Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Call of Prayer

And now we have reached a time where they vote us out and we vote them out and in between we each raise money and organizations in order to shout victory during the next election cycle. Radio and television talk shows are a steady stream of complaining and self elevation.

But where are the glows emanating from prayer closets? Where are the silent fasts that elicit questions about weight loss but in reality have nothing to do with weight? Where are the tears shed over the lost and the backslidden church? Believers by the millions suggest the situation is desperate, but the church house remains dark during the week while the television glows like uranium.

People salivate over gun ownership and yet they ignore the spiritual weapons which alone can war in the spirit realm. Day after day after pitiful day the church continues to observe a powerless and redundant religious practice that is masked by the melodic harmonies on Sunday mornings. We live in the most violent and hedonistic culture on the planet and yet not only are we not arrested, but we are accepted as the “religious right”. If this is Christianity then let us eat, drink, and be merry. Wait a minute, that is exactly what the church is doing now.

But there is a way, there is a path, a sacred path that has been laid out for us. It is not a well worn path in these latter days of activity and success and unremarkable Christianity. This path does not scream with strobe lights and fog machines and ear pumping extra bass music. This path has very few walkers and most preachers seem to believe it is of little consequence. There are many much wider and more exciting paths upon which the evangelical community walks and runs and frolics. But this path, this path still smells of great drops of blood. This path still smells of sweat and labor. This path smells like, and in fact reeks, of God’s holy presence.

This is the path called prayer and it beckons those who love Christ. This path is walked upon with feet and with knees. This path is very long and requires much time and sacrifice. This path is transcultural and beckons only the most surrendered of His disciples. This is no playground at McDonalds. This is a precious path in which the Redeemer resides. This is the path which can remove guilt and sin and which can set the captive free. This path leads seamlessly through the fallen places on earth and into the hallowed corridors of heaven itself. In fact, this is more of a throne room than it is a path.

This is the path called prayer and it beckons those who love Christ. It is not interested in perfunctory verbiage that is largely designed to convince God to give you what you desire. It is a path which has a miraculous power to change and transform those who enter it and submit completely to the Spirit and allow that same Spirit to speak through them as well as speak to them. Yes, to say this path is filled with a divine power of infinite proportions is to underestimate the length and breadth and depth and scope of the Spirit’s eternal ministry.

This is the path called prayer and it beckons those who love Christ. This present world screams and distracts all who might enter this path. The cares of this world fill and confuse the minds and the temporal pleasures magnify themselves so as to obscure this path. The fulfillments of the temporal muscle out any thirst for the eternal and in so doing earthly contentment is a substitute for spiritual desire. Those who refuse this path have surrendered to the glory of man. That trade is a colossal loss.

This is the path called prayer and it beckons those who love Christ. Unknown to most, and beyond all who do not know Christ, this path is filled with rest and yet filled with labor. This path glows with the invisible incandescence of the Living Christ. No one can truly walk upon its supernatural path and remain unchanged or selfish or carnal. This path takes a living human sacrifice and creates a resurrection which has the seal of Christ and imprints it upon that person. That path walker is now dead and His Redeemer now lives in his place. That is the miracle of miracles which confounds the wise and renders all ecclesiastical schemes as hollow and useless.

This is the path called prayer and it beckons those who love Christ. There is a realm within this path that transcends temporal realities. It is a spiritual experience but even much more than an experience. This is a worship conference unlike any earthly kinds. The worship leader is the Spirit of God and the overhead projector is the Risen Christ. The altar of incense is now a reality and the Ark of the Covenant speaks. Those who have entered the Holy of Holies suddenly realize how little they have known and how shallow has been the earthly gatherings. Bowing as it were in His majestic and unfathomable presence, the shekinah glory overshadows those path walkers and anoints them with a brokenness that both honors the King while allowing Him to remake them into His own image.

This is the path called prayer and it beckons those who love Christ.  

Matt.6: 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matt.17: 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Matt.21: 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Acts 1: 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1: 12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Eph.6: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit

Phil.4: 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Col.4: Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

I Thess.3: Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

I Thess.5: 17 Pray without ceasing.

I Pet.4: 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

Rev.8: 2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

And this is what I believe breaks the Father’s heart most. The church is consumed with Martha’s kitchen in all its forms while the feet of Jesus remain lonely. Who really desires to be with Him so much they are willing to sacrifice time and energy and entertainment? His presence is constant and is everywhere; however He knows just how little His people really thirst for Him. Yes, we love our doctrines and our public gatherings and all our moral discussions. But to get alone, and with love and purpose hand over our hearts and just commune with the Father aided and empowered by the Spirit, well, there is precious little of that anymore.

I feel such a sense of emptiness when I think of all we love to do and say while leaving our Blessed Redeemer waiting as if He did not really exist. We have made our faith such an ecclesiastical structure. We have removed the glory and the mystery and the fellowship with the Eternal God. It is little more than a religious oblation to ourselves. Long ago the church lost the sacred practice of deep and penetrating and life changing prayer. Today we have lost the practice itself. Pray for ten minutes and you are a comparative fanatic. The church collectively and individually mocks our Lord. Without prayer, without the life giving and life sustaining spiritual force found in prayer we live as atheists with only our pitiful statement’s of faith to prove we love Christ.

Jesus said His house was an house of prayer and yet today it is everything but prayer. Oh the lights, oh the music, oh the announcements, oh the excitement, oh the fellowship, oh the buildings, oh the age specific ministries, but where is the prayer? Can we continue endlessly like this? We have allowed the culture to conform our worship. We have allowed schedules and the drone of the redundant weekly and daily habits to choke out any real commitment to prayer. It was not too long ago that a Chinese pastor was allowed to come to America and visit a few evangelical churches. He spoke at some. Upon his return the Chinese brethren were anxious to hear what he had learned from the American churches. Were there any surprises? His reply,

“There were many things that I saw and heard. I had a wonderful time with the American brethren. However what surprised me most was how much the American church can do without God.”

You see, in China the believers are committed to prayer and when that pastor spent time with believers in America and in their gatherings he saw just how little prayer there was. In a hedonistic culture which demands gratification every moment prayer is an inconvenience and a distraction. But let us filet our hearts and minds before our Lord and admit what is evident. We do not really believe in prayer anymore.

We do everything more than we pray. And yet the Scriptures clearly tell us that the weapons that are at our disposal are weapons of the Spirit. And some things can be moved through prayer and fasting. And Paul advises married couples not to prayer and fast too long so as to deprive each other of their own intimacy. What a mockery that is today. There are books and Cds and sermon series’ and week long conferences that present a deluge of advice about the husband and wife relationship including many humanistic principles and sexual expertise. But where are the conferences that invite believers to give themselves wholly unto fasting and prayer? Where are the Sunday morning gatherings that sometimes materialize into elongated seasons of prayer instead of the perfunctory and predicable prayers offered by one of the church leaders?

Nowhere does it say preach without ceasing or read without ceasing, but the Spirit exhorts us to pray without ceasing. There are times when we can walk in the Spirit and have an open communication with God at all times. But there must be times when we shut out the temporal and seek He who is eternal. Seeking God’s face is no small task and it does require sacrifice. What does it mean when the Scriptures talk about God’s face? Watch two lovers as they eat and notice that they gaze into each others’ face. They are consumed with each other. And why should we treat God any differently? Can we really be content with the paltry time we offer He Who shed His blood, suffered in agony, and gave His life for us? You see, what the church does is not following Jesus. It is a nice and well organized religious construct designed to meet the needs, or wants, of each age group and each gender.

But why is the “church” not shaped and formed according to God’s desire and design? We have taken the world’s business structure and the world’s time constraints and have built the practice of the evangelical church with those very guidelines. Most people see no real need for any change not to mention any substantive and uprooting change. Most will admit they could do better, but in the end that is mostly a conscience salve. We all could do better. But we have been sold an evangelical bill of goods which ministers to the religious flesh in ways open and subtle. And prayer has all but been completely taken out of the church.

As you read those verses I have listed does it not strike you as odd why we do not pray more? And as I have said, prayer is much more than just hunting around for what God is already going to do and saying it. It is more than just uttering some nebulous words which cannot embarrass God or you. The word “prayer” is centered around asking. The English still say “I pray the court” when asking the judge for something. God delights is his children’s dependence upon Him. We ask for more of Jesus; we ask for more spiritual power; we ask for conviction of sin; we ask for clear revelation form God’s Word; and we ask God for specific needs as well as specific souls. But in the end prayer can only really be learned by praying. All the books and all the CDs and all the blog posts can only exhort. But praying is also learning to pray.

Americans are doers. We proudly admit that this culture is designed to provide the most opportunities to succeed in life. The American dream is available for everyone. And the church has bought into that same idea. A successful person is defined by their occupation or vocation and how they have navigated their financial lives. The prosperous doctor who is a giving member of an evangelical church is considered successful. The pastor whose church has grown under his leadership and has even built new facilities is considered successful. We measure denominations by their growing or declining membership. Even secular news organizations periodically report of the number of Baptists and Methodists etc..
But as you read Revelation chapter 8 you notice something quite unique. Our prayers are miraculously saved in heaven and even offered up before the throne of God. That openly and dramtically reveals how important God feels about prayer.

So if we desire to walk in the Spirit we must have prayer as a priority, and when and if we do make our prayer life a high pursuit, we must reject the feelings of superiority and accomplishment or we risk having our prayers be nothing but wind. True prayer comes from abject humility as well as sacrifice.

Ps.51: 16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Yes, we should always pray and faint not. That is not some Hallmark card saying. That is a serious admonition. Run to the Father in loving abandon and let Him know that time with Him is no small thing.


Annette said...

Wow. I love this...may God, the Holy Spirit continue to use you, Pastor Rick. This post renders me speechless.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post and so true.

I wish I could understand how to get into that kind of prayer. I'm so weak, body, mind and soul, that I sometimes can't even whisper. I can hope that the Lord hears my heart conversing with Him, and express every thought to Him. I can worship during the day, feel to worship Him, not with great loud voice, but in physical exhaustion and weakness. Something reminds me of people who are in spiritual or physical need and I can remember them in prayer, in my head and heart and ask the Lord questions about things and wonder and ask for wisdom.

I know some people who really could pray in their closet and pray for hours, so it was told to me. I tried when younger, but just could not achieve that high phase of prayer. The church I attended encouraged praying in "the Spirit" in tongues. I could never endure the length of times that others could, and would get rebuked if I didn't like to pray out loud. Have always had a hard time praying out loud.

Many people, strong people can take advantage of their strength, get on their knees, and push through into those higher realms of prayer. But older people, who may or may not have good knees, or strong bodies, and who are dependent on medications and anti-depressive medications have their moods altered and sometimes feel like zombies.

In these last days, where so many people, christians, included, rely on drugs and medications, and possible mind-altering stimulants, and the whole gamut of things that make our minds turn into gelly (like living moment to moment texting best friends telling them what they just ate), is having a big impact on our mental strength. Today, our mental strengths are being sucked dry by the things we allow to drain us, therefore we have no strength left at the end of the day to pray. There's still no excuse, but, we live in a society that tries to keep our emotions raw with anger, frustrations, impatience, bigotry, because of increasing narcissistic, obnoxious people who seem to abound and prosper. With so much negative mental anguish, people can't go to God in that mood, unless they release it all to Him first, and that is a hard thing to do for people who love to be the victim, something the church teaches christians to be, it seems. The church today in the west, is subtly telling christians to fight, to push away, to demand their rights and be entitled; they are encouraging them to have a persecution complex. So, with that attitude, christians don't feel the need to repent and can't go to God with brokenness.

Satan is trying every way he can to suck the life out of us, by every way. We are living in a day when tv, radio, internet, facebooking, phoning, texting takes every last second of our 24-hour day, on top of working, eating, sleeping, tending to children, driving, tending properties, tending to older parents, church, activities. Satan wants us so busy so we have no energy left to pray.

I personally stay at home, but still find it difficult to be engrossed in prayer. I have no answers, yet I have so many questions. I know that some of us are gifted with strong hearts and minds and won't allow the world to distract us, yet others, like me, have a hard time to not get distracted by things and my health is always distracting me. If I can't sit on my knees because of pain, is lying down OK with the Lord if I pray? I sometimes wonder if the Lord accepts my inability to be like my brethren who say they can pray for 2 hours in the Spirit and sweat and cry and then fast.

And fasting. If I don't some small thing every few hours, I go into hypoglycemic meltdown and shake and almost pass out. Do I still have to fast and if I don't, will I ever achieve the prayer life that is acceptable to God? So many questions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I don't have a prayer closet per se. I am constantly conversing with the Lord throughout the day, but also find time as well to be quiet so that I can hear Him speaking to my heart. This is what strengthens my "relationship" with Him. Also, the church I attend has a womens prayer group that meets weekly. Our list is rather long because word has gotten around that our church is a praying church, so we receive many prayer requests from those outside our church body. What an amazing witness this is, in and of itself.

Anonymous said...


Cherie c. said...

Part 1

All I have seen is excuse after excuse regarding ways not to pray, of which I am the best. The best at making excusing not to pray. Health, easily distracted, burdens of this life, all excuses. I use them often, but it is wrong. If we would only read our Bibles and pay attention to what it is saying, there would be less questions and more works with faith.

I have many health problems, I am easily distracted, but the conviction of the Holy Spirit says it is a Choice I make, not an excuse. I have been diagnosed with three kinds of arthritis, and have recently discovered a fourth I am battling. I also have diabetes, and was born with practically no immune system. It is weird to have so many autoimmune disorders and have no immune system, but that is what I was given. This life I live really can be depressing, but what is more depressing is the reality that I have experienced a better one when I have made prayer a priority, but I have let it go.

I have recently found ways to make it a momentary thing and have convinced myself that it is okay all the while knowing it isn't okay, and wondering why I feel the way I do. I made a choice. A bad choice.

I have been dealing with health issues all my life, living in a loveless, abusive childhood, young adulthood, and now adulthood when I don't have too. I long for the days when I could face adversity and smile because I was armed with knowing that I was right with the Lord. There is strength in that! I have lost it, all because I choose to make everything else, even my health an excuse.

I don't know if I do prayer right. I don't know if He accepts my prays sitting on the edge of my bed because my knees are swollen, but I have to try. It is the prayer and the heart that He accepts not how I am positioned. I cover my heard with a scarf like the Word of God says to, and then I just ask for Him to accept me as I am because I am seeking Him.

Cherie c. said...

Part 2

I have fasted whole days (sunrise to sunset) and spent the morning, midday and evening in prayer. I am not sure if I do it correctly, but it changes me in a good way. I don't even feel hungry or have ill effects, but I go to Him with a sincere heart trying to please Him, or at least I used too.

I am convicted by this post and the sting hurts more than the pain in my body, and I am so grieved. Grieved that I let down the ONLY person who Loves me and who has only ever been there for me if only I would seek Him. I don't know if it is real or I talk myself into it, but when I am in prayer, deep unabashed prayer with my Lord there is no pain. I stop and He continues is the only way I can describe it. And what do I do, I allow, not forced, I allow the distractions of this world and I am disgusted with myself.

His return is imminent and I am not ready. I am so ashamed I can hardly breathe.

Let us stop using our health, our tendencies, our excuses in place of our choice not to do what the Bible says is our reasonable service. And that includes me. We need to learn how to surrender all to Him again. It is sad that we can go to great lengths to get what we need or want in this world, but we give little effort to putting ourselves aside to seek the One who gives us what we need. Prayer is not only being obedient, but it is worship. Let us start there and maybe it will lead to more payer. Prayer is not work because there have been many times (past, sad I know), that I would go before the Lord and have absolutely nothing to say. Don't know why, I just wouldn't. Then all I would do is ask Him if I could just stay before Him and worship Him. I didn't want to leave His presence. Sometimes it would prompt prayerful thoughts, and sometimes it would be just worship. But I know when it was over that my heart sang, and a quiet joy filled me. I miss that.

This post has reawakened my need to be in prayer, and I am thankful. The world is so filled with noise, but prayer is peace even when the prayer is urgent and serious. May God forgive my laziness in seeking Him in prayer, and the lie of using excuse over what is truth, I make the choice not to pray. And may He give me the Grace to begin again.

How did Paul have joy while imprisoned? A Pray life. We should be so blessed to be imprisoned to have a prayer life.

your sister in Christ Jesus who today is repentant,

Cherie C.

Cherie c. said...

Psalm 5:1-3

King James Version (KJV)

5 Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.

2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.

3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

Cherie c. said...

Borrowed this to share:

Morning Hymns
Horatius Bonar (1808–1889)
(From the Latin)


Riseth now the star of day,
Let us kneel to God, and pray,
That throughout its hours he will
Keep us safely from all ill.

Bridle Thou our tongue, O Lord,
Hush each rising strifeful word;
Kindly veil our treacherous eyes
From ensnaring vanities.

Let our inmost hearts be clean,
Banish slothfulness and sin;
With spare diet let the pride
Of the flesh be mortified.

So that, when the day has fled,
And the night has come instead,
We, preserved thus clean by Thee,
Thy great name may glorify.


Now, O Holy Spirit, one
With the Father and the Son,
Condescend to fill this heart,
Penetrating every part.

Mind, and tongue, and soul, and sense,
Fill with kindly penitence.
Light in us love’s fervent fire,
Love to all around inspire.


God of truth and King of power,
Ruling every changeful hour,
Thou who givest morn its rays,
And to noon its golden blaze,

Quench the fire of strife within,
Cool the heat of night-born sin;
Health of body, O impart,
And bestow true peace of heart.


God of heaven and earth, whose might,
Everlasting, infinite,
Guideth all the changing moods
Of each day’s vicissitudes,

To us the bright joyous eve
Of the life unending give;
And the blest reward, O send,
Of the glory without end.

—Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank all of you who prayed for me a month ago. The lab that cultured the infection I had came back with this report. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Bacteremia. This is a systemic or blood infection. There were blood cultures done after 4 weeks of Sulfa drugs and anti-biotics, I am completely healed!

During the week that this infection was hitting me the hardest I was sitting at my desk praying and reading an article about the young pastor and a few other Christians in Iran's Evin Prison. There condition struck me hard. Then the Lord made me realize that what was going on with me was nothing compared to what these Christians were facing in that prison. I was overwhelmed with grief that I was complaining to God about my infection and how bad I felt. I had to ask God to forgive me for my selfishness and complaining. Now I have the names of those Christians on my prayer list.

So I ask all of you with health problems are we really that bad off? Do we really understand the meaning of "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

It is not whether you get on your knees or lay flat on the floor, it is conversing with the Creator of the universe, the great I AM. Humbly going before God with your thanksgivings and requests, not your complaints. Being broken because realizing your condition is already taken care of. And then listening very carefully as He speaks.


Cherie c. said...

Amen Joel, and thanks for the Praise Report. Always comforting to know that God still heals and He hears our prayers even those who are imprisoned. They are quite special brothers and sisters.

I too have battled this past month server pain, so bad food was not an option. I feel bad if I complain, but God is merciful. I only asked for His strength to endure and He blessed me. I know that what I suffer is no where near what others do day in and day out, but when you're in a moment of fear, or pain, He is not angry that we cry out to Him.

I am slowly feeling better, and it makes my heart sing to know you are well. Glory to God! He is making us well so we can pray for others. God Bless you Brother!

Love to all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. May God's Will prevail in Boston and our hearts and prayers go out to those hurt and to the families of those who died.

Cherie c.

Julie Wilton said...

Thank you, Rick.