God's Lightning: A Seminar on Prayer
PRAYING IN FAITH-FELLOWSHIP LIFE-STYLE
Mark 11:24; James 1:5-8; John 15:1-17; 16:23-24; I John 5:14-15
Story: We are invaded!
One day our children and several others from the neighborhood were playing in our large front yard. Without warning they came tearing around the house yelling, "Al jaysh, al jaysh” (The army, the army)! I was at the seminary trying to repair the telephone lines at the time, so my wife, Maxine, went to investigate. Reaching the backyard, she heard a noise in the bushes across the fence. She looked up to find herself staring down the barrel of a soldier's rifle!
April through June of 1973 was rather hectic in Lebanon. No doubt many other people are experiencing similar events in various places around the world such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of such incidents seems to be increasing. Still, this year's turmoil wasn't quite as personal as it was in 1973.
In May 1973 a battle erupted in Beirut between the Lebanese army and Palestinian commandos. The fighting lasted three weeks. During that time our family was effectively cut off from Beirut. We had to buy supplies from mountain villages above us. Our electricity was out for three days; the frozen foods were ready to spoil, but we ate the softest and the rest re-froze when the power came back on. That part of the experience was not bad.
Then came that experience when Maxine was confronted by a Lebanese soldier pointing his gun at her with the safety clicked to “off.” Tight-lipped, the soldier demanded to know if we were harboring any Palestinian commandos. Maxine assured him we were not. As proof, she pointed to the children playing in the yard. "Would they be playing if there were commandos here?" she demanded. The soldier relaxed and flipped the rifle's safety catch to "on." Later Maxine said, "I never was so glad to hear a little metallic click as I was to hear that one."
She moved warily to the front of the house and began to work in the garden. Suddenly she felt she was being watched. She turned cautiously to face another soldier, leveling his gun at her and demanding the same information. Being challenged twice in less than 30 minutes was unnerving. Still, we were glad the soldiers were there, because as long as they were present, the Palestinian commandos were not likely to bother us.
PRAYING IN FAITH-FELLOWSHIP LIFE-STYLE
Mark 11:24; James 1:5-8; John 15:1-17; 16:23-24; I John 5:14-15
Praying in faith-fellowship means praying with confidence, based on our relationship with Him, believing that God has heard and that He IS answering -- the answer is on the way. All Christian blessings are received by faith -- salvation, growth, the filling of the Holy Spirit, victory over temptation as well as answers to prayer.
Praying in faith-fellowship means trusting that God knows our need and that He knows what is best for us and for others; therefore we can relax in Him! God knows what we need before we ask Him, but He still likes to hear us ask. Just as an earthly father likes to hear his children ask for what they need and want, so it is with our heavenly Father. Jesus says, “Do not be like them (the pagans) for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Mt. 6:8). The pagans apparently thought that God would hear and pay attention to their prayers if they repeated the same words over and over as some people do even today.
We might ask ourselves, "If God knows what we need, why should we ask Him for it?" In the first place, we do it because He asks us to. Jesus assumes that every believer will ask for things in prayer. When we pray we are coming to God not only in worship, but also to receive from Him what we need for life: food, shelter, clothing, friends, wisdom, health and on and on. Vast millions of people do not have these things and they suffer from the lack of them. People of all religions seem to turn to their deities to pray that he/it will provide for those needs daily. In this paragraph on prayer (Matt. 6:5-15) Jesus does not command that we pray, he simply says, “When you pray,” assuming that we will pray. He teaches us to rest in Him and His love for us and to assume that He will provide what we need. He wants to give us what we need but He desires even more to draw us into a personal relationship with Himself. It is a great delight to Him when we “climb up into His lap” and talk to Him about our needs. Our prayers are not, first of all, for our sakes, but for His sake! We pray to an omniscient God because He longs for us to enjoy fellowship with Him.
Praying in faith-fellowship means walking daily in submission to the will of the Father. Just as Jesus prayed in great agony of spirit to be delivered from the ordeal of the cross, but finally submitted Himself to the will of the Heavenly Father for our sakes and because of His love for us (Mt. 26:39, 42), so also we must submit our wills/desires/concerns to Him as the One who knows us better than we know ourselves and will do what is best for us and for others in the long run. We cannot see into the future, but He can and does and therefore understands much better than we do, what the literal answer to our prayers would lead to. It is much better to let Him decide how to answer because He knows our real needs. I believe it is true that “God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.”
We must develop a faith relationship/fellowship with God so that we walk every step of our lives conscious of His presence and power, as the disciples did. According to Acts 9:32-35, Peter was visiting the believers in Lydda when he learned about a man who was paralyzed and had been bed-ridden for eight years. Calling him by name, Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ is healing you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. This shows that Peter was very sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It ought to be that way with us.
In nearby Joppa, a believing sister named Dorcas had died. When the other believers learned that Peter was in Lydda, they sent for him to come at once. When he arrived he somehow felt that he should pray for her healing. When he felt that the time was right he turned to her body and called her name and said, “Tabitha (Dorcas) get up.” Then he took her by the hand and helped her up. As a result of this miracle “many people believed in the Lord.” Peter was living in such faith-fellowship with the Lord that he was enabled to work some of the same kinds of miracles that Jesus performed.
In Acts 8:26-40 we read that Philip (the deacon-evangelist, not Philip the apostle) was having a very successful ministry in Samaria. Many came to faith in Jesus, some in response to the miracles the Lord did through him. Then suddenly, it seems, an angel (messenger) of the Lord instructed Philip to leave Samaria and to start walking southwest toward Gaza. Apparently Philip had no idea why he was to follow that road, but because he was sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and was walking in faith-fellowship with the Lord, he obeyed even though he did not understand. On the way he caught up with a gentile official from the court of the queen of Ethiopia who was riding in his chariot and going home from a trip to Jerusalem, apparently seeking to know more about the religion of the Jews. Somehow he had obtained in Jerusalem a copy of the book of Isaiah which he read as the chariot slowing made progress toward home. The Holy Spirit prompted Philip to catch up with the slow-moving chariot and as he did so he heard the man reading from Isaiah 53. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man confessed that he needed someone to explain it to him. He invited Philip to ride with him. As they went along, Philip explained that the section he was reading was talking about Jesus. The official became a believer in Jesus as his soul was satisfied when he heard how Jesus was the Lamb of God who would give His life for the salvation of all who believe in Him. When they came to a pool of water the Ethiopian asked Philip to baptize him. After he did that, Philip disappeared but the official went on his way rejoicing in the Lord.
On another occasion Cornelius, a Roman centurion, a gentile (non-Jew) and a devout seeker for a relationship with God, received a vision from the Lord and was instructed to call for Peter to come visit him. Peter had to be convinced by a special vision from God that it was permissible for him to visit in the home of a gentile (Acts 10:9-20). So when the delegation from Cornelius arrived, Peter went with them and preached the Gospel to them and many were saved, no doubt including Cornelius. Peter had crossed a strong barrier to the spread of the Gospel by entering a gentile home and preaching the message of salvation through faith-submission to Jesus. God responded by pouring out the Holy Spirit even on gentile believers. Up to this time He (the Holy Spirit) had only come on Jewish believers. This faith-fellowship walk with the Lord results in the wonderful action of the Holy Spirit to spread God’s truth in this world (see Acts 10:34-48).
Then we also have the story of the conversion of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:6-40. As Paul and Silas were preaching and witnessing to the people of Philippi about salvation through faith in Jesus, a slave-girl, possessed by an evil spirit, followed them, calling out in a loud and crazy voice, “These men are the servants of the Most High God who show to us the way of salvation.” Paul was disturbed by this unwanted attention which was no doubt causing people to laugh at the presentation of the Gospel. Finally, when Paul felt, by the leadership of the Holy Spirit, that the time had come to deliver this girl from the evil spirit and to heal her, he turned and commanded that the evil spirit come out of her. She was completely healed and returned to normal life, but her owners were upset because they had been using her ability to tell fortunes to earn money for themselves. They grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the marketplace to face the Roman authorities who ordered that they be beaten and put in stocks in the local prison. It appeared that Paul and Silas had made a mistake in healing the girl but although they suffered and were beaten and imprisoned for this, look how God turned it to good!
Paul and Silas were in pain. Probably their backs were bleeding. As they sat on the floor of the prison with their feet in the stocks, they sang some of the psalms praising God, and all the prisoners heard them. Suddenly about midnight, the earth shook and rumbled. An earthquake loosened everyone’s bonds from the walls freeing them to escape. The jailor, thinking that the prisoners had run away, drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, knowing that he would be executed if any of the prisoners were missing in the morning; however, Paul somehow saw what he was doing and called out to him, “Stop! Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” Their heavy chains were still tied to their wrists and feet, though pulled loose from the wall.
The jailor called a servant to bring a torch so he could see for himself that the prisoners were all still there inside the building. Then, perhaps because he had a guilty conscience about beating Paul and Silas, he fell at their feet trembling and looking up into their faces asked seriously, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas explained to him that he needed to believe in (or “on” or “into”) the Lord Jesus Christ and he and all his household people would experience the miracle of salvation. Evidently the man believed. He then locked the other prisoners up but brought Paul and Silas into his house and set a meal before them and washed and cleaned their wounds. No doubt Paul and Silas kept on telling all the people in his household how to be saved and they all believed and were baptized and rejoiced in the Lord! So, following the Spirit’s leading led Paul and Silas to suffer for His sake, but it also led to the jailor and his household all becoming believers and a part of the church which met in Lydia’s house (16:15).
Not only that, but when the Roman magistrates sent word to them the next day that they were free to leave the city, which was a colony of Rome, Paul refused! He declared that he and Silas were Roman citizens and that they had been beaten and imprisoned without a trial and that the authorities should come and apologize to them in person and usher them out of the city. This was done and I suppose that Paul told the members of the church “Look, if these magistrates ever give you any trouble as a church, just remind them that I can report them to the higher authorities in the area and they will not trouble you anymore.”
Following the leadership of the Holy Spirit as a result of a faith-fellowship walk with the Lord in consistent, persistent prayer may have led to a beating but God redeemed it with the establishment of the first church planted on European soil.
How is it possible to walk in faith-fellowship with the Lord every day? One way is to practice the presence of God in everything that we do each day. Brother Lawrence, in the 1600s, wrote some devotional thoughts which have been gathered into a small book called, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” In it he shows the value of being aware of the presence of God in everything that He calls us to do whether it is preaching or teaching or cleaning the floors or cleaning greasy pots and pans in the kitchen. Colossians 3:17 tells us “and whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Praying in faith-fellowship means trusting our great and powerful God enough to be confident that He will meet our need or the need of others and that therefore we are free to rejoice in Him since He is concerned about us and wants to help.
Many times our concept of God is too small. Look at the universe! (Read Job 38 & 39) See also The Biblical Basis of Missions by Avery Willis, p. 16: “Step on a rocket with me and catch a glimpse of the greatness of God. We shall travel at the speed of light, 186,282 miles per second. As we blast off, our seats afford us a clear view of earth. One second later earth has dropped away until it appears no larger than a huge balloon. In two seconds we have shot past the moon and stolen a glance at the now-famous moon shot of earth. Eight and one-half minute later we pass the sun. Earth appears to be a speck 93 million miles away in the darkness of space.
Five hours later we leave our solar system and can no longer distinguish earth from myriads of other planets and stars. After four years of travel at the speed of light, we zip by the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. For almost 100,000 years we travel across the Milky Way, our own galaxy. After that, we travel another 1,500,000 years before we reach the Great Nebula, most distant of the six other galaxies in what astronomers call the Local Group. . . . In the great vastness of space we must travel at least 4,500 million years at the speed of light before we begin to reach the area of the universe that cannot be seen with telescopes from our planet. And who know how much lies beyond?
In order to walk in faith-fellowship with God we must be convinced that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). We live in a world in which many, many people question the existence of God but He has revealed Himself to mankind both in creation and in His Word (Psalm 19). He has also revealed Himself to those who trust in Him for salvation and for daily provision. Those of us who do know Him must walk in daily fellowship with Him in order to know His will so that we can pray in faith. This requires a daily devotional time. Psalm 5:3 says “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Jesus gave us His example in Mk. 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” In 1 John 5:14-15 we read, “14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him! Our faith grows as our fellowship with God deepens. In order for that to happen it is necessary that we spend time with Him in meditation and prayer fellowship.
Praying in faith-fellowship means trusting that God will answer our prayers in a way which is best for us and for others. We must not yield to the temptation to leave everything to God and not to exercise our faith nor pray with passion. There is always tension between Mt. 26:39, 42 (full submission to the will of God) and Mk. 11:24 (believing that we have received the answer to our prayers), but strong faith does not guarantee a positive answer to our prayers.
Here are some examples: Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering would pass from Him, but God’s answer was, “No! That will not accomplish our higher purpose in providing salvation to all who believe in your sacrifice as the atonement for their sins.”
Many persecuted Christians pray for relief from suffering, but God says, “No” because your testimony is stronger when others see how you are willing to endure suffering for Jesus’ sake.
We often pray for healing for our friends, but often God says, “No” either because He is ready to take them home to be with Him in glory or because God’s power is made greater in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Praying with strong faith never guarantees a positive answer no matter how many promises we may quote from God’s Word. God can be trusted to keep His promises, but God is not bound by our misunderstandings of His promises. God sees not just the single promise but the over-arching purpose of His plan for us and for our world. We cannot see that, but He can and does. God is NEVER under obligation to anyone in this world to grant our requests! “God gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him!” Our faith-fellowship relationship with Jesus must be so strong that we can sit back and smile as we wait to see how He will work things out for His glory! (Rom. 11:33, 36)
When Jesus prayed in faith for the healing of anyone or even for the raising of the dead he prayed believing that God had heard and was answering because He was praying according to the will of God perfectly (I John 5:14-15); however, when he prayed for Himself in Gethsemane, He prayed in conflict between His own desires and the desire of the Father. He then submitted His desire to that of the Father, even though it meant horrible suffering for Himself. On the other hand, He did so with joy because He could look beyond the suffering to what it would accomplish for us: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of the throne of God!” (Heb.12:2).
Often we pray for God to make us comfortable, but in God’s mind, in His perfect plan to bring the world to Himself, he often allows us to suffer for His sake.
For the most part, the soldiers were on duty to protect civilians, so we were grateful for their presence. Occasionally commandos, armed men from the paramilitary organizations of various political parties in Lebanon, decided to take matters into their own hands. They set up roadblocks and checked people's identification cards.
One evening in April, 1973, just after the Easter vacation, some Baptist theological seminary students who were returning from Jordan, called Missionary Finlay M. Graham to ask if he could come pick them up in Beirut. Taxi drivers did not want to travel at night past the refugee camp at the bottom of the hill on which we lived. Finlay drove into the city to meet the students. On the way back, at the foot of the hill, they were stopped at a roadblock manned by armed commandos. Everyone in the car was ordered out and was escorted into the camp. Some people who were taken there in the past were never been seen again, but Finlay and the students witnessed to the commandos about Christ and preached so earnestly that in an hour or so they were released to continue their way back to the seminary! Walking in faith-fellowship with God is always an adventure! One never knows where God will lead us or what strange sort of thing He may ask us to do, but when we follow Him we watch Him work according to His will and for His glory and we continue on our way rejoicing!
Most of us must spend much of our days doing other things than sitting quietly in meditation and prayer. This means that, after spending some time in prayer at the beginning of each day, or whenever we can, we need to be aware of the presence of God as we do other work. If our work is honorable and brings Him glory, then it may all be dedicated to Him. In addition, it is always good to pray mentally about each decision that we have to make as we work and to think about how our lives will impact others for Him when we leave our work to do other things at home or wherever we may go and whatever we may do. Practice the presence of Christ all day! This will result in walking in faith-fellowship with Him as the habit of our lives.
Write in your workbook ideas which will help you stay connected with God all day long and even at night. Review your suggestions each morning.