What will it take?
I recently attended the Mission matters Conference at Mt Tamborine where I was given the opportunity to contribute to one of the electives over the course of the weekend. The theme for the weekend was, “What will it take?”
This of course can be a provocative question – What will it take to see the world reached for Jesus? What will it take to see Christians stirred sufficiently to become thoroughly committed to sharing in God’s great mission in this world? What will it take for people to be properly developed and trained to effectively share in that great mission? All these things are close to my heart.
But as I thought about this provocative question, I reflected more deeply on the matter as I listened to some of the keynote speakers. For me, the overarching answer to that question, in whichever way we want to frame it, seems to be answered so well by the Apostle Paul’s concluding requests, or better still instructions, to the Colossians in his letter to this church.
Here he says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:2-4). For the Apostle Paul, prayer was critical, even central, to the whole gospel enterprise.
Indeed, when we reflect on the unfolding story of the birth of the church in the Book of Acts, it seems that with just about every significant advance of the gospel, the people of God had been first moved to pray. Before the great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out and the church was born, the disciples were in an upper room – praying (Acts 1:14). When Peter was moved to cross the cultural divide and share the gospel with the Gentile centurion called Cornelius, it came after a moving time of prayer up on the roof of the home of a good friend in the seaside town of Joppa (Acts 10). When the Apostle Paul embarked upon the first of his great missionary journeys, it started after the leaders of the church in Antioch had come together for a season of worship and fasting (and, by clear implication prayer) (Acts 13:2). Paul understood the imperative and power of prayer so clearly. If we are going to truly see the advance of the work of God’s kingdom; if we are going to become sharers in that great work, then it must start for us in the place of prayer! How tragic it is, that too often prayer has become our last resort as opposed to being our first response, when it comes to our desires to see God’s hand at work in drawing others into his glorious kingdom. Too often, we work our fingers to the bone, trying our level best to make stuff happen – planning programs, running events, putting together the advertising, all in a desperate effort to see things happen in our churches and our communities. When all the while, there are times when we overlook our first call from God, that is to devote ourselves to prayer.
I love the way in which Elizabeth Elliot speaks of the imperative and power of prayer. She says, “Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between his will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.”
Peter Francis – Principal