Big, Sweeping–But Not Insipid–Prayers

One of the amazing things about Bible prayers is how big and sweeping they often are. Yet they don't have the vague ring of "God bless the missionaries" that sounds so weak. We sometimes try to remedy this by saying, "We should pray specific prayers for specific people and specific needs, and not vague general prayers." There is truth to that. We should pray that way.

But I think there is another reason why our big general prayers seem insipid, while the big Bible prayers don't. Ours often don't have much of God in them and don't articulate what the great spiritual things are that we want God to do for "the missionaries" or "the nations" or "the world" or "the lost." The words "God bless" would not sound so weak and vague if we said what the blessing would look like that we are praying toward. There is a world of difference between "Lord, help our missionaries," and "Lord, help our missionaries to drink deep at the river of your delights." Or, "Lord, help our missionaries rejoice in tribulations and remember that tribulation works endurance and endurance hope."

Big general prayers become powerful when they are filled up with concrete, radical Biblical goals for the people we are praying for. "Hallowed be thy name . . . thy will be done on earth as in heaven," is a huge, sweeping prayer. But it asks for two concrete things: that in all the world God's name would be regarded as precious, and that hearts would be changed to do God's will with the same zeal and purity that the angels have in heaven.

It is mentioning these spiritual goals with passion that turn insipid generalizations into dynamite generalizations. So don't shrink back from praying huge, sweeping prayers. For example, Ephesians 6:18, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit. . . for all the saints." Think of it! What an incredible breadth and generality. ALL the saints! Do you do that? I admit I do not do it often enough. My heart is too small. But I am trying to get my heart around it. The Bible commands it.

This will not sound silly, like "God bless all the saints." It will sound robust and cataclysmic, like, "God, look upon your entire Church everywhere and have mercy to waken her and give her new life and hope and doctrinal purity and holiness so that all the saints stand strong for your glory in the day of temptation and distress."

Let's pray some huge prayers for billions of lost people and thousands of peoples in the "10/40 Window." Paul said, "Pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Use the prayer guides you receive on Sunday, September 26 (or get one at the Missions Corner in the Commons), and pray some huge, sweeping prayers for the peoples and the missionaries of this vast region: "Lord cause your Word to run and triumph among millions of people this year in [name some countries or peoples]." Here are some facts to help you up to speed:

The "10/40 Window," extends from West Africa to East Asia, from ten degrees north to forty degrees north of the equator. This specific region contains three of the world's dominant religious blocs. The majority of those enslaved by Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism live within The 10/40 Window - billions of spiritually impoverished souls. It is home to the majority of the world's unevangelized people.

While it constitutes only one-third of earth's total land area, nearly two-thirds of the world's people reside in the 10/40 Window, with a total population nearing four billion. Of the world's 50 least evangelized countries, 37 are within the 10/40 Window. Yet those 37 countries comprise 95% of the total population of the 50 least evangelized countries!

Of the poorest of the poor, more than eight out of ten live in The 10/40 Window. On average, they exist on less than $500 per person per year. Although 2.4 billion of these people live within the 10/40 Window, only 8% of all missionaries work among them.

Many Bethlehem missionaries minister in countries that are included in the 10/40 Window. Bethlehem will join millions of believers around the world during the month of October in praying for the 10/40 Window. Prayer guides (for adults and children) are available at the Missions Display in the Commons.

Praying audaciously big prayers with you,

Pastor John

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