord showed me from His Word, by His Spirit’s leading and through my readings and talks with others that prayer is indeed a vital part of the ministry. The apostles were committed to continual prayer and the ministry of the Word as we see in Acts 6:4. The Lord revealed to me that I must learn much more about giving myself to continual and extended times in prayer.

I’ve also been recently helped greatly by the example of faithful, praying Habakkuk. He cried out to God for revival and a turning away of the tide of godlessness in Judah but God instead brought judgment and distress. The broken-hearted Habakkuk continued to seek his God in his time of difficulty and chastisement when he foresaw the coming time of war, horror and captivity that would befall the people of God. This believer wrestled with God and was blessed by a revelation of God and His awesome glory, justice, fury, mercy and grace, goodness and faithfulness. His book is a book of prayer and his prayer’s resulting answers. I want to be more like Habakkuk; to care more deeply for God and God’s people and because of that care intercede for the people, especially in our times of distress.

In Kampala I began a simple spiritual exercise then which has impacted me greatly. I began to spend more time alone with the Lord in prayer. I’ve always enjoyed prayer in my daily devotions and in the ministry and God has answered many, many prayers over the years. Kappy and I have also enjoyed prayer together and this has strengthened us in our marriage in wonderful ways, but I felt moved to draw closer to God in extended personal prayer for longer periods of time and more consistently in these times. I’ve set a daily goal of spending 2 hours a day with God in prayer in addition to my devotions and while on furlough this has become a settled habit that I thank the Lord for. Pray for me that I will be faithful in this commitment. This is an exercise in grace and is not legalism or is it intended to be legalistic; I’m saved solely by the righteousness of Jesus Christ which was imputed to me by faith and not at all by my works or efforts to draw close to Christ. But in Christ’s marvelous grace I am blessed to draw near Him and to pray to Him. The Bible doesn’t command exact amounts of time for prayer but by God’s grace encourages us to pray; prayer is in this sense a discipline of grace. We each must seek the Lord for His will for us personally regarding the structuring and times and limits of our prayer. This 2 hours isn’t a formula but a parameter that helps me define this spiritual exercise and discipline. Rather than rushing off to the office or ministry or meetings with little prayer I’m seeking to arrange the day’s calendar around this time which is committed to Christ my Lord who prayed and fasted for 40 days in the wilderness as He was tempted by Satan, continued in prayer for me during long all night prayer watches, who gave Himself in prayer and in the agony of blood-sweat for my salvation, and who prayed for my forgiveness as He bled and died on the cross of death so that my sins are atoned for and so that I am saved. He gave His all for me and still prays faithfully for me; can I do less than seek Him with a greater measure of diligence that He will be glorified and that His Kingdom will come to the lost and dying peoples of the nations? 

The benefits of this blessing have been evident. My communion with the Lord of glory and grace has been sweet and my longing for His gracious will to be done in our lives and in the ministry has been strengthened. I’m trying to learn to ‘pray in my praying’ and to ‘wrestle with the Angel’ in prayer. I thank God for this timely encouragement God has brought my way and I must pass my blessed challenge on to you, dear friend. Consider for a moment that prayer is in reality our drawing near to God through Christ who we love and that we learn to pray as His Spirit teaches us. Surely this is what our God desires of us and we can respond to His good will by seeking Him, by our intentional and habitual getting close to Him in a prayer fellowship. As we do so God will surely honor our efforts and we shall know more fully the joys of meeting with God. Friend, ask the Lord today how you can better and faithfully do this. He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him. And as He draws us closer to Himself and we are faithful in prayer we will surely see His glory and  His will fulfilled through our prayers in these last days when evil seems to be unleashed upon us all in explosive ways. Then He will be to us the God of our lives who answers the prayers of His people and He will show us new and wonderful things about Himself.

I feel as though the Lord is opening up a new chapter in my life and beginning something new and glorious. I’m excited and blessed to learn more about prayer and to pray and I hope this encouragement to prayer will be of help to you too.

Years ago I began a Prayer Journal and I have posted some of these prayers based on Scripture on our Blog; these are entitled A Prayer To The God Of My Life-perhaps these prayers will be of help to you-if so you can find these prayers at: http://actionug.blogspot.com/

Please let us know how we can pray for you, friend. And share your thoughts with us about prayer. 

(Images Above of Habakkuk As Rendered By Artists)

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