Week 1- Prayer
Pastor Terry Inman
You’ve heard life begins at 40, well 40 days is pretty significant in the bible. It is often associated with change. God flooded the earth for forty days. Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days receiving God's laws. He also sent spies to the promise land on a forty-day intelligence mission.
Ezekiel planked on His right side for 40 days to call attention to national sin. Ouch. Elijah another prophet went 40 days without food or water. Jonah went overboard. After being rescued by a whale he preached dooms day in Nineveh for 40 days. Everyone repented and so did God!
Jesus fasted 40 days while being tested in the desert. He won Satan lost. For 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to over 500 people.
Forty days of attentive devotion can bring spiritual transformation!
In these 40 days of love and light we will give, we will pray and we will fast with re-focused intention. We will learn to pray more effectively by following our daily prayer guide. This short and simple daily tutorial will profoundly impact our prayer life. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a day.
We will practice the prayer-care-share lifestyle. We will pray for five family or friends that are on their journey to finding Christ. We will learn to engage in Christ-like care and look for openings to share our faith.
For the next six weeks we will talk and pray together. We will take some growth steps together. So why do we call it 40 days of love and light?
Jesus gave us two directives. The first one is called the greatest commandment. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10.27 (NIV)
In the gospel of John Jesus expanded that a bit. After he washed his disciples feet he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13.34-35 NIV)
In the book of Revelation the church in Ephesus is praised for their persistent and pure faith. They endured hardship and rejected false teaching. But they are challenged to return to their first love.
It’s so easy to have all the right beliefs and behaviors and come up short on love. Love for God and love for all people should motivate everything we do. In the next 40 days we are asking God to deepen our love for Him, and the people around us that matter to Him.
Jesus also gave us the great commission. It’s about sharing light. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28.19-20 NIV)
We live in a gospel resistant culture. Many people have tuned off anything that sounds like religious persuasion or proselytizing. That’s why Jesus’ instructions to his disciples are more relevant than ever.
He said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5.16 NIV)
So in the next 40 days we are asking God to increase our love and light!
Ultimately we want to see our friends join our family of faith. This not something we have to initiate. God loves His creation. The bible says he is not willing that anyone be lost. He has a plan. We are part of that plan.
He actually collaborates with us to bring our family and friends to faith. We are just part of the story. Paul says, some of us plant, some of us water, some of us may see a harvest, but God is the grower! (1Cor. 3.6)
Ask our Father how to pray for your family and friends. God will open just the right opportunity to demonstrate your genuine care. Then at just the right time the Lord will guide you to sensitively share your good news.
Several years ago we were introduced to Ed Silvoso the author of Prayer Evangelism. He says, “Talk to God about your friends before you talk to your friends about God.”
God cares more than we do about reaching lost people. Prayer, partners with God to reach our family and friends with His love and His light.
Unfortunately most of our prayers are a bit self-focused. There’s some new data out on us Americans and our prayer practices. Here are some of the findings from Life Way Research.
- 48 percent of us pray every day.
- 82 percent pray about family or friends.
- 20 percent pray for people of other faiths or no faith.
- 7 percent pray for parking spaces or about speeding tickets.
- 5 percent actually pray curses. They pray for a relationship to end, or someone to get fired or for someone else to fail. Nice prayers!
Love has to motivate our prayers for lost people. Jesus told us to love and bless even our enemies. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? (Matt. 5.44-46)
Sometimes our unbelieving family, friends and work associates can be difficult to live with. We can get pretty irritated and judgmental. It’s so easy to curse the darkness but it’s for more effective to turn on the love and the light!
Paul told Timothy, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (1Tim. 2.8 NIV) Raising our hands in prayer is adding some non-verbal intensity and sincerity. But for it to be Holy we can’t mix it with hostility. It helps to “like” the folks we pray for.
An old commentary on this says, “Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer. In our prayers we leave our differences behind us”.
We do not have the luxury of praying only for the folks we like or agree with. “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.
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. 2.1-4 NIV)
Prayer for lost people is an urgent priority. Their salvation depends on it.
The prayer-care-share model is based on the instructions Jesus gave his disciples before sending them on a city reaching assignment.
There are three simple steps that begin with blessing. “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 NIV)
These disciples were like traveling salesmen. They were knocking on doors. It was common in that culture for people to take village visitors in.
Jesus told them to bless the home with peace. “Peace” is a extensive greeting that included spiritual, emotional, and physical well being. It is asking God to prosper people in every aspect of their life. A person of peace is someone who is responsive and receptive.
In the Old Testament the priests were told to bless the congregation.
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.” (Num. 6.24 NIV)
Peace or Shalom is the Hebrew equivalent of total well-being. Asking the Lord to bless our friends is the best thing we can do for them. Can you imagine the Lord’s shining face? Can you imagine receiving all His grace?
In the ancient eastern culture if the King turned his face to you, you had His favor. If not you could lose your head!
When we pray God’s blessings or peace we are bestowing God’s full favor.
3 John 2 says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
So we use the word BLESS as a simple acrostic for praying for family, friends, co-workers 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.
What happens when we bless people? First it changes us then it changes them. We can’t bless and curse at the same time. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3.9-10 NIV)
Prayer affects our heart. It gives us a greater passion for lost people.
Prayer also gets us in tune with God’s heart and God’s plans for people.
The same religious leaders that rejected Christ opposed Paul, but he continued to have compassion on them. Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (Rom.10.1)
Do you work with a very difficult person? Start blessing them. Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Rom. 12.14 NIV)
Prayer also pierces the darkness that closes minds to the truth. The bible says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4.4 NIV) Prayer turns on the light!
Satan uses religion and culture to keep people in darkness. Our arguments and opinions only feed religious and racial tensions. But when we pray light breaks through the darkness!
God knows exactly where people are in their journey toward him. Ask him who you should be praying for, it may not be who you think. Ask God to show you how to pray for them. He knows the keys to their receptivity.
Ask him to show you what their real needs are. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to serve them. Ask God to give you wisdom to relate to them in a way that attracts them to the love of Christ in you.
Prayer will do much more than persuasion. Next week Mary will equip us with some very practical ways that we can pray for the people and pray with the people that God puts in our heart and in our path.