“You can’t patch up your prayer life when you get to the judgment seat”
“You can delegate many things, but prayer is not one of them.”
“Yesterdays praying will not suffice for today.”
~E. M. Bounds
“This period we are in now is a dressing room for eternity, that is all it is.”
“In everything by prayer.”
I intend to write to you on the subject of the significance of a life of prayer. This word can be taken as one of three things: an encouragement, a challenge, or an offense. It has little significance to me, for “if you have the smile of God what does it matter if you have the frown of men (Ravenhill).”I write to you in obedience to God. If you take it as a challenge, you can potentially lift the quality of your life above what it is now, as you rapidly move in time to that great day of accountability. If you take it as an encouragement, than most likely you are living for and in the means of prayer, affecting your circle of influence and empowering your pursuit of Christ’s kingdom in an honest and fruitful way. If you take this word as an offense, it will profit you nothing but merely add to your hardness of heart storing up for yourself more to give an account for on that great day of judgment. As I stated, all is well with me, for my heart is not to write for the profit of any other than he who desires to reach the heart of God and stand before Him unashamed and confident in the day of reckoning.
The sorrowful truth that such a spiritual employment is largely neglected has negative effects upon more than just our personal standing with God. It dampens what could have otherwise thrived in fire before the Lord. As intercessory prayer remains that which it has always been, we have been tremendously privileged to the ear of God having been justified, encouraged and empowered by His grace to live an obedient life.
The obedient life alone has access to God’s ear (Psalm34:17; Prov. 15:8; James 4:2, 3). Scripture in no uncertain terms, vastly teaches us the power, significance and details of a prayer life that God acknowledges. “All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our prayer closets”(E.M. Bounds).
King David overflowed with prayer in the Psalms he penned throughout his earthly life, seeing not only its privilege but also its importance by praying morning, noon and night (Psalm 55:17). He saw the connection between the enlightenment of the word of God and intimate pleading for the same (Psalm 119; 18, 19). The apostle Paul was moved by the same spirit encouraging us to pray “in everything” (Phil. 4:6). This would entail all our dealings in life, family, money, ministry, study and the like. This great privilege and importance wasn’t something to be active infrequent but rather “at all times”(1 Thess. 5:17). “All times” encompasses the positive, negative and mundane. Jesus encouraged us to not only pray, but to endure with persistence not giving up or “fainting” (Luke 18:1). Christ emphasized the importance of prayer by ignoring the potential of its absence in our life. He simply said, “When you pray” (Matt. 6:6). Christ also coupled enduring temptation with prayer (Luke 22:39-46). Scripture reveals to us the aid in our sufferings is prayer (James 5:13).
Our aid in worthy living is prayer (2 Thess 1:11). Our aid in wisdom is prayer (James 1:5). Oh how our lives would be of such a higher quality if we lived in persistent, fervent prayer when trying situations occur instead of aimlessly roaming about! What greater impact would our counsel, words and life have upon those weak hearted Christians who surround us, if our hearts overflowed with burdened persistent prayer for them instead of hidden gossip, jesting and squandering of time! Let us not take lightly that he who prays effectually has first lived effectually. In the words of E.M. Bounds, “He who prays must obey.”For the wonder of the availability of God’s ear to His people can be blocked by our living! (1 Peter 3:7; Psalm 66:18; 1 John 3:22). The effective prayer of the righteous man can effect much (James 5:16)! The availability of God’s ear is as glorious of a privilege, power and grace as it is a responsibility in our way of living and use of time.
Christ revealed that prayer for another can keep one “from the evil one.” Prayer can ignite a disciples life to be “separated by the word” (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21). This reveals that merely hearing or reading the word may need the service of divine assistance in prayer to effect such a sanctification of a disciple. As well as the great ability to “keep” one “in His name”, prayer can effect unity amongst disciples (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21).
Christ having complete understanding of God’s sovereignty continually imposed upon Himself isolation for the purpose of prayer (Mark 1:35). Do you recall how Christ spent a night in prayer before choosing His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12)? The disciples at Christ’s side were interested in learning, not how to teach or heal, but how to pray (Luke 11:2).
Once the potential of true prayer is understood a man can never return, in right heartedness, to a prayerless life. Samuel connected prayerlessness with sin (1 Samuel 12:23). God Himself is seen in scripture searching for a man to pray (Isa. 59:16). Where is the man who will stir himself to get a hold of God in prayer (Isa. 64:7)? “Oh, for determined men and women, who will rise early and really burn out for God” (Hodge). True prayer is not a light matter. Nor is it an exercise for the slothful. Christ Himself offered up prayers with loud crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). He burned in agony and fervency in Gethsemane (Luke 22:14). Christ taught us that prayer isn’t a weak hearted matter, nor an exercise for lazy knees. For the key to its effectiveness is importunity (Luke 11:5-13). Hezekiah’s prayers moved God to add fifteen years upon his life (Isa. 38:1-5). God hears. God listens, to the righteous (James 5:16; Psalm 66:18). He who has the ear of God and sincerely applies himself to such a divine employment has access to a fruitful ministry. The writer of Hebrews asked for prayer (Heb. 13:18). Paul asked for such a divine assistance to be added to his ministry (2 Thess. 3:1). Paul knew the power of true prayer could turn events in the spreading of the word of God (Phil. 1:19).
He saw the aid to his ministry was none other than true prayer (2 Cor. 1:11). Prayer can open doors for uttering the word of God (Col.4:3-4). What a responsibility that will, without question, be one of many things we give an account for before the Judgment seat!
The recorded lesson from the apostolic Church was that dedication of one’s self should be given to the word of God but equally to prayer (Acts 6:4). Just as Elijah in the Old testament prayed for eyes to be opened to see, Paul prayed for the enlightening of the eyes of our heart that we may see (2 Kings 6:17;Ephesians 1:19). Ignore not the radiant evidence of a praying life. It may well open and enlighten a man’s heart to see what he couldn’t by study alone. The hope revealed in the scriptures is the anchor of our soul (Heb. 6:19). It must be the center of our life if we are to live a life pleasing to the Lord (Heb. 11:6; 10:39). At times and in many cases, we, dull of hearing, slow of heart people need the grace of prayer to quicken us with grace to walk out that which is currently in our mouths (Col. 1:9-11;Eph1:16-19;3:14-20). The great protection to prayerless praying (a disease rampant amongst the unstudied) is first of all, the honest, humble and correct study of the scriptures. For nothing else is a lamp unto our feet as we tread down the dark path of a deceptive world and religion (Psalm 119:105). Paul prayed according to God’s working (Eph 1:19; 3:20). Christ eclipsed His will with God’s (Matt. 26:39).
“Prayerless praying, how popular! Yet, useless”(E.M. Bounds). The Pharisees prayed to be heard, seen and recognized with many words and a prideful disposition for the good they have done (Marr. 6:5; Luke 18:10-14). Leonard Ravenhill said, “the secret of prayer is praying in secret (Matt. 6:6).” As the culmination of man’s day draws to a close, the sobriety of our secret place will be our secret to preparation (1 Peter 4:7). We must soberly strive in prayer and allow the Spirit of God to move us in intercession and personal longing for Him so as to sweeten the bitter areas of our lives and the lives of those that God has given us, knowing, at times only the Spirit will know the will of God (Rom. 15:30-31;8;8:26).
A burden is a revelation of a tremendous spiritual need, able to be satisfied by God alone, having no avenue where by it can be expressed, save, groanings which cannot be uttered, explained or understood. “Prayers that cannot be uttered are often prayersthat cannot be refused (Spurgeon).” Leonard Ravenhill challenges, “No man is greater than his prayer life…let me live with a man a while and share his prayer life and then I will tell you how tall I think he is or how majestic I think he is in God…You may impress others but you can’t impress God. You can show off on the platform, singing, preaching and doing your stuff, but not in prayer…Praying men stop sinning and sinning men stop praying. A man first collapses in the prayer closet…Can he share His sorrow with you? Can you remember the last time you couldn’t go to bed because men were dying without Christ?
When was the last time you pushed the plate away and said, “No, I need more time with God?” God looks for a man, not a seraphim, not a cherubim, not a half man and half deity. God looks for men, not money, not methods, not machinery, not movements…Men! We need to say, “Lord I’m concerned, I am speeding up to judgment, look at my ministry, look at the secrets of my life, look at my fruitlessness, look at my dry eyes, look at my poor spirit that has no ache in it, look at me!” The great day of accountability alone will reveal all that could have been effected through a selfless management of your time to invest in prayer. Beware to stand not ashamed. You cannot return to live the way you should have. Dr. Michael L. Brown urged us, “Are you spending your time, energy and efforts on things that are just going to burn?”I tell you after a diligent study of God’s word you will find this common thread, that an obedient life lived in humble intercession avails greatly in the eyes of God. A.W. Tozer at the end of his life said this challenging statement, “I don’t think that I will be ashamed of the things that I have done in my life, but rather what I could have done.” Samuel Chadwick at the end of his life said this sobering statement, “I have spent two thirds of my life in bible study and one third of my life in prayer. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would spend two thirds of my life in prayer and one third of my life in bible study.” The word of God should never be neglected or despised (thought little of), for without its direction, one will more often than not, spend his time amiss.
They together constitute the whole of God’s assistance toward us.
Let us sincerely ask ourselves, in the light of Him who sees through the outward actions and into the motives and intents, (Rev. 2:23; Hebrews 4:12.) What does it matter if we boldly dance in the assembly, pray with eloquence and volume, shamelessly raise our hands amongst others or even speak the depths of the scriptures if we are bankrupt before God in the quiet place. “The true test of a man’s soul is when he is alone” (Jeremy Taylor). Have you come to the face of others from the face of God (figuratively)? To truly know God is to truly share, in our small degree, His feelings, revealed to us in His word, experienced by us in prayer. To share not God’s burden is to share not in His heart and He who is most dear to God is he who lays his head upon His breast (John 13:23, 25).
“Nothing will so test and stimulate the Christian life as the honest attempt to pray for others”(Andrew Murray). “The men who have done mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer, have well understood the possibilities of prayer, and have made the most of these opportunities… Men who know how to pray are the greatest boon God can give the earth-they are the richest gift earth can offer heaven.”(E.M. Bounds).
A disciple who will give himself to the divine preparation and work of constant receiving God’s word and obeying God’s word, soaked in personal and intercessory prayer, will be more confident at the judgment. Knowing that he not only fed his spirit with the truth of God’s word but he opened his spirit to share God’s heart. A disciple who will give himself to the divine work of pure ministry of the word and prayer for others will effect greatly the course and pattern of living of these to whom he ministers (Col. 4:12). Of what greater significance can prayer be than that ministry which makes effective all else? The reward for a correct, sincere and fervent life of prayer will, more so than all others, be most significant in that great day. “There is no alternative to prayer and obedience” (Ravenhill).
“For it is a great honor to speak to men on behalf of God, but an even greater honor to speak to God on behalf of men” (E.M. Bounds). Let us not know the guilt of a life that chose to avoid the power, importance, privilege and responsibility of the availability of God’s ear.
Let us not forget that even He who was the Word made flesh lived a life of fervent Prayer. Let us plead for divine assistance for ourselves and others as we pursue the offered Kingdom through conformity to the image of God’s Son through nothing other than interaction with His Spirit!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: Apostolic Church, burn, Christian, depth, Kingdom, power, prayer, spiritual
“…. make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you….” -1 Thess. 4.11
Isn’t it remarkable that the same man who gave us the most transcendent statements about the resurrected and ascended Lord could be found making such earthy statements as this one? The same man who declared that we are “seated with Christ” in heavenly places also instructed the churches in the most menial of matters which pertain to the daily grind of life, and I am convinced that it has everything to do with establishing true foundations in the Church.
There is something crucial about the day-to-day reality of life, and how we function within it, that determines the degree to which we will rule and reign with Christ in the age to come. There is a subtle form of Gnosticism in the Church, which sees all matters unearthly as positive, and all matters earthly as negative. It seems right in the beginning, but it actually negates the ultimate intentions of God, who longs to unite heaven and earth rather than to exchange one for the other. In fact, at the end of the age restoration, both heaven and earth will be reconfigured and made new, and God will manifest Himself fully and permanently, abiding forever in the great reality of that union.
When we think of earthly matters as inherently unspiritual, we confine the faith to religious categories and functions, and before long we have chopped up our hearts into compartments that fail to pulsate with the life of God. We begin comparing ourselves with other men, striving for higher spirituality, more esteemed religious positions, and a type of asceticism creeps in.
The apostle Paul, who likely had more spiritual revelation than any man in his day, was also a very nuts and bolts type of man. He could raise a boy from the dead one day, and get blisters from making a leather tent the next day. He could receive prophetic revelation and powerful gifts in a church gathering, and maintain the spirit of prayer and faith while engaging in tasks that we would consider a drudgery.
Paul knew that this unhealthy idea of spirituality could move into the churches, and from time to time he was required to address it.
One of the last hiding places of our carnal ambition is found in our desire to be considered spiritual by other men. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were guilty of this, and ultimately it comes down to the fact that we have not adequately sought the glory which comes from God. We are looking for recognition in an earthbound way, though it is disguised with a spiritual facade.
I have met many men, usually young like myself, who are filled with anxiety and even depressions over the fact that they desire to be in “full-time ministry,” but no door has opened yet. Very often, they are recently married, or fathers of young children, and very often also, they lack a value for their calling as husbands and fathers, and their devotional lives are inconsistent as well. While the Lord may call and send young men to remarkable works, I am convinced that for most, the Lord would have them to focus firstly on learning to walk with Him in the kinds of tasks that we consider menial.
It doesn’t seem like a heroic ambition to “lead a quiet life,” but perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the Church’s witness in the earth, is that we are too quick to speak and too slow to listen. We want our ministries to be known, our distinctives to be recognized, our names to be exalted. Paul told the saints to be content to lay low, and to allow the Lord to form Christ in us in the hidden places of life so that our public proclamation would bear the weight of heavenly reality.
It doesn’t seem incredible to “attend to your own business,” but this is a necessity for the life which would be built on a true foundation. If our finances are out of order, our children are not rightly loved and disciplined, our spouses are neglected relationally, our devotional lives are sparse, and our work ethic is dishonoring to the Lord, why should we look for the greener grass on the other side? Do we assume that “full-time” ministry will fix all of these issues? We need to “attend” to our own business, and allow the Lord to bring His government into our lives in the nit and grit of daily decisions and activities, or else we have rejected Paul’s apostolic instruction.
Lastly, he calls us to “work with our hands,” which is something both Jesus and Paul did. Can it be said that the hands of Jesus would not have had such healing effect in His ministry had He failed to abide in the Father during His carpentry days? If Jesus was totally submitted to the Father for His entire earthly life, then His carpentry days were just as ordained as the cross and resurrection themselves, but do we ever see it in this way? We are more likely to highlight the raising of Lazarus or some other dramatic event in Jesus’ life, and that is understandable. But the daily grind of sweat and labor in the carpentry shop was just as much a revelation of God as anything else in Jesus’ life, and He means to bring us into an experience and view of the same kind. When we view our “menial” tasks as unspiritual, we open our souls to a numbness towards sonship, and we are more apt to fall into a spirit of complaining or a depressive attitude. But if we make it our ambition to love the Lord and honor Him in the midst of the monotony and grit of daily events, we will see the glory of it in the same way that Jesus did.
However the Lord calls you to work with your hands, the point is that Paul is calling us to a faithfulness in the practical affairs of life, and if we have been unwilling for that, we are not likely to function as leaders in the Body, nor to rule and reign at higher levels in the age to come. The great majority of believers will not be pastors or prophets, teachers or missionaries by occupation, but will function on grounds that seem unofficial spiritually. But if it is in the intention of the Father it is holy, holy, holy, and He calls us to an intimate union with Himself no matter where we are or how we are positioned.
The purposes of God are served in the formation of His servants when they give themselves to labor that is monotonous and predictable, that lacks any kind of flamboyance or charismatic excitement, but requires a steadfast patience and faithful performance, day after day.
…. we need to serve our apprenticeship in the things that are ordinary, unseen and undistinguished. We need to show ourselves faithful in those places so that we can be faithful in the true works of God. This is the sublime wisdom and requirement of God.
(Art Katz, Apostolic Foundations, Burning Bush Press: Bemidji, MN; 2009, p. 16)
Are you surrendered inwardly to the Lord in the unseen and menial tasks? Do you trust Him in hiddenness? Are you willing simply to honor Him by being responsible and faithful with the work He has before you today, even if no man thinks you are spiritual or worthy of esteem? The way that we maintain communion with the Lord in the daily grind, the way that we steward our money and our work, and the way that we treat people when no immediate reward is in view- all of this determines whether or not we are moving into a true experience and expression of the Kingdom of God.
A man may be neck-deep in the work of modern ministry, engaged in all types of seemingly spiritual labors, yet totally out of touch with God who has called him. This is not what the Lord has intended for you. But if we know Him vitally in the midst of the menial and mundane affairs of life, we have come to know Him indeed.
Bryan Purtle is a firefighter and author that carries a jealousy for historical revival, the salvation of Israel, and the recovery of apostolic proclamation and living through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Visit his website at thoughtsuponrising.com.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Church, full-time ministry, Ministry, mundane, Paul, Revival, spiritual, spirituality
“Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.”
The word “preserve” here has to do with “keeping something in its original state.” The fact that David is reaching out for another to preserve him implies that he recognizes that he cannot preserve himself. Our original state in God is purity, holy and undefiled from this world. God has taken us out of the mud and washed us as squeaky clean as His very own Son by the blood of His very own Son. David is acknowledging his inability and helplessness to stay clean, remain undefiled or be preserved in purity. The Psalmist often cried, “save me” (Psalm 3.7;6.4;7.1;22.21;31.2). But this cry is different. It is not a cry to be rescued; it is a cry to remain in the rescued state. Not to be made pure, but to remain pure.
I extend to you the God revealed route to a sustained purity and preserving in God, “…for in thee do I put my trust.” All victory begins with this heart, “I can’t do it!” When man reaches the end of himself, there and nowhere else, does he find the beginning of God. Our hearts must cry, “I cannot preserve myself, so I look to you.” A.W. Tozer in the famous book, “The Pursuit of God” said, “faith is the inward gaze of the soul unto God.” Jesus, talking of the salvation that is impossible with men and only possible with God (Matt.19.26), made a parallel with the serpent lifted up in Old Testament (John 3.14). The only path of salvation from the snake poison in the body of the Israelites was to lift their eyes to the golden serpent to be healed. So, when a man simply looks in surrender to Jesus, not only once to be saved, but consistently to be preserved, he finds his glorious rescue and union with God (John 15.5).
None of us did anything to attain our salvation (Eph. 2.8,9). We simply recognized that we could not save ourselves and we cried from a dark pit, the helpless cry of a condemned sinner, “God save me!” God in His mercy reached down and saved us from such a state and doom (John 3.16-17; Romans 8.1; Ephesians 2.1-2). God is not waiting for you to reach a certain point of desperation before He rushes in to preserve or save, He is waiting for you to empty your inward poison by looking away from yourself and unto Him. It is not that He refuses to come to man until, but that man will not respond to His having come to us. Jesus simply summed up all of Christianity in one phrase, “Come to me…(Matt. 11.28).” That isn’t when He saves you, that coming to Him IS your saving.
I submit to you today, that the same utter dependency, total reliance and absolute surrender to God that your soul reached to God with to be born again, is the same cry that must be lived in for the sustained victorious spiritual life. David Ravenhill said, “we never graduate from dependency.” That is the secret. That is the most mature perspective in God that there is. I CANNOT DO IT! I need you, oh, I need you, every hour, I need you.
Jesus said, “the son can do nothing of Himself; I do nothing on my own initiative (John 5.19;8.28).” Oh struggling brother, tired Christian and weak-willed complacent distant follower of Christ, you cannot maintain yourself. As long as you try to maintain yourself, you are already in failure. For no amount of Adamic resolve could ever enter a man into the Spiritual power released only by dependency. Resolve will always dissolve. But by surrender we will never cease to enter. Why is it this way? It is because God Himself is our Salvation (Psalm 38.22). He saved us from a life that doesn’t look to Him. Have you a sensitivity to see that our own life is something so evil, no matter how “good” it seems, that we must be saved from it? A life without the Lordship of Christ requires saving! Leonard Ravenhill said, “the greatest sin in the world…is ‘I can manage my life without God.'” A life still in our own hands is dead. Paul talked about people being, “dead even while they live.”
Jesus told us that only the children enter the Kingdom (Mark 10.14), the poor posses the Kingdom (Matt. 5.3) and the infants have revelation of the Kingdom (Matt. 11.25). Everything in God must hinge upon God. This is why Paul said so boldly, that to lean on any addition to dependency severs you from Christ (Galatians 5.4). There is no other way to have the rule of God truly ruling our lives than for us to declare “my soul says, ‘You are my Lord.'” If He is to be Lord, He can only ascend to the throne in your life by the bankrupt recognition and surrender of total reliance… utter dependency and absolute surrender is required.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism.
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: A.W. Tozer, children, david ravenhill, dependency, Kingdom, Leonard Ravenhill, lord, poison, prayer, Psalmist, purity, pursuit of god, reliance, Revival, self, snake, spiritual