“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
In the model Jesus gave for prayer there is a very important statement we make to God that is found in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In an email that I received from Harvest Prayer Ministries there is some great teaching on praying for the will of God to be accomplished.
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will concerning you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do no despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:15-23, NASB)
“The way the material is shaped, all of the above commands are modified by the phrase “for this is God’s will concerning you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This gives us clear direction for praying “Your will be done.” It is always God’s will to pray for these kingdom initiatives to succeed in your life, in the lives of others, and in your local church. To pray for the kingdom to come and the will to be done then includes at least the following:
- It is always God’s will to pray for a gracious nature that doesn’t return evil for evil.
- It is always God’s will to seek after good for another and for everyone (especially when you have been slighted or done an injustice).
- It is always God’s will to pray for and to practice joy.
- It is always God’s will to deepen your prayer life.
- It is always God’s will to give thanks.
- It is always God’s will to test out when someone claims to speak for God (you do not have to immediately accept every word spoken, but you do need to listen and to test him by Word, Witness, Workers, Worship, and the Will of the believer).
- It is always God’s will to cling to the things that Scripture makes clear are right and true.
That is great teaching and with that in mind we can be more specific when it comes to praying for God’s will to be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven.
A sales manager and two of his sales reps are walking to lunch one day when they come across an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie appears, saying, “I’ll give each of you just one wish.”
One rep is quick to speak up first. He says, “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Poof! He’s gone.
The next rep speaks up. “I want to be fishing in a stream in the Colorado Rockies.” Poof! He’s gone.
The genie turns to the sales manager and says, “Your turn.” The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”
It makes a difference who has the last word, doesn’t it? The question is: who, or what, will have the last word in your life today? Will your choices today be driven by ambition, revenge, or mere whim?
Or will the Word of God have the final say? Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16)
Do you know what he’s saying? He’s saying Let God’s word have the final word in your life _ today and everyday.
One of Aesop’s Fables illustrates the nature of criticism and critical people — and the futility of trying to listen to them. It’s a story of an old man and his son bringing a donkey to market. Along the way, they hear someone say, “Look at those two foolish people. They’re walking when they could be riding in comfort.”
The idea seemed to make sense, so the old man and his son climbed onto the donkey and continued on their way. It wasn’t long before they heard another comment as they passed someone on the road. “Look at those lazy people. They’re breaking the back of that poor donkey. He’ll be so tired by the time they get to market, no one will want to buy him.”
So the old man got off the donkey and walked beside him as his son continued to ride. Soon they heard someone say, “What a terrible thing. The old man has to walk while the young boy gets to ride.”
So they traded places. In a short while, there was another comment: “Look at that selfish man. He rides the donkey and makes the little boy walk.”
The old man and the boy thought long and hard about the situation, and finally came up with a solution. They tied the donkey to a pole, placed each end of the pole on their shoulders, and carried him as they continued their journey.
As they crossed a bridge, the pole broke, the donkey came loose, fell into the river and drowned. The moral here is that you can’t please everyone — and if you try, you’ll probably end up losing your donkey in the process.
I don’t need to spend a great deal of time describing whatever criticism that you’re facing, because you already know what it’s like. You hear it from your husband or your wife or your kids or your or your co-workers or your boss or your employees or your friends or your enemies or even total strangers sometimes the person you beside at church. So rather than letting it drown you follow Jesus and keep His command to love one another like He loves us.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). That is quote of Jesus that every missionary has taken seriously. In one sense every Christ follower is a missionary but for those that have dedicated their life to serving Jesus on the mission field the prayers of the saints mean more than most of us realize. Here is a morning devotion that I received from Harvest Prayer Ministries on praying for our missionaries that I found very helpful.
What do we mean when we ask God to bless the missionaries? Jesus did not pray that God would rescue the disciples from the hardships of the world. He asked the father to “keep them from the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). After Saul’s Damascus Road experience, Christ said He would show Paul “how many things he must suffer” for Jesus’ name (Acts 9:16). God’s call upon the life of a missionary (or any believer for that matter) does not remove the reality of pain, suffering, sickness, and persecution. This theme of serving Christ through persecution and suffering is both a biblical and historical reality.
How many of us have heard the testimonies and requests of persecuted house church leaders in China. They plead with us not to pray for the suffering and persecution to end, but rather for God to be glorified through the persecution. With persecution comes kingdom growth. It has always been so. Tertullian said the blood of the Christians is holy seed.1 Christ said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24).
So, perhaps we should pray less for the “success,” happiness, and comfort of the missionaries and more for their endurance and character as crosscultural disciplers. In their book, Called to Reach: Equipping Cross-cultural Disciplers, Yount and Barnett identify eight characteristics of effective missionaries. When we pray for the missionaries (expatriates and locals), perhaps we should pray that they would:
- Depend on the Holy Spirit in all they do (spiritual character).
- Live according to the teachings of the Bible (biblical character).
- Be good thinkers and teachers across cultural barriers (rational character).
- Be willing to suffer with those they witness to (compassionate character).
- Endure as they suffer for the sake of the gospel (impassioned character).
- Build lasting, witnessing relationships (relational character).
- Stay focused on God’s mission, not their own (maturational character).
So, there you have it, a great scheme for praying for our missionaries. All that is left is praying.
I once met a man who told me of his search for meaning in life _ how he had pursued it by using money, alcohol, success, promiscuity _ every vice imaginable until one day he was surfing radio stations and heard a sermon on a Christian radio station and it changed his life because he had discovered Jesus.
That’s a great story but what he said next really got my attention: “What’s incredible is that there were Christians living on both sides of me. We lived there for years and yet they never talked to me about Jesus _ they didn’t even invite me to church for Easter. We talked about baseball, camping, our jobs, the weather _ but they never brought up Jesus.
Then when I became a Christian I told them how Jesus had changed my life and invited them to church. They said that they already had a church and go every week. Here all this time I thought they were going to breakfast on Sunday morning.”
In Matthew 28 Jesus gave the marching orders for the church: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
What that passage boils down to is sharing our faith in Jesus. I know some of you are thinking that you can’t do this. You are too shy _ you don’t know enough about the Bible _ they wouldn’t want to hear it anyway. Well those are excuses that don’t cut it.
Listen, we’ve a story to tell the world. It’s a message that can make a huge difference in people’s lives, including ours. So be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit _ focus on telling others about Jesus _ then let them respond. It’s connecting with another person so that they will be connected to Christ.
Unity is one of the most difficult things to maintain in the life of a church. As individuals we have differing opinions on just about everything. It can be anything from style of music, to decorating tastes, to different translations of the Bible, to how we dress.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anyone who doesn’t see things exactly as “me, myself, and I” is wrong. Satan uses this to his advantage. He drives little wedges between people to bring disunity!
Jesus on the other hand brings unity. In John 18:21 after praying for the apostles we find Jesus praying this for us, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the church her marching orders: Go _ make disciples _ baptize _ teach. If we are going to accomplish that then all of us must use the gifts, talents, and resources that God has given us. Our gifts and talents may be different but when they are used for God’s glory (our purpose for existing) wonderful things will happen.
I challenge you to pray this prayer taken from Romans 15:5-6 for yourself and our church as we follow God’s lead. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give this church a spirit of unity among the believers as we follow Christ Jesus, so that with all of our hearts and mouths we will glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.