This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Lung Singh (from Laos. It was rumored that Singh was killed by his brother because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Jan Pit edited Lung Singh's experiences and remarks), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14)
The Suffering Church is a praying Church. Persecuted Christians pray a lot. When it comes to praying, they even seem to be leading figures, for their prayers seem to be much more powerful and intensive than the prayers of many in the `free' world.
Many times when I listened to their prayers, I was deeply moved. And strange as it may seem, I often watched them while they were praying. I felt that they were so close to God that they could almost touch Him.
These were prayers without verbiage, without shame, without searching for sentences. Prayers with a deep realization of being in the presence of the living, holy God.
Their prayers were characterized by genuineness, simplicity and ... tears. Not from emotion, for the Suffering Church has learned to restrain emotion long ago, but because of the consciousness of their own sinfulness and weakness when meeting God. Is this the reason why their prayers are so powerful? And yet they know and address this holy God as `Our Father'.
True friendship with God is brought about by intimate contact with Him, the Holy One ... Our Father.
`Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1)
A moment of introspection: In our prayer lives, we have found a fulfilling mode of service to our King, our God, our heavenly Father. Our prayers waft heavenward and are heard as we hold up the suffering church before a merciful sovereign. But it is good, as we ply our intercessory trade, to periodically take stock in what we do and how we do it. I've often averred that we have much to learn from the suffering/persecuted brothers and sisters of our faith.
And this month, we may learn from them how they pray. Anyone in a habit of prayer could be said to "pray a lot". Perhaps that is what the apostle Paul described to the church in Thessalonica when he told them to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Matthew Henry, in his commentary on the Holy Scriptures, described constant praying thusly when he compared vss 16 and 17: "The way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We should rejoice more if we prayed more. We should keep up stated times of prayer, and continue instant in prayer. We should pray always, and not faint; pray without weakness, and continue in prayer, till we come to that world where prayer shall be swallowed up in praise. The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season. Prayer will help forward and not hinder all other lawful business, and every good work." A wise person once held that those who pray develop a desire to pray and a valuation of prayer. But those who are not in the habit of praying ultimately fail to develop a desire to pray or to value prayer. And that hinders one's relationship with God. So we, too, should be in the habit of praying. So, pray often, and pray earnestly.
When we pray, it is not a casual act of whim or chance. We pray purposively for God's involvement in the lives of suffering Christians. In Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, he reminded them that "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1 Cor. 12:26) He later wrote to the church in Jerusalem with a suggestion as to how we might relate to Christians who suffer: "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." (Hebrews 13:3) In light of these correlated thoughts, we see in Luke's gospel that on the Mount of Olives, we are told that (referring to Jesus Christ) "...being in agony he prayed more earnestly..." (Luke 22:44) Our persecuted brethren have found this intensity of prayers to not only be possible, but practicable. Perhaps we might as well.
Would we continue to meet regularly for intercessory prayer, if we did not believe in the power inherent within prayer? James 5:16b tells us that "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Prayer is an effective and powerful tool in the Christian's arsenal. In Christ's own experience, He instructed His disciples that certain demons could only be exorcised through prayer (Mark 9:29, NIV); Christ raised Lazarus from the dead through an intercessory demonstrative prayer (John 11:38-42); and Christ even labored in prayer concerning the circumstances of His own forthcoming crucifixion as He prayed for His disciples.
When do we feel close to God? When does God seem or appear most real to each of us? I would suggest that for most of us intercessors, we feel closest to God--He is most tangible and real to us--when we commune with Him in prayer. Listening. Speaking. Listening. Grand vistas of nature stimulate our prayer; the birth of a child evokes prayer; and other day-to-day sensitivities elicit prayer to spring up from within us and we sense the closeness of our heavenly Father. When do you feel close to God? When does He seem least accessible? Closeness implies lack of barriers between us and God. Perhaps the question might be phrased, "what stands between us and God?" What have we placed there that keeps us from sensing God and His desire of communion with us? During the prayers of those in the persecuted church it was noted, above, that our brothers and sisters prayed as though they were close enough to God to almost reach out and touch Him. We too can experience this level of interaction. Let us delve into the Scriptures, asking for wisdom to discern blockages; the Psalmist sought wisdom for this when he said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24)
Feigned compassion has no place in our praying; pretended intent during intercession brings shame and failure into the prayer chamber. It brings shame into our intercession and substitutes guile for communion. Let our compassion be genuine, real, God-breathed and Spirit led. Consider the adjuration contained in Hebrews 13:3. Genuine compassion places us empathically in the situation for which we pray. May our intercessions not be faked or counterfeited, nor pretended or insincere. Consider the call to suffer with those for whom we intercede (1 Corinthians 12:26) May our prayers reflect the essential character of Christ and His compassion. genuineness our paradigm, intercession our vehicle, and God the Father our underwriter and benefactor.
Let us keep our prayers simple and straightforward--without being verbose (Matthew 6:7). As opposed to some orators or writers, we are not "paid" by the word, and our prayers express our passion for caring. Even in our prayer, "tis a gift to be simple", as the song goes. Praying the Scriptures is a good way to learn parsimony, yet convey the words of God for a given request. Our task is set, our mission is sure, and we would do well to adapt a secular adage to keep it simple and straightforward (KISS)
In what way do we express our own consciousness of our sinfulness and weakness when meeting God? As we come to prayer, do we consider our own waywardness, our own propensity to sin and to fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23)? Our persecuted brothers and sisters of the faith perhaps more outwardly show their brokenness and weakness in approaching prayer. Yet we too need to come to understand the power in prayer that comes from a contrite and open heart toward God. We serve an awesome God, who has sent out His Spirit in us, crying out, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:6) Consider that sin stands in the way of prayer, in between God and us. May we not flatter ourselves too much to detect or hate our sin. (Psalm 36:2)
Let us come before our God as the redeemed, which we are. May there be no shame in our thinking, for "there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus--because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2) We live in grace, knowing our sin, yet trusting in Christ to wash us clean and set our innermost thoughts and outer behaviors aright. We need not come to our task ashamed and bent with sin. God asks us to confess our sins and there-through be cleansed from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Praise God for His faithfulness!
Intense, simple yet powerful prayer speaking genuine compassion is our aim. Letting the Holy Spirit guide our prayer frees us from searching in vain for the right thing to pray. Romans 8:26 spares us our foundering while interceding. God bears our burdens, guides us in prayer, hears our petitions, and rewards those who diligently seek Him (Proverbs 8:17). We need not falter in prayer; we need not fruitlessly seek a better way to express a petition. Let God and His Spirit guide in our prayer.
With each prayer meeting, we acknowledge the presence of Christ (Matthew 18:20), and sense the profundity of this divine presence. We understand the life-giving power among us as the Holy Spirit ministers to us in our intercession, and Christ enlivens our prayer. With each prayer meeting, as we lay our requests at the mercy seat of God, we declare to be true that God is indeed with us. We are in His presence, and the depth thereof at once presses upon our awareness yet lightly lifts us humble petitioners to stand before him. An insightful song expresses our stance in God's presence: "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up..."
We have seen how our brothers and sisters of the faith pray, as members of the persecuted church. Our own prayer can learn from theirs, as we consider and reflect on the joy and the tears of their experience of praying:
Frequent prayers Intense prayers
Closeness to God Genuineness in praying
Simplicity of expression Praying with "tears" for the weight of sin
in our own lives
Parsimonious praying Bold praying
Sureness of praying Realization of God's presence