Last Sunday I appealed to you in the name of the Lord to pray this week in a concerted way for harvest time at Bethlehem. If 1982 is going to be the year, the sign of it will be a widespread movement of prayer. Before God gives a harvest he moves his people to plead for it. That is why we are beginning 1982 in prayer and fasting. If we are enabled to pray for harvest, the harvest will come. Prayer strengthens desire and desire moves us to compassionate witness.
God regularly makes us the answers to our own prayers. Right after commanding the apostles to pray that the Lord of the harvest send out laborers, Jesus sends them out (Matthew 10:5). I know that if we become burdened enough to pray long and hard for the unbelievers around us, it will not be long until the Lord moves us to them. There will be no need of arm-twisting. Prayer will do its work.
I hope you come this Sunday to hear how that has begun to be true in my own life. The sermon is called How Much Is Jesus Worth? Prayer drove me to that question and that question sent me to a neighbor. I want to tell you the story this Sunday. I think it will be encouraging to you.
Some have wondered: How do you spend a half-an-hour in prayer, not to mention two or three hours? Here is my three-fold answer:
- Resolve to do it. Don’t purpose to pray until you run dry. Purpose to pray the full half-hour. Prayer is work. It is not always a “sweet hour.” Jesus did many works with ease, but he prayed with “loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).
- Think about what you want to see change in your heart and life and family and neighborhood and church and world. Make a list if necessary. Then pray through it, giving God reasons from Scripture why this is something that he would surely do.
- Put the Bible in front of you and simply read a line and turn it into a prayer. Paraphrase it, expand on it, apply it to yourself and others. This works best with the ethical portions of Scripture like Matthew 5–7; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5–6; Ephesians 4–6; Colossians 3–4; 1 Thessalonians 5; 1 John, etc. You can pray all day once you catch on. And you will be surprised how many insights come as you really take Scripture seriously and try to pray it into your life. If you run into theological or interpretational problems, tell the Lord you will work on that later and move on. If we seek hard to obey what we do understand, more light will come on the hard parts.
I am praying for your praying. What depth and power we will have as a church if hundreds of us learn to pray over the Word of the almighty God!