Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.
Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.
Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.
Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the vail.
As Simpson describes; prayer can be transformative to the life of each Christian. We often can begin praying with a specific motive, but end up refocused in relationship with Jesus, and finish praying with an entirely different motive, desire, or outcome. He is that good to us and desires to meet us with that depth of intimacy!
Yet prayer, for many, is an afterthought in daily life. Few consider praying until hardship strikes, or a circumstance gets out of their control. It's only then that prayer becomes applicable or important in their lives.
In our American church culture, prayer is largely a spectator event. Many churches treat prayer almost as an add-on in the service (a tradition that must be honored- at least for 1-3 minutes of a busy, tightly-packed, hour-long service/program/event), or at best, a specialized thing that only those who are "gifted in prayer" (there's no such thing as the spiritual gift of prayer) do in a small, separated room set apart from the rest of the hustling and bustling people in attendance. A pastor or elder may "say or offer a prayer" in front of the congregation, but seldom, if ever, are the church attendees invited to pray or practice prayer with or for one another. Is it any wonder that American Christianity is considered by many outside of the Church to be a toothless, weak, religion- and something that is just like every other religion or cult belief system in the world today? Have you seen a "Coexist" bumper sticker, with symbols of many popular religions (including the use of the cross as the T in the word) on a car recently? When you see that on a car, it essentially means, "Christianity is no different, more powerful, or life changing than any other belief system." What a lie and misconception!
But Christian prayer is vastly different than prayer of any other religion or cult. The difference comes from the People receiving and stirring the prayer within us- Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (in case you're not aware; the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a thing; one of the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)! Jesus is the only Person who died to take the sins of everyone upon Himself; to set each person free from sin and eternal separation from God; and to lead them into a personal, intimate, relationship with Himself, the Father, and through the working of the Holy Spirit. It's by faith in Jesus; His work of living a perfect, sinless life; His death and taking the sins of all upon Himself; His resurrection from the dead; ascension into Heaven; and His upcoming return to establish His eternal kingdom, that we are saved. No other god or belief system can bring us into a personal relationship with the Savior of our souls! Only Jesus was given power (by God the Father) to rise from the dead, take away our sins which separate us from the Father, and establish us into a personal relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, Lord, and Savior.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:4-10
Is the Holy Spirit too weak to turn the heart of every person to faith in Jesus Christ? No. He could; but God has given each person a will. They can control it, make decisions, and choose to do whatever they please. The Holy Spirit won't force Himself, or Jesus Christ, upon anyone who refuses Him. He yields to their preferences and choices. Ultimately, they choose whether they'll humble themselves or harden their hearts toward God. The Holy Spirit patiently works and waits- even until the person's last breath of life on earth. But if at that time they continue to reject Him, their eternity will be spent in Hell; permanently separated from God- just the way they ultimately chose or wanted it.
As Christ-followers, we can quickly forget that we were once in that position ourselves.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. - Ephesians 2:1-3 (emphasis added)
As we pray for others, their lives and circumstances will change, and we'll also begin to fulfill Jesus' command in Matthew 6:20-21 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
* Scripture examples borrowed from Paths of Gold; Praying the Way to Christ for Lost Friends and Family, by Terry Gooding.