Apostolic Prayer

The story has been told about a young man in Bible school who offered to help David Wilkerson minister on the streets of New York City. Wilkerson asked him how much time he spent in prayer. The young student estimated about 20 minutes a day.

“Go back, young man,” Wilkerson quickly replied. “Go back for a month and pray two hours a day, every day for 30 days. When you’ve done that, come back. Come back, and I might consider turning you loose on the streets where there is murder, rape, violence, and danger. If I sent you out now on 20 minutes a day, I’d be sending a soldier into battle without any weapons, and you would probably be killed.”

We get get into heaven without a lot of prayer, and we can even be respected church members. We can have merely a one-minute quiet time every day, and God will still love us. But can we expect to reap a mighty harvest on one-minute conversations with God? Will that kind of prayer enable us to penetrate the hard places where Jesus is not known and worshipped? Will that amount of prayer allow us to influence and impact people whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world? (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Samuel Chadwick gave this warning to Christians who think they can accomplish great things for God without an adequate prayer life: “The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

Does this mean that it is all right to continually sit on our easy chairs, praying for God to take action, while we ourselves are unwilling to take action in obedience to His Word? Of course not. Faith without works is dead. (James 2:26) The proper balance is pointed out by S.D. Gordon: “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

So what kinds of prayers will successfully result in an expansion of the Kingdom of God? Certainly not “Now I lay me down to sleep” kinds of prayers! Rather, it will take passionate, persistent prayers, as Jesus instructed us: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

 

Passionate and persistent prayer is what is needed as the local church becomes apostolic in nature. When an assembly takes seriously the apostolic commission to “send” their people into the world to make disciples it will require much persistent and passionate prayer.

This kind of passionate prayer is exhibited by Isaiah’s cry, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens! That you would come down!” (Isaiah 64:1a). Although apostolic prayer wants to see the lost saved and the kingdom of God extended, there is something it seeks even more: the manifest presence of The Lord. It years that He would rend the heavens and come down and fill the earth with His presence and glory. As E.M. Bounds once said, “The church on its knees would bring heaven upon the earth.”

Yet, tragically, Isaiah has to confess to The Lord just a few verses later: “There is no one who calls on Your Name, who stirs himself up to take hold of you.” (Isaiah 64:7a). While The Lord is waiting for us to call upon Him to rend the heavens and come down, few are willing to stir themselves to take hold of Him.

God made a similar observation to Ezekiel: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30). Where are those today who will stand in the gap in behalf of the lost? Would The Lord have to again lament when looking for those who share His heart for the lost and are praying for both their salvation and for more laborers to enter into the harvest fields because the harvest is ready?

London pastor Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “Winners of souls must first be weepers for souls.” This is an echo of the words of the psalmist: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6)

 

The Psalmist wrote: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6) When was the last time you sowed in tears, with a broken heart for the condition of the lost? Most often my eyes are dry and my heart, although not hard, is not focused on the lost and dying. I believe that God wants our hearts to break with the one thing that breaks His heart – the lost going to hell. Think of it, He created us for fellowship and to share His love with and people either reject His offer or, worse still, have never heard of His offer. As a result they spend eternity in hell separated from the very God who created them and wanted to have a relationship with them.

This is not just some nice religious theory. Jesus demonstrated this heart for the lost when He wept over the city of Jerusalem: “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42) Consider this: Jesus wept over the very people who only a short time later would shout, “Crucify Him!”

Paul the apostle likewise had this same broken heart for the Jewish people who had not yet been saved. Everywhere Paul went, these religious people were a thorn in his flesh. Yet look at Paul’s passionate prayers for them:

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1)

“I tell you the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites… (Romans 9:1-4)

Paul loved his persecutors so much that he would be willing to be cut off from Christ in order to bring them to salvation! As remarkable as Paul’s sacrificial prayer life was, he was not the only one who prayed that way. Look at Moses’ intercessory prayer for the Israelites:

“Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to The Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ Then Moses returned to The Lord and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin – but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.’” (Exodus 32:30-32)

Here are examples of true intercession. Like the examples of Jesus, Paul and Moses, intercession means loving people so intensely that we are willing to lay down our lives to stand in the gap for their salvation. In the church today man has made this ministry into something only certain people are called to and they become the ‘experts’ often praying for everything but the lost. Then, the rest of the Christians don’t need to pray with such intensity because they are not called to this ministry. Nonsense! Everyone is called to pray for and speak to the lost about the love of Jesus.

So, maybe, just maybe, we should first pray for ourselves – praying for a “heart transplant.” This would allow us to receive His broken heart in exchange for our sometimes selfish and uncaring hearts. Then we would see powerful prayers for the lost.

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