Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’
Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette
Prayer is simple, we’re told. It’s as easy as inhaling and exhaling. Just as a newborn baby breathes, so the child of God naturally calls out to his heavenly Father. So, then, in our experience, why is prayer so often difficult and perplexing?
One reason we may struggle in prayer is because of what Paul calls our “weakness” (Rom 8:26). The apostle isn’t referring to the kind of physical and mental weakness that makes it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time, though that’s certainly a challenge. Paul is talking about our ignorance, or our limited knowledge of God’s ways. The apostle describes our weakness this way: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Rom 8:26). Of course, broadly speaking, we know to pray for God to be glorified in all things. But that doesn’t mean we always know what to pray for in specific circumstances. Questions remain:
- Should I ask God to change this difficult situation, or am I just being discontent?
- Which job should I take? Which school should I attend?
- How does God want to use me in this season of life? Am I missing his leading?
How do you pray in situations like these? You know you need help, but you you’re not exactly sure what to ask for. Thankfully, God’s grace and provision are not based on our knowing precisely what to pray. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us–the Spirit who is divine and who knows the Father’s will perfectly (Rom 8:27). Here’s how one commentator captures the Spirit’s mysterious and hope-giving intercession:
“Our failure to know God’s will and consequent inability to petition God specifically and assuredly is met by God’s Spirit, who himself expresses to God those intercessory petitions that perfectly match the will of God. When we do not know what to pray for–yes, even when we pray for things that are not best for us–we need not despair, for we can depend on the Spirit’s ministry of perfect intercession ‘on our behalf.'” (1)
That’s good news for those who don’t have access to God’s perfect knowledge, which is to say, all of us. The same God who designs our weakness also overcomes it through his Holy Spirit. We are free, then, to seek God’s face in prayer and to cast our cares and petitions before him, knowing that even misguided requests will be turned for our good (Rom 8:28). So the next time you don’t know what to ask for, don’t let that stop you from praying. The Holy Spirit knows what you need, and he’s interceding for you.
– For more on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, see Secret Church 5: Exploring the Holy Spirit.
(1) Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 526.
Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Jonathan
As many of us are leaving summer behind to return to school or get back into a regular routine at work, Matt is doing no such thing. Life is different for him. Matt lives in Central Asia and was sent out to serve mid-term by The Church at Brook Hill. Mid-term is described as a period of anywhere between two months and two years. For him, school looks more like learning a foreign language, and monotonous routine . . . well, there’s not much of that.
We asked Matt some questions about his life in Central Asia. Our hope is that his words might challenge those of us tempted to simply survive the next test or deadline. Our lives are intended for more than intention-less routines driven by purposeless attitudes. When we realize that God desires to use us to bring the nations to Himself, and when we hear of brothers and sisters whose devotion to Christ means harsh persecution, we see everything differently. The reality is, we have so much more to live for than the weekend.
Here’s what Matt had to say . . .
What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?
Time and time again, my team and I have been surprised at how quickly God answers the prayers of us and our supporters back home, and His answers to these prayers are often even better than we knew to ask for! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask Him to act in big ways to help us reach lost people. He desires and is worthy of the worship of all peoples and is actively working in hearts and lives all across the world.
What has been the most difficult part of your time there?
It has been difficult being part of a new team re-engaging a minority people group that has not been worked with for several years. Due to the difficulty of gaining access to our people’s homeland, we are in the process of establishing a business in a nearby country where there is a significant population of our people. This poses many challenges such as learning a minority language with few immersion experiences, balancing business and ministry responsibilities, and justifying to the community why we as Western businessmen spend so much time with this minority people and are learning their language.
Can you give us your highlight of the trip?
One of the biggest highlights so far has been growing closer as a team and becoming more like a family. Being part of such a small team, we spend a lot of time together, and the Lord has used that in teaching us more of what it means to be the body of Christ. Praying, worshiping, and having fun together, holding one another accountable, and being united in a common vision has helped us to encourage one another during the difficult times and overall thrive in our first year on the field.
What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?
Utilize the time before you leave the U.S. to establish routines of engaging lost people where you are currently. Often times, we get caught up in enjoying the benefits of Christian community so much that we rarely put ourselves in places where we are surrounded by the lost. Going mid-term is a weird balance between a sprint and a marathon; the routines you are able to establish before arriving on the field will help you to make the most of the time you have in your new context.
What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?
The way that is most obvious and yet often over-looked is to actively pray for that person, their ministry, and their people. Be proactive in asking for ways to pray for that person and in regularly praying for their boldness and evangelism opportunities. Also, we love hearing from friends, family, and supporters about what is happening back home and how we can be praying for them.
What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?
I often feel like I am sitting on the front row watching Him prepare the harvest of these people in a way in which only the Creator of the universe is able! In our first month on the field, He answered our prayers by providing a language teacher, national believer, and friend all with a single person whom He had burdened to return to his family and country (at the risk of his life) to help reach his people with the gospel of Christ. The things we’ve seen happen over the past year are more than coincidences; no doubt the Lord is doing the same type of things in unreached people groups all across the world!
What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?
Extreme persecution is normal, expected, and worth the risk for the believers in this part of the world. Coming from a place, like the U.S, where it is “safe” to be a Christian, it is still difficult to fully understand what these national brothers and sisters experience everyday in living and dying for Christ. That being said, the Lord is using these terrible acts to bring others to faith, grow the church, and advance the gospel of Christ to the most difficult to reach people and places in the world.
Posted on September 12th, 2014 by David Burnette
Kevin DeYoung posted the following prayer by Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952), an RCA minister and Princeton professor known as “The Apostle to Islam”:
“Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who hast made of one blood all nations and hast promised that many shall come from the East and sit down with Abraham in thy kingdom: We pray for thy prodigal children in Muslim lands who are still afar off, that they may be brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Look upon them in pity, because they are ignorant of thy truth.
Take away pride of intellect and blindness of heart, and reveal to them the surpassing beauty and power of thy Son Jesus Christ. Convince them of their sin in rejecting the atonement of the only Savior. Give moral courage to those who love thee, that they may boldly confess thy name.
Hasten the day of religious freedom in Turkey, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Send forth reapers where the harvest is ripe, and faithful plowmen to break furrows in lands still neglected. May the tribes of Africa and Malaysia not fall prey to Islam but be won for Christ. Bless the ministry of healing in every hospital, and the ministry of love at every church and mission. May all Muslim children in mission schools be led to Christ and accept him as their personal Savior.
Strengthen converts, restore backsliders, and give all those who labor among Muslims the tenderness of Christ, so that bruised reeds may become pillars of his church, and smoking flaxwicks burning and shining lights. Make bare thine arm, O God, and show thy power. All our expectation is from thee.
Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son in the Muslim world, and fulfill through him the prayer of Abraham thy friend, “O, that Ishmael might live before thee.” For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
— Taken from Islam and the Cross: Selections from “The Apostle to Islam” (edited by Roger Greenway).
Posted on August 13th, 2014 by Jonathan
The following prayer was originally posted by Rick Phillips on Reformation 21.
Our Father in heaven, the sovereign and almighty God, the faithful covenant-keeper and Savior, we plead to you on behalf of our suffering fellow believers in Iraq. Cast your eye upon them and have mercy to uphold and defend your flock. Overthrow the evil of their persecutors and strengthen the faith of those suffering tribulation for the name of Jesus.
Father, as of old you caused the enemies of your people to destroy one another in answer to the plea of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:23), so now bring discord, division, and self-destruction to the jihadist slayers afflicting your people. Lord, as once you parted the Red Sea to make safe the way of Israel fleeing from Pharaoh’s host (Ex. 14:21-22), open a path to safety for your people fleeing in distress. Our God, your Word foretells that Satan will make war on the church, all the more because he knows that his end is near (Rev. 12:12). But as you promised, intervene supernaturally to provide a refuge in the wilderness for the church our enemy is seeking to destroy (Rev. 12:14-16). Cause your suffering people to conquer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; strengthen their testimony to Jesus, even under threat of death (Rev. 12:11).
Our loving Father, Jesus foretold that his people would be hated by all nations and delivered up to tribulation (Mt. 24:9), as we see happening to the saints of Iraq. Do not permit them to fall away or betray one another, and keep their love from growing cold (Mt. 24:10, 12). Hear the cries of Rachel in Iraq and Kurdistan, weeping for her children (Jer. 31:15).
God of grace, have mercy on our fellow sinners who persecute your people in the name of a false god. As once you turned the heart of Saul of Tarsus when he was the chief tormenter of your church (Acts 9:4-5), and as Jesus pled for you to forgive those who tortured him upon the cross (Lk. 23:34), now have mercy on those who crucify and behead the saints in Iraq. Reveal your grace and glory to them so that they might repent, believe, and be saved.
Finally, Lord, send your Spirit to inspire Christians who live in comfort and ease, that we might honor the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters by living boldly for Jesus, that we might abominate in ourselves the sins of hatred, lust, and idolatry that we see working so terribly against our brethren, and that we might live more soberly and prayerfully for the cause of Christ in this evil world.
Today, the Baptist Press (BP) released a statement urging people to take action on behalf of suffering Iraqis. Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Mosul. The Islamic State (IS) is persecuting religious minorities of every variety, including the Yazidi people near Sinjar. Said the BP:
Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a “looming humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country’s Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar’s Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.
While the U.S. is dropping some supplies, there is no shortage of need. We would also like to urge you to act in two primary ways.
1. Most importantly, pray. God has ordained prayer, and He hears our pleas. Here are the prayer points released by the BP today:
- Ask the Lord to awaken the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq and to provide pathways for Christians and others to respond.
- Ask God to miraculously protect the Yazidis and other Kurds who fled into the mountains; ask Him to provide a means of rescue and temporary homes for the refugees.
- Pray that ISIS leaders and soldiers would experience the love of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be transformed.
- Ask God to preserve and embolden the small remnant of believers in Mosul and Kurdistan, so that one day through their witness, every Iraqi might have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
2. Give. When it comes to crises like this, sufficient resources are critical.
BP: “Help respond to Iraq’s refugee crisis by donating to the International Mission Board’s general relief fund or by texting imbrelief to 80888, which will donate $10 to that fund. To give through Baptist Global Response, visit gobgr.org/donate or text bgr to 80888.” (More info here)
UPDATE: For questions about giving to the IMB’s general relief fund, you can call them toll-free at (800) 999-3113 or contact them via their online form. To find out more about giving to Baptist Global Response, go HERE.
Posted on August 1st, 2014 by Jonathan
This past week has seen a flurry of blog posts, articles, videos, and teachings on persecution and Christian suffering that are all deserving of attention. So instead of our normal Friday “Well Said” feature, we’re going to point you to a number of these pieces, all centered on the global plight of suffering and/or persecuted Christians . . .
The Persecuted Church
Led by Mindy Belz, this TGC Women’s Conference workshop is very informative.
VIDEO: David Platt on global Christian persecution
This 7 minute ERLC conversation covers the effects of persecution and our response to it.
American Doctor with Ebola Displays Heroism
Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are battling Ebola, a deadly disease they contracted while helping other stricken with it.
Meriam Ibrahim, Freed from Sudan, Plans to Settle in New Hampshire
The woman who was imprisoned for becoming a Christian and sentenced to death in Sudan has been freed.
5 Facts About Christian Persecution
Joe Carter of the ERLC offers a brief survey of global persecution.
Stay or Go When Ebola Breaks Out?
Robert Cutillo offers some helpful principles regarding risk and following Christ.
State Department Releases Report on International Religious Freedom
“In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory.”
Christian Persecution Bulletin Insert
From the ERLC, this could be a helpful tool this Sunday: Persecution Sunday.
For Sale: Mother Without Child: $800 (Part 1)
Here is a stirring account of one North Korean woman’s journey to faith . . . and out of North Korea.
Where Are The Iraqi Refugees Now?
Under threat of death, ISIS has expelled all Christians living in Mosul. Where are they now?
They Know Not What They Do
“Sin has darkened the mind of the church’s enemies.”
Posted on July 31st, 2014 by Jonathan
Dan Darling (of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) talks with David Platt about the persecution of Christians worldwide.
Posted on July 21st, 2014 by Jonathan
Every once in a while, it’s good to get a refresher on concepts we generally think we understand. When’s the last time you’ve heard a good explanation of persecution?
Below, you can listen to a good overview of what persecution is, how it may look, and why it occurs from Jonathan, the (well-traveled) Pastor of Global Disciple-Making at The Church at Brook Hills.
~ The goal of persecution is to silence witness. ~
Posted on June 18th, 2014 by Jonathan
If you’ve been keeping up with the news over the last few weeks, you know that the situation in Iraq is quickly worsening at the hands of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The al-Qaeda offshoot is one of the most extreme Islamist organizations in the world, and they are rapidly overtaking cities throughout the country; the most recent to fall under their control–Baqouba–is only 40 miles from the capitol city, Baghdad.
Currently, ISIS also occupies Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. That siege induced 500,000 of Mosul’s 1.8 million residents to flee. Among those who fled were Iraqi troops and up to 1,000 Christians (almost emptying Mosul of believers).
Christians in Iraq have become increasingly sparse over the last 25 years, decreasing from around 1.2 million to 300,000. ISIS brings a whole new threat to the already hostile environment of Christians living in Iraq. It is feared that ISIS will impose strict anti-Christian laws and restrictions on believers who fall under their authority … a fear that increases with each ISIS gain.
Christianity Today’s “Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq’s Christian Heartland” was the main source for this story.
(HT: Trevin Wax)
Posted on June 6th, 2014 by Jonathan
It almost seems inappropriate to label it a “top” ten list. As a believer, you’d never want to see your country come in at number one.
Over a 17-month period, the World Watch List team set out to specifically research which ten countries were most violent toward Christians. Different than the World Watch List–which takes into account political restrictions and social pressures–the new list is based only on the number of persecution acts. Such incidents include physical abuse, destruction of property, and killings. North Korea, because it was impossible to collect data from the country, is not included. Four continents are represented in their final rankings.
- Central African Republic
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