There can be little doubt that, as one looks at the ever-growing challenge of taking the gospel message to all the peoples of the earth, the task can still look overwhelming. Yet, we take comfort in Jesus’s own words when he said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). The fact that we, as God’s people, are here today is living proof of his faithfulness to his promise. However, we cannot escape his call to his people to be “God’s fellow workers” as the Apostle Paul called us in 1 Corinthians 3:9.
But how do we best share in what God is doing in our world? As we consider Jesus’s own ministry and his subsequent instructions to his disciples to take the good news [of the gospel] to all creation (Mark 16:15) we might well remember that, long before Jesus ever gave his disciples the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20 he first taught them to pray the “Great Petition” in Matthew 6:10, “your kingdom come, your will be done [here] on earth as it is in heaven.” The message seems unmistakable. If we are to know anything of true Holy Spirit power and blessing in the task of taking the good news of the gospel to the peoples of the world, then we must by all means be committed to praying – praying that God himself will do his work in drawing people into the kingdom; praying that his will will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Indeed, one can hardly escape the clear and pointed words of Jesus in Matthew 9:38; when seeing the extent of the spiritual needs of the people of his day in Israel he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Ask [or pray] the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” For us to become sharers in the great mission of God in this world, it starts with us laying hold of God in prayer.
But what happens when we begin to really pray? Many have seen prayer as little more than the means by which we persuade God to comply with our desires and plans. However, Ott and Strauss remind us that “the primary purpose of prayer is to build our relationship with God and come into conformity with the will of God, not to manipulate God to use his power on our behalf.” Something happens as we pray. Not only are we drawn into the bigger redemptive plan of God, but we find that our hearts begin to beat in time with the heart of God. His desires become our desires and we are moved to pray according to his will and we inevitably find that God begins to position us for participation in his great mission in this world.
John Stott wrote, “Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will upon God, or bending of his will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to his.” S D Gordon once said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” John Wesley said, “God does nothing but by prayer and everything with it.” D L Moody said, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” As we contemplate the task which yet lies ahead of us, we might well ask as Jesus’s disciples once did,
“Lord teach us to pray!”
Your brother in Christ