Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’
Posted on May 14th, 2015 by Jonathan
Conrad Mbewe is the pastor of Katwaba Baptist Church in Zambia, Africa. In addition to his faithful ministry in his home country, he is a prolific writer and preaches all over the world. Below, he offers three helpful ways to pray for the continent of Africa.
In each of the three categories Pastor Mbewe mentions (especially the second – urbanized Africa), good theological training would be a huge help. There’s a great way to get involved in equipping Christians in Africa with just such resources. The Gospel Coalition International Outreach is producing a resource to combat a rampant problem throughout Africa: the prosperity gospel. Once the resource is complete (its contributors are Pastor Mbewe, Michael Otieno Maura, Ken Mbugua, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper), this book will be distributed for free throughout Africa and beyond.
You can help by donating here. A gift of $25 provides roughly 30 copies. The previous donation link includes a great information page featuring another interview with Conrad Mbewe, a video of John Piper on the prosperity gospel, an explanation of the resource they’re creating, a summary of English in Africa, and links to other related posts.
We’re thankful for the faithful ministry of TGC International Outreach in giving relief to Africa and other areas of the world suffering from a “theological famine.”
Posted on May 8th, 2015 by Jonathan
Praying for Money and Stuff: Jared C. Wilson pens “a prayer for financial provision inspired by these lines from John Piper’s closing message at the 2014 Desiring God Pastors Conference: ‘Jesus says it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Why would you want riches? Why make it harder?'”
All we need to know about religious mockery, we learned in Rome: In the wake of the Garland shooting, Bart Barber – a pastor in the area – explains what the early church teaches us about religious mockery.
The ‘Right Side of History’ is Sometimes Wrong: “History doesn’t have a conscience… I’d rather be on the ‘right side of justice’ or the ‘right side of human dignity’ which may be in fashion at some points but may also be out of fashion at others,” writes Peter Wehner.
Courage that Counts: Collin Hansen says that being hated by the world doesn’t necessarily prove we’re being courageous. “If they can’t see the compassion in our courageous stands, we appear to them as just another power-grabbing interest group.”
You Can’t Hide from the Culture Wars: “If we care about obeying all that Jesus commanded us, we will have to die to our desire to be liked and recommit to doing as the early church did, ‘obeying God rather than man,'” writes Daniel Darling.
Posted on May 6th, 2015 by Cassity
Throughout the month of May, we’re encouraging people to Pray for Vietnam, our Secret Church 15 prayer focus. We’d love for you to join us by making use of the 30-day prayer guide at PrayForVietnam.org. Before you begin, read the stirring words from Vietnamese church leaders below as they tell us what life is like as a Christian in Vietnam.
*Note: Names and other information has been omitted for security purposes.
1. How do you remain faithful in persecution?
“I know that I must have a personal walk with the Lord. We must be realizing that we are weak—we have to let go and let God. I recount the latest incident where I thought, ‘This is the end.’ Then I am reminded that the Lord [is faithful].”
“[I know that my] faith is in God and Jesus Christ. We believe what we are doing is right. I vowed [from the beginning] never to quit.”
“I am willing to die for my faith. I was trained [by other Christians]. I quote verses from the book of John. Our people are like sheep before the wolves. It is my responsibility to protect them and lead them. I will never give up.”
2. How do you train new believers to face persecution?
“[I make it] very clear that we are coming together to worship the Lord. We have a clear vision to spread churches. I use my experience [with persecution] to teach them.”
“Our first rule is: never run away. If I run away, I become a betrayer to Jesus and these people.”
“We used to hate the authorities who persecuted us. [After a meeting] with five other church leaders, I said we should change the way we are with [the authorities]—try to talk about the good things about them. We should show them Christ’s love. We should show them that we love Vietnam and want to build up the country.”
“I inform them this is not an easy faith. They will face trials. I bring them along with me to see how I handle things so that they will know how to count the cost.”
“I explain why persecution happens. [I tell them to] pray and study the Bible to grow in faith. If they spend time with God, they can stand firm.”
3. How do you pray for Vietnam and fellow believers?
“[I pray that] the Lord will still keep persecution in Vietnam. We don’t pray for it to go away or for freedom. We pray for the gospel to have freedom to break through barriers. [Through this I want to] excite the younger generation and raise up faithful workers who will go through difficult circumstances.”
“I pray for the authorities because they do things contrary to God’s word. We pray for them to have a chance to repent.”
Join these church leaders in praying for the peoples of Vietnam, especially the persecuted believers who face opposition daily for their faith. For more on Vietnam and how you can pray for the people there, visit PrayForVietnam.org.
Posted on May 1st, 2015 by David Burnette
If you participated in this year’s Secret Church simulcast, then you will remember praying for various needs for the peoples of Vietnam. Even if you weren’t a part of that prayer time, you can join us as we begin our month-long prayer focus on the peoples of Vietnam.
To learn more about the prayer focus, go to the Pray for Vietnam website. There you’ll find our 31-day prayer guide for the month of May, which includes some specific ways you can pray for the church in Vietnam, as well as other spiritual and physical needs among the peoples of Vietnam.
To help us begin our prayer focus, Chris Ruge, Director of Prayercast Ministry, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Prayercast has a wealth of resources, all of which are aimed at encouraging believers to pray for those who do not know Christ around the world. You can find out more about this ministry and their resources here.
1. When people think of getting involved in missions, prayer probably isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind. Why should it be?
Prayer is the single-most effective way to reach the masses. Many in the Church are familiar with Jesus’ observation that, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Lk 10:2) So what does He tell us to do as a result? “Therefore…PRAY”!
Two fundamental things happen when God’s people pray.
- When God’s people pray, HE MOVES. We don’t have to understand the deep theology behind this to see repeatedly in scripture that He has chosen to use us, His fallen creation, to somehow play a role in initiating His perfect plan. The advancement of the gospel and the expansion of God’s kingdom are far beyond human ability – only God can accomplish this. So we plead with Him to move in His power for the sake of the lost.
- When God’s people pray, THEY CHANGE. It is impossible to spend time in intimacy with Almighty God and stay the same. He fundamentally changes us as we draw near to Him.
The work of missions is inherently spiritual, and it requires spiritual strategies and tools. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). There are strongholds in every mission field that require demolition, and we all need to be about the work of calling on God’s divine power to tear them down.
2. Some people don’t know where to begin in praying for entire people groups. What are some ways we could pray for the peoples of Vietnam? (note: we will be issuing people a prayer guide with more specific prayer requests and with information on the peoples of Vietnam, but this questions could still be an opportunity to encourage people on the main priorities)
Anytime we pray for something as large as a nation, there are countless possible prayer requests. The question we always ask at Prayercast is “What are the biggest obstacles that, if changed, would pave the way for a historic move of the gospel across this nation?” This is praying strategically.
We believe the greatest obstacles to gospel advancement in Vietnam are 1) increased government restrictions on unregistered churches, and 2) disunity in the Church. We also believe there is great opportunity for the gospel through those who, like Paul, are “in chains for Christ” (Phil 1:13).
3. How does praying for the nations actually change our lives too?
The Great Commission is a command on the life of every Christ-follower. When I pray for the lost around the world, I am engaging in work for which God specifically created me, and only in that work will I better understand His specific purposes for my life.
Many things MAY happen when we engage in prayer for the lost, but here are just a few specific things that likely WILL happen:
- We become more like Jesus. Our heart aligns with His heart, our will with His.
- Our understanding of the Church changes. Our status as members of the Body of Christ binds us together in unity with believers around the globe.
- Our capacity to worship God increases. Any broader understanding of God and His creation allows us to more fully appreciate and adore Him.
- Our respect for God’s power and His ability to work in the world expands.The more we pray, the more we see answered prayer.
- Our prayer life shifts beyond ourselves/our sphere. We pray for people with whom we have no personal connection.
- Our spiritual senses are heightened. Praying for the lost quickens our receptivity to God’s call or movement in our lives.
- Our small problems fade away. The absurdity of complaining about the weather is evident when praying for people who live in cardboard shacks.
- A piece of that nation gets placed inside us. We will forever be more alert to any news about the nation.
- We prepare to engage with the world. We now see the lost through God’s eyes, and we feel their depravity and hopelessness in place of opposition or even judgment.
And it all started with me praying for the lost in a country I didn’t know much about.
It is not normal for sinful human beings to deeply love strangers – or enemies, for that matter – and yet these are the exact demonstrations of love by which Jesus says we are to be identifiable as His followers (Jn 13:35, Matt 5:44). We are only capable of this kind of love when God fills us with it, and one way this happens is through prayer.
Posted on March 25th, 2015 by David Burnette
It’s 7:03 am and you’ve got your Bible on your lap and a hot cup of coffee in your right hand. It’s time for your morning devotions. So far, so good.
It’s here, about the time you get five verses in, that it happens. Your thoughts start drifting. You begin to stare off into space. Instead of focusing on the Ten Commandments, your reading for the day, you’re thinking about an email you have to send at work, or the game you watched last night, or about how tired you are. Focus.
You start reading again, and then, five verses later, it happens . . . again. You’re starting to rest, but it’s not in the Lord. Sound familiar?
Whatever your morning (or evening routine) for your devotions, my guess is that you’ve had the frustrating experience of not being able to focus on the most important thing your soul needs for the day. You’ve got a limited amount of time before you leave for work, or before the kids wake up, but the Word of life seems to be going in one ear and out the other. It’s frustrating, but what can you do about it?
Of course, you probably need to get more sleep – as much as that’s possible for moms with young kids – but that may not solve everything. Whether it’s our hectic schedules or our reading comprehension level, there are a number of possible explanations for why we have trouble concentrating on God’s Word. Nevertheless, there are some things we can do to take better advantage of this time. Asking God to help you is a good first step, but sometimes prayer can be even more difficult at these times than reading.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few practical steps to jump-start your devotions, that is, to get your heart and your mind ready to hear from God’s Word. I know that schedules, preferences, and even your physical and mental wiring will affect what works for you. With all that said, have you considered that you might . . .
1. Start with an appetizer. By appetizer, I’m talking about reading something based on the truth of Scripture that will whet your appetite for Scripture. Here are a few ideas: a few pages from a trusted Christian author, a theologically rich hymn, or a prayer from some great saint of the past. Like stretching before a jog, it’s a way to prepare your mind for the mental and spiritual exercise ahead.
2. Get your blood pumping. If possible, take a short walk before you open your Bible. Or maybe it’s a jog, or hitting the elliptical, or whatever your workout routine is. Even light exercise can get your mental juices flowing. This won’t automatically remove your desire for sin, but it can help to break up the mental stagnation as you prepare to think about the promises of God.
3. Get less comfortable. That is, don’t set yourself up to fail by laying back in the recliner. Find a spot that’s comfortable, not one that’s conducive to napping. The goal is to be attentive and to stay engaged. Support your back, but don’t get horizontal.
God has created us in such a way that our hearts our affected by how our bodies feel (and vica versa). To put it another way, the spiritual is bound up with the physical. That’s why we shouldn’t be surprised that trusting the Lord is more difficult on fours of sleep. It’s also why we should take advantage of ordinary means to prepare our minds for the truth. Spurgeon’s counsel to his ministerial students would do us good: “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”
What practical steps can you add to the list above?
Posted on February 26th, 2015 by Jonathan
Adversity is nothing new to Ramez Atallah, president of the Egyptian Bible Society. We wrote about him almost a year and a half ago when, amid the confusing government transition in Egypt, the society’s bookshops were burnt to the ground by Muslim fundamentalists.
This blow did not dissuade him from the work before him, however. He resolved to rebuild the bookshops and replenish their resources so that the Word of God could continue to spread throughout Egypt.
Then, the events last week in Libya. ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians. Devastating news, particularly for Egyptian Christians like Ramez Atallah. But, in the words of this encouraging CT article, Atallah was once again “undaunted.” He saw an opportunity for gospel proclamation in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, and he took it.
Under Atallah’s leadership, the Egyptian Bible Society has now distributed over 1.65 million copies of a pamphlet titled “Two Rows by the Sea.” The pamphlet depicts the horrifying scene from the ISIS video: two columns of men walking by the sea, one in black and one in orange. There is a beautiful poem that powerfully describes the executed and their executioners, followed by a series of questions about the two rows. Which row understands? Which row sees? Which row will prevail? Which row pleases God? Each of the questions is simply answered by a couple passages of Scripture.
Needless to say, the brief publication packs quite a punch. Now, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who were rattled by the executions have had these questions about God, suffering, evil, and truth directly posed to them. Not only that, they’ve been proposed an answer: the gospel of Jesus.
We bring this story to your attention for several reasons.
First, we need to pray for the spread of the gospel in Egypt. Ask God to powerfully use “Two Rows by the Sea” to confront people with the truth of Jesus, and ask him to use Christians to help explain it further to lost people who read it.
Second, this story is a powerful reminder that we do not fight flesh and blood, and that God uses evil for good. Be encouraged and continue to trust that God is moving even in depressing headlines.
Third, we ought to be challenged by Ramez Atallah’s example of perseverance and endurance. Atallah continued to faithfully serve where God had placed him despite having his bookstores burned down less than 18 months ago. When the time came for God to use him in a huge way, he was ready.
It is often the case that what we believe in our heads goes untested in our lives.
For example, I’ve heard that when running from an alligator you should do a lot of zigging and zagging because alligators aren’t agile enough to turn quickly. I have no reason to disbelieve this, but thankfully, I haven’t had to try it out. I hope I never do.
Here’s something else I believe: Marriage is, by definition, a union between one man and one woman. My whole life, I’ve taken this conviction for granted. With Christians around the world, I believe that marriage was instituted by God as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his Church, and that we have the sacred task of pointing to him through it. But, personally, I have yet to come face-to-face with an alligator challenging this belief.
It may not be long before I do.
If so-called same-sex marriage used to be a theory we once rejected, it is now becoming a practice we must confront, or maybe better put, a practice confronting us. Even now, many believers are being forced to make tough decisions. Here’s an appeal for prayer from a county probate judge in Alabama. Starting Monday, by virtue of a federal court order, signing gay marriage certificates will be part of his official duties as judge:
To my dear precious family: It is not my intention to burden you with my problems but the fact is…. I am in need of your prayers, your reasoning and judgment, your professional skills and again, your prayers. In the years of serving as probate judge I have never been as troubled as I now am. I, thank God, have been a believer and Christian much longer than I have served as a judge. I am ashamed that I haven’t done more to serve God and I pray for His forgiveness. As a believer I have come to understand that our God is holy and His Word is supreme. I believe the Bible and have deeply held Christian convictions that I have tried to live up to and to teach to you. Now, not by choice, I find that my life long convictions are about to be trampled and cast aside in favor of an ungodly and worldly concept of marriage. It seems that I am being asked to choose whether to cling to what I know to be God’s truth or to ignore my convictions. I am not able to resolve this conflict. Who’s law, who’s word, who’s edicts do I obey, God or man? The issue of same sex marriage is not coming. It is here now. Come Monday morning I will be expected to become an active participant in what I know is wrong. I am expected to lay aside my personal spiritual beliefs. Seems to me that if I do this, I am casting aside my convictions. I am not sure that I am willing to do this. This is my dilemma, stay true to my beliefs, or cast aside my beliefs. In my way of thinking I have a choice…please God or please man. Please pray that God will guide me. I NEED YOU TO PRAY.
If, like me, you aren’t yet being put to the test, now is not the time to coast. Now is the time to know what you believe and learn how to articulate it. Now is the time to make decisions and resolve to stand firm. Now is the time to determine just how far you’ll be willing to go to follow Christ in a hostile culture.
And now is the time to pray. For this county probate judge and others like him, for public officials feeling pressure and unsure of what to do, for Christians everywhere with gay friends who want to marry their partner, for our leaders, for the lost, for the church, and for ourselves.
May God grant us wisdom, grace, boldness, courage, and compassion as we seek to be faithful and live counterculturally.
David Platt speaks to same-sex marriage, religious liberty, and other current issues in his new book, Counter Culture. For more information, go to CounterCultureBook.com.
Posted on January 2nd, 2015 by Jonathan
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11-12
For over two years, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been imprisoned in Iran for Christian activity. For over five years, Christians in Nigeria have suffered fatal attack after fatal attack at the hands of the terrorist group Boko Haram. For five and a half years, Asia Bibi has been awaiting execution in a Pakistani prison for supposed blasphemy against Allah. These are just a few of the known situations in which Christians are suffering violent injustice. So what are we, their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, supposed to do? Is Jesus suggesting that we smile and nod as if all is well?
First, let’s shed some light on Jesus’ striking statement about persecution, above.
Though not exactly parallel, consider exercise. There is a cost for getting fit. If you’ve ever had trouble walking down a set of stairs after doing squats or difficulty brushing your teeth after doing curls, you know what it feels like. It may be painful, and some instances may be worse than others, but it’s a good hurt. Your sore muscles prove that you’ve been using them and mean you’re getting stronger.
Now think about persecution. In the terms of our exercise analogy, persecution isn’t the work-out… it’s the soreness. Just as people don’t go to the gym to get sore, Christians don’t share the gospel to get a violent backlash. That’s not the goal. You go to the gym to become stronger, and you proclaim the gospel that God may be glorified. That is the goal.
When we don’t have this end goal in view, we can often have an improper perspective on the type of persecution (and subsequent rejoicing) Jesus talks about in Matthew 5. We can shortsightedly look at this passage, and others like it, and conclude that persecution is a “blessed” thing in itself. But that’s not what Jesus says – he blesses persecuted people, not persecution. And why? Because being reviled, persecuted, and slandered is simply evidence of acting on Jesus’ account. And just because he blesses them, doesn’t mean their aches and tears go away. There’s a subtle, yet key, difference between rejoicing in such suffering and enjoying it. Although people don’t enjoy sore muscles, they can be glad about sore muscles because it means they’re getting stronger. In the same way, although our brothers and sister don’t enjoy persecution, they can be glad about persecution because it means they’re proclaiming Christ.
I think this is what Jesus is saying – we can rejoice in persecution even though it isn’t enjoyable. But this has more to do with the attitude and demeanor of the persecuted than it does our response. Are we supposed to do anything about it? Yes. There are at least three things we should do in response to the persecution of Christians, and none of them include passive smiling and nodding.
First, we should be challenged to spread the gospel. The reality is, Christians are not persecuted for relegating their worship and witness to the home. Persecution occurs in opposition to gospel proclamation. When we hear of brothers and sisters being persecuted for boldly sharing their faith, we should ask ourselves, “Am I sharing my faith? Am taking advantage of my freedom?”
Second, we should pray for the persecuted. We can’t overemphasize this response even though it is an obvious one. What may not be as obvious, though, is what to pray. Acts 4:24-30 provides a helpful starting point: pray for their continued boldness, the power of the Holy Spirit, and fruitfulness. But do we pray for their safety? Yes! That leads to the last response…
Third, we should advocate for freedom and justice on behalf of the persecuted. As part of the body with them, we suffer when they do. Fighting for their well-being is part of loving our brothers and sisters well. Believers are to follow Jesus’ example of standing up on behalf of the oppressed, Christian or not. Where there is injustice, we labor for justice to reflect our just God. And on top of all that, we should fight for their freedom to proclaim the God-glorifying gospel, because, again, that is the ultimate goal.
Posted on January 1st, 2015 by Jonathan
In the latest episode of the Radical Together podcast, David Platt encourages us to live with urgent intentionality in light of the fact that we are mere mists – here today and gone tomorrow. In the last half, he asks practical questions to help you prioritize and spend your time well this coming year. Below are the six questions he poses.
Here is the message in its entirety: A Humbling Start To A New Year
- How will I fill my mind with truth?
- How will I read God’s Word?
- How will I memorize God’s Word?
- How will I learn God’s Word from others?
- How will I fuel my affections for God?
- How will I worship?
- How will I pray?
- How will I fast?
- How will I give?
- How will I share God’s love as a witness in the world?
- How will I show God’s love as a member of a church?
- How will I spread God’s glory among all peoples?
- How will I pray for the nations?
- How will I give to the nations?
- How will I go to the nations?
- How will I make disciple-makers among a few people?
- Who has God has put in my sphere of influence?
- How will I teach them to obey?
- How will I model obedience?
- How will I send them out?
- How will I fill my mind with truth?
It’s almost 2015. If that sounds hard to believe, you’re not alone. Life can move so quickly that we forget to live it. Make this year different. I’m not talking about the half-hearted “commitments” we tend to confuse with resolutions. I’m talking about real resolve – grace-empowered dedication to God. Let’s live 2015 on purpose.
Here’s one way you can do that. Radical (the book) ends with this challenge:
Ex·per·i·ment n.: a course of action taken under controlled conditions in order to test a claim.
Throughout this book we have explored a variety of bold claims about our purpose in life that are contained in the gospel yet contradicted by the American dream. Claims such as these: Real success is found in radical sacrifice. Ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of God. The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materials; and truth is found in Christ, not universalism. Ultimately, Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience, and enjoy.
But claims such as these remain theories until they are tested. That is the reason for the experiment. As you test a claim, you discover either its futility or its reality. And once you discover a claim;s reality, then you’re more likely to adjust your perspective, rearrange your thoughts, and alter your life around that truth. It will turn your life upside down – or, really, right side up.
So I challenge you to an experiment. I dare you to test the claims contained in the gospel, maybe in a way you have never done before. I invite you to see if radical obedience to the commands of Christ is more meaningful, more fulfilling, and more gratifying than the American dream. And I guarantee that if you complete this experiment, you will posses an insatiable desire to send the rest of your life in radical abandonment to Christ for his glory in all the world.
We’ll call it the Radical Experiment.
That was published in 2010. Many have completed the one year Radical Experiment since then and shown what we knew to be true all along – obedience to the commands of Christ is better than anything this world has to offer. Now, almost five years later, the challenge still stands. Will you take it?
If you do, next year, you’ll pray for the entire world, read through the entire Word, commit your life to multiplying community, sacrifice your money for a specific purpose, and give your time in another context. It’s a tall challenge, but not only will God give you the grace you need to take it… he will bless you in return.
If you want to resolve to complete the Radical Experiment, use this website (complete with a Bible reading plan for 2015) to guide you on your journey.
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