Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Abram’s life with the only living God began with worship, then accepting his responsibility to serve, and fulfilling his duty to go. “Worship. Serve. Go.” marked the beginning of Abram’s walk with God, and continued as its hallmark. Arriving in the land promised to him by God, Abram worshiped through prayer.
Genesis 12:8b “. . .and there he built an altar unto the Lord, and called
upon the name of the Lord.”
Alexander the Great may have been history’s most brilliant and effective military leader. His army marched a thousand miles farther than Roman legions ever reached. Soldiers followed him across unfamiliar lands with blind faith and unswerving loyalty, oblivious to direction or destination. When he died, they were facing the Himalayas, one of the planet’s most formidable obstacles. Consulting their maps, they were stunned to realize their charts were useless. They had marched off the map. Alexander had known where he was going, but without him the army had no direction and panicked. Their decision to divide Alexander’s kingdom among four military leaders led to generations of war. Alexander failed to deal with the issue of succession. His followers did not know what to do next.
Fortunately, Jesus did a better job handling the “What next?” question. He left a reliable map, the Bible, to chart our course through the troubled seas of this existence. He sent a Navigator, the Holy Spirit, to be our Guide and Companion along the way. “Thank you, oh my Father, for giving us Your Son, and leaving your Spirit till the work on earth is done.” Jesus gave us a communication system, prayer, whereby we stay in constant contact with Him, and are influenced by Him.
Prayer changes us. In worship through prayer we communicate with Jesus. We draw near, sensing where He is serving and going, and follow Him there. This was true of Hudson Taylor. As he looked back over his career, he remembered how it began, when he was a teenager, in a moment of worship through prayer.
“I poured out my soul before God; again and again confessing my grateful love to Him who had done everything for me–who had saved me when I had given up all hope and even desire for salvation–I besought Him to give me some work to do for Him, as an outlet for love gratitude; some self-denying service, no matter what it might be, however trying or however trivial; something with which He would be pleased, and that I might do for Him who had done so much for me . . . The presence of God became unutterably real and blessed; and though but a child under sixteen, I remember stretching myself on the ground, and lying there silent before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy. . . .The impression was wrought into my soul that it was in China the Lord wanted me.”
Prayer changes us. I also, “but a child under sixteen,” felt in a time of prayer the watershed of my life. At fifteen I was changed while kneeling in prayer by Dad at the front pew of South Side Baptist in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I was not sure at the time what my specific life call was, but then and there yielded in unconditional surrender to do anything, everything, whatever God led me to do.
Prayer changes us. We often tell how modern missions began. William Carey convinced fellow Baptist pastors in his area to establish a society to promote world missions. A rarely told fact is, before the missions society was founded, these pastors had for eight years regularly met to pray. Carey was barely able to persuade them to support missions. It would not have happened had there not been eight years of prior praying to prepare the way through changing hearts.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for. This has been proved true again and again at Second. This summer, Charles and Pat Boyd, college professors in our church, spent the summer teaching English in the Philippines. They worked through June without seeing anyone receive Christ. July 8, the day they were the focus of our church-wide prayer emphasis, was the turning point in their ministry. A young lady, Rosetta, was saved and went on to become the instrument of many other salvations. Even now, two months later, Rosetta is still witnessing to classmates. Charles and Pat saw many come to Christ in the Philippines. They are convinced the breakthrough came due to our concerted prayer on their behalf.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for, including family and neighbors at home. The way the family of famous preacher T. D. Talmadge became Christians illustrates the power of prayer. His grandparents, converted under the preaching of Charles Finney, came home seeking to win their adolescent children to Jesus, but the teens only smiled. As they went off to a party, Mother said, “I’m going to stay on my knees, praying for your salvation till you come back.” As they returned from the party, their mother, a new Christian, was still on the porch, down on her knees, praying for them. They had to step around her to enter the house.
Next morning the daughter was sobbing in her room, brother Elijah, later a preacher, was weeping in the barn, and brother David, who became the father of T. DeWitt, was in the wagon shed crying out to God. All three went from flippant to dead earnest overnight due to a mother’s prayers. News of the five Talmadge conversions spread like wildfire, and led to two hundred conversions in their town.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for, including whole nations. The greatest revival in the history of the English speaking peoples was the Great Awakening. Its preachers are well known, Whitefield and the Wesleys, but a lesser known group provided much of the prayer power. The Moravian Brethren were Protestants who suffered persecution in central Europe. A wealthy man, Count Zinzendorf, came to their aid and in 1722 gave them refuge on his estate, where they built a commune. In 1727 they experienced an anointing of spiritual power and began an intercessory prayer ministry. They established a system whereby one of their members was always praying. At any hour, day or night, the Moravians saw to it that one of their own was praying. This continuous praying was carried on without a break every day and every night of every week of every month of every year of every decade for over a century. It is an incomplete history to speak of Whitefield and the Wesleys without talking of the Moravians.
Prayer changes us, and those we pray for, including people on the other side of the world. James Fraser (1871-1937), Apostle to the Lisu of China, pleaded for people to pray for this unreached people group, “I am not asking you to just help in prayer as a sort of sideline, but I am trying to roll the main responsibility of prayer warfare on you. I want the burden of these people on your shoulders.” The Lisu were divided into two groups, North Lisu and South Lisu. Fraser lived and worked among the South Lisu, but spent half of every day praying for the North Lisu. When revival came to the Lisu, it came to the North.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for. Pray we will do well in fulfilling our new motto, “Worship. Serve. Go.” All who succeed in these three essentials share a common trait. On them rests a mysterious supernatural power, an energy that comes from another dimension with such strength that it amazes and startles everyone who witnesses it, and it comes on the wings of worship through prayer.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for, including family and neighbors at home. I assume you pray for family members outside Christ. Make the effort to know the names of your five nearest neighbors and call them out before God every day. I beg you, undertake to pray for churches and lostness here in Springfield.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for, including whole nations. I urge us to pray for the cause of Christ in Missouri and the USA. Do you grieve over the plight of our land? Her only hope is a spiritual revival, a Great Awakening.
Prayer changes us and those we pray for, including people on the other side of the world. I plead with you, undertake to pray for the bells, our unreached people group. They are our responsibility, don’t play in prayer, agonize for them.
Pray for home and the world. Use prayer folders, put names in palm pilots and on computer screen-savers. Do whatever it takes to pray in earnest for ourselves and others. Abram, a foreigner in an alien land, knew he was in a peck of trouble. He built an altar and prayed. We too need God’s help. Before doing anything great, God sets His people to praying. It is time to let prayer begin in us.