Forty Days of Love & Light: Prayer Pt 1

Pastor Terry Inman

03-09-14

 

The six weeks leading up to Easter is traditionally called Lent on the Christian calendar. It’s not something you pick off your sweater. It is a time typically dedicated to prayer and fasting. Unfortunately sometimes traditions like this lose their meaning over time. 

Lent for many casual Christians is just giving up something for a season. There is merit in abstinence and other forms of self-denial but to the early Christians lent was a season of reflection and preparation for the passion and purpose of Christ’s sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection.   

This week we begin this season with 40 days of LOVE & LIGHT.  Prayer with fasting is simply a way of re-focusing our faith. It’s a way to brighten our light. We will quiet our flesh and tune in more to God’s Spirit.  

As I said at the beginning of this year “It is our TIME2SHINE!” God’s prophetic word to his people through Isaiah is even more relevant today. 

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Is. 60.1-3 (NIV) 

That last few weeks we have been experiencing a refreshing of God’s Holy Spirit. There also seems to a significant increase of Gifts of His Spirit such as revelation and healing. I believe God is preparing us to reconcile people to God from our diverse ethnicity here at home.  

Fasting with prayer during lent is also a reminder of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert without food. He overcame Satan’s taunts and temptations with the word of God and the power of the Spirit. Then launched His public ministry. He came out of that experience full of power and the Holy Spirit.

Now I realize it is very difficult to do a total food fast and work. The last few years we have been encouraging the popular Daniel fast. It’s basically a vegetarian diet. Daniel refused the king’s meat and delicacies. As a result of this partial fast he was healthier and more perceptive than the king’s advisers. Daniel was also given awesome visions of the future. 

Google “Daniel fast” you will learn more than you want to know. There are recipes and all kinds of stuff. But don’t get too hung up on your new vegetarian diet or you will spend more time cooking than praying. 

The next 40 days we are going too fast and pray together to get closer to God and to reach out to our friends distant from God. In order to share God’s LIGHT we must first share his LOVE. To do that effectively will be learning and practicing the simple prayer-care-share life-style. 

If you haven’t already, pick up your copy of “Be Jesus in your Neighborhood.” It is a simple 30-day personal guide to the prayer-care share-lifestyle. If you haven’t already joined a six-week LOVE & LIGHT connection group you can also do that today at the booth in the lobby.

We have also provided a reminder card for you to pray for 5 people 5 minutes, five days a week. 

The things we are going to do together to apply the pray-care-share principles are so simple, even an average Joe can do it! 

Sharing the LIGHT begins with sharing our LOVE. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt. 22.37-38 (NIV) 

As you know we have some common language for this.

This simple triangle helps us shape and balance our spiritual life.  

     UP - is loving the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

     IN - is keeping healthy relationships with those closest to us.

     OUT- is reaching out to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

The next 40 days we are going to focus on the OUT part of the greatest commandment…loving our friends and neighbors who are not yet living in the Light. We will do that by developing the prayer-care-share life-style.

The best way to love the folks we know that have not yet connected with Jesus Christ is to begin praying for them and blessing them. We are going to talk to God about our friends before we talk to our friends about God! 

Lost people are living in darkness when they are unresponsive or even openly hostile. They are acting normal. One of the ways we move them toward the light is to bless them. It changes the spiritual atmosphere. 

As Jesus was teaching from the hillside on the beatitudes or the blessings he told his listeners how to respond to the people still living in darkness.   

Jesus said, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6.27-28 (NIV) We don’t always feel like blessing people.

 

It so easy to curse annoying people: or put some kind of whammy them.   Sometimes we just don’t like sinful folks. Jesus tells us to respond in the opposite spirit. The best way to lead people to the light is to bless them and treat them kindly. LOVE and LIGHT begin with a prayer of blessing. 

The Apostle Paul was mentoring a young leader named Timothy. He was insistent that prayer was an essential prerequisite to any penetration of light especially in a gospel resistant culture. 

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1Tim. 2.1-2 (NIV)     

Paul put Timothy in charge of the Church he planted in Ephesus. It was a godless pagan city. Both the political leaders and the religious leaders were hostile to the followers of Jesus.   

Paul says prayer is a crucial priority, “I urge, first of all” One of the reasons evangelism in American seems to be ineffective is because we have neglected the necessity and the primacy of strategic prayer. 

We will come up with every creative evangelistic plan we can think of and forget that our power is in prayer! Paul says first of all pray for everyone, and then he adds leaders, like kings and other governing authorities.

Paul specifically mentions four expressions of prayer that are especially relevant to praying for our friends, neighbors and associates in the workplace—1.requests, 2. prayers, 3. intercessions, and 4. thanksgiving. 

“Requests” are simple desires. We are needy people most of our communication with God is asking him for things. Paul is talking about making requests on behalf of others, what are their needs and desires?  

The next word translated “prayers” takes it up a notch. It is the earnest or heartfelt expression of our requests for our friends. It is talking to God about our friends before talking or friends about God! 

“Intercessions” are appeals we make to God on behalf of someone else.  

An intercessor is a mediator or go-between. Because we have a personal relationship with God we can intervene on behalf of others. The bible calls this standing in the gap! When we pray for the lost pray in their shoes. 

“Thanksgiving” is simply expressing our gratitude to God. What motivates us to pray is answered prayer. Thanksgiving reminds that God is faithful. His has answered our prayers in the past and he will do it again! 

According to Paul, when requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving are made on behalf of everyone including leaders, our culture is impacted. We will live in peace and quiet and we will shine as good and Godly people.    

He says, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  1Tim.2. 3-4 

We when we pray for our lost friends and neighbors things begin to change. First our hearts change. Then they begin to open up. The light begins to shine on their path. God changes the atmosphere around them. 

God pays attention to our heartfelt desires for them. This is good!  He is very pleased he wants to save them just like he saved us. The bible says, he does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance!  2 Pet. 3.9 (NIV) Ask God to show you how he feels about your friends. 

We are going to do something very simple. Pray for five people, for five minutes a day five days a week. 5-5-5 Take the card in your worship folder and write down five names you are or will begin blessing.   

Blessing people is a dominant theme in the scriptures. Jesus told his disciples “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” Luke 10.5,6 (NIV) 

This greeting invokes God’s presence and God’s favor. “Shalom” or the Greek version “Eirene” imparts peace, harmony, prosperity, protection and well-being. Our word hello comes from “Hallo” an old English blessing.     

God told the ancient priests of Israel to stand before his people and bless them with this benediction. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6.24-26 (NIV) 

The Priests cover their faces with the prayer shawl, and raise their hands to form the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet “SHIN” (SHEEN). As they did the glory or “Shekinah” of Jehovah was believed to shine through their hands and fill the room. People were to keep their eyes closed. 

When we bless people we are asking God to show them his favor. Here’s an acronym for how to pray for our friends and neighbors. 

     Body - health, protection, food, energy, shelter.

     Labor - employment, income, work environment.

     Emotional - peace, joy, wisdom, insight, stability.

     Social - relationships, marriage, family, friends.

     Spiritual - repentance, salvation, spiritual growth 

This week we will meet in small connection groups. Take your notes from today’s message with you. We will pray for each other and we will pray together for our friends. 

Next Sunday we are going to hear some great stories; we are going to learn some more practical applications of this prayer-care-share lifestyle and we are actually going to engage in corporate prayer for the people groups in our community.  If you haven’t already signed up for a group stop at the 40-DAY booth in the lobby and find one near you.