Over the last several Wednesdays, we’ve been exploring what it takes to develop a God-given vision. We’re a point this series now, or will be soon, when it’s time to share what God’s been putting on our hearts, so others can lift up that vision along with us.
And because it’s a God thing, prayer isn’t just a nice add-on. It’s our lifeline. It’s our ultimate reality check, with the Ultimate Reality. It’s also our way of connecting others with God’s work, in a way that they can see it’s God’s work, too. So let’s explore how we can engage with God more deeply in prayer, and how we can invite others along with us on this journey.
While prayer is something we all do—or maybe because it is—it can also become something we take for granted, either by going through the motions or by forgetting the awesome power there is in prayer. So today, let’s look at this subject through fresh eyes, and discover how our prayers can play a much bigger role as we dive deeper into the plans God has for us.
So for starters, read the following two quotes:
“Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”—Martin Luther
“Do you and I have work that we can’t imagine doing for thirty minutes without prayer? If not, perhaps we need a new life’s work. Or perhaps we need to do an old life’s work in a new way.”—Gary Haugen, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
• What are your reactions to these quotes? Why?
• How have your prayers changed over the past month, as God has been affirming and expanding the vision he’s given you?
God has given us a mission in this world. But it’s still God’s mission. God is our ultimate authority. God will give us what we ask for—or very likely, something even better, even if we don’t recognize that right away. God’s power and God’s provision go together. And with that, it’s time for another case study. Tab up, and read Acts 4:13, 18-35. Then think about this:
• How do you see others catch and spread the vision by “[being] with Jesus” here, either in prayer or, in Peter and John’s case, physically?
• What connections do you see here between our prayers and our willingness to help others?
• What needs do you see around you right now that need to be prayed about—and met?
“If we do not yearn and pray and expect God to stretch out his hand and do the supernatural, it will not happen,” says Jim Cymbala in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. “That is the simple truth of the matter. We must give him room to operate.”
Most of us would welcome support of any kind, whether it’s prayer or encouragement or the meeting of a tangible need. But often, this requires letting go of some pride and allowing ourselves to be supported. It means being open about what our real needs are. But the benefits far outweigh a temporarily bruised pride, or our fear of admitting we need help.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV).
• Where are you struggling to find God’s peace right now? What’s the need behind that struggle?
• Why do we hold onto our needs, instead of immediately giving them to God? Why do we often forget to thank God after we’ve given those needs to him?
• How could we catch ourselves earlier, so we can share our needs—and our gratitude—sooner?
A couple more passages on prayer (and work) to consider, then we’ll close this out:
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:19-20, NIV).
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:12-13, NIV).
• What are the benefits of having others praying with us and for us? Come up with as many ideas as you can, either from these passages or your own experiences.
• Who’s your Epaphras, and why?
• How could having a group of Christ-followers like Epaphras in your life help you grow in your mission?
We need people in our lives who are as faithful in seeking God’s will for us as we are—or better yet, even moreso. We need people we can be vulnerable with, so they know how to pray for us—and help us. And as our relationships deepen, we’ll be able to help each other in ways that only God could have made possible, because we’ll have invited God into every step of it. And the people you need to share your vision with right now may be just the people to start with.