One of the best books I’ve ever read was a book by Jim Cymbala called Fresh Wind Fresh Fire.” Jim Cymbala is the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn NY. When he started at the church he felt that he was ill-equipped and under educated to lead a church. At the time he took the church it was a poor church in a rundown building. In his book he talks about the fact that the ushers were stealing from the offering.
The church was nearly dead and dying fast. When he became pastor he did all the things that he knew to do and they all failed. After a period of time he became extremely discouraged and took some time off. While he was on vacation he felt like the Lord was telling him to call His people to pray. So when Jim went back from his vacation he set aside his usual message one night and called the church to prayer.
Today the church has thousands of people every week in worship. Their weekly prayer meeting is attended by thousands of people. Through the ministry of the church prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, junkies have been saved. They have also seen successful business men and women come to know Christ as their Savior. It’s not usual for CEO’s to set next to and worship with homeless people. It was pastor Cymbala’s conviction that prayer made all the difference in the world for that church.
That book was so inspiring to me and it cemented to me the urgency and necessity of prayer. One of the things that stands out when you read the book of Acts is that the early church was a praying church. I believe it is also one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, that they were a powerful church. One of my all time favorite passages from Acts is in Acts 4 when the church got together and prayed about the threats of the religious leaders.
One of the things that I love about that passage is that their prayer wasn’t for God to change their situation. Instead their prayer was that despite their situation God might grant them boldness to keep on telling people the good news about Jesus. They weren’t asking God to make their problems go away before they went out to share the Gospel. They were praying for God to embolden them to continue sharing the Gospel despite the problems and threats they were suffering.
The Bible tells us that after they had prayed the place where they had gathered together was shaken by the power of God. They left that place and went out and spoke boldly about the Lord Jesus Christ and many people believed the Gospel and were saved. This power enabled them to literally transform entire communities through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I believe with all my heart that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is just as mighty to save souls and change lives today as it was in the book of Acts. I’m afraid that one of the main differences between the early church and the modern church is prayer. They prayed fervently, consistently and out of necessity. They knew that the mission Christ had given them would fail if they didn’t have the power of God at work in their lives. So they prayed and begged God to enable them to do His will and to change the world. God answered those prayers.
For many Christians today our prayers lives are listless, inconsistent and perfunctory. This prayerlessness has resulted in powerlessness. Our ability to effectively make disciples of all nations is limited by and weakened by our lack of prayer. The first change that will have to be made in our lives is to make sure prayer is a priority. When God’s people pray, God hears. When God’s people pray they declare that they are insufficient and that God is all sufficient. When God’s people pray the focus moves from self and personal needs to God and His glory.
Change must start with prayer. The question is what do we pray and how do we pray so that God can work through us and bring about the changes that need to be made in our lives, our church and our community. That is what I’m going to write about this week.