I am becoming more and more convinced that God’s message to the Church is “Seek Me, while I may yet be found. Turn from your wicked ways and pray!” He has been telling me this for over three years now. I have been diligently searching His Word for every mention of prayer. The message is there; the message is consistent. It is imperative that God’s people spend time in His presence. We will never, and I mean never experience the unbridled power of God until and unless we seek Him first! Not only have I searched His word for this truth, but I have also read books and listened to sermons on the subject of prayer. When I searched these resources I only expected to hear their point of view on the subject, their understanding of prayer. What I did not expect was to read and hear almost verbatim the words God has been speaking to me on this subject, but that is exactly what has and continues to happen!
Andrew Murray says in his work The Ministry of Intercession: A Plea for More Prayer: “Let us all unite in praying God that He would visit our souls and fit us for that work of intercession, which is at this moment the great need of the Church and the world. It is only by intercession that that power can be brought down from Heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world. Let us stir up the slumbering gift that is lying unused, and seek to gather and train and band together as many as we can, to be God’s remembrancers, and to give Him no rest till He makes His Church a joy in the earth. Nothing but intense believing prayer can meet the intense spirit of worldliness, of which complaint is everywhere made.”
He also states: “There is a question, the deepest of all, on which I have not entered in this book. I have spoken of the lack of prayer in the individual Christian as a symptom of a disease. But what shall we say of it, that there is such a widespread prevalence of this failure to give a due proportion of time and strength to prayer? Do we not need to inquire, How comes it that the church of Christ, endued with the Holy Ghost, cannot train its ministers and workers and members to place first what is first? How comes it that the confession of too little prayer, and the call for more prayer, is so frequently heard, and yet the evil continues? The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Supplication and Intercession, is in the Church and in every believer. There must surely be some other spirit of great power resisting and hindering this Spirit of God. It is indeed so. The spirit of the world, which under all its beautiful and even religious activities is the spirit of the god of this world, is the great hindrance. Everything that is done on earth, whether within or without the Church, is done by either of these two spirits. What is in the individual the flesh, is in mankind as a whole the spirit of the world; and all the power the flesh has in the individual is owing to the place given to the spirit of this world in the Church and in Christian life. It is the spirit of the world [that] is the great hindrance of the spirit of prayer. All our most earnest calls to men to pray more will be vain except this evil be acknowledged and combated and overcome. The believer and the Church must be entirely freed from the spirit of the world… I have felt it so strongly that the truth need to be anew asserted…”
My friends, when I read those words my heart raced! It was if I had penned those very words myself, yet here it was from the mouth of Andrew Murray, and man of God born in the 1800’s. I was both encouraged and discouraged simultaneously. Encouraged because the message was the same as the one I’ve been hearing. Encouraged because I wasn’t alone. Discouraged because the message has not yet resounded within the Church as a whole. Discouraged because the message still falls on deaf ears. Yet I will continue to share this message. I will carry this baton until the Lord instructs me to pass it on to someone else.
During my prayer time, the Holy Spirit often leads to me pray Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” I ask God to help His Church to live by this instruction. I ask God to help us realize that His word is not a cliché, but that it is POWER! I say this because we often do consider His word to be cliché, do we not? Do we truly understand what these verses are saying? It really cannot be broken down to be any simpler than it is! “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Reread these verses over and over, putting an emphasis on a different word each time. Do this until it resonates within your heart and your soul!
God brought to my remembrance several things for which we do not trust Him. Prayer, of course, is a huge one. We don’t truly believe that prayer is power; if we did, I would not be writing to you now. Something else that we do not trust Him on is the acknowledging Him part of these verses. Some translations use the word “submit”. Either way, the Church as a whole is not doing this.
When we pray, which is infrequent at best, we most often are making a petition for God’s blessing upon our ideas, our plans, and our traditions. We are not seeking His face and asking Him what He wants us to do. We assume that because something is a “good” idea, that it must be acceptable to God. If it has worked for someone else, then it will work for us, too. Right? Well, my friend, that is how we are leaning on our own understanding. We limit God by putting Him in a box. This box often comes in the shape of literal boxed curriculum. Instead of seeking God ourselves and rightly dividing the Word of truth, we let others do that for us and use prepackaged materials to teach our Sunday Schools, small groups and congregations. I am not calling these materials evil. In fact, there are many inspired studies from which I have personally benefited; however, the issue is that these are the things that we go to first. We do not trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in our studies and in our teaching. We are taking the easy way.
The box has another appearance. It is a more traditional package, which has been handed down throughout many generations. This box, of course, is Tradition itself. Much like the fruitcake, church tradition has passed through so many hands that it is now stale and undesirable. No one really wants a piece. Our church services have become so predictable, and so bland. Many who attend these services come only out of a sense of duty, not out of a desire to meet with God face-to-face. Many go exactly because they know what to expect. The format never changes. Again, are these practices evil? Not necessarily. But are they inspired by God? In most cases – no, they are not. How can I say this so confidently? Because of the evidence - which is the lack of good fruit. If our services were led by the Holy Spirit, we would see hearts changed; the lost coming to salvation in Jesus, and the Church would be fully submitted to His perfect will. This is not, by and large, happening in the Church today. We are leaning on our own understanding.
God warns us of this mindset in Isaiah 50:10-11
“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of His servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from My hand: You will lie down in torment.”
Isaiah 29:13 “The LORD says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by man.”
I do not wish to criticize or condemn my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is not my desire to insult the Bride of Christ. No! My heart is full of love for the Body of Christ! My heart longs for the Church to live in the fullness and the power of God on a daily basis! My heart’s desire is for every believer to have that child-like faith in Almighty God so that His power can be displayed for the entire world to see! My heart’s cry is for us to return to our FIRST LOVE!
Many of you are aware that Jesus Christ Himself pointed out to the seven churches in Revelation that there were things He was not pleased with. Just as a parent corrects a child, so God corrects His children so that they can become better. Only in the case of God’s children, we are not only to be better - we are to be holy, for He is holy!
Which brings me to another part of this message. Church, we have got to stop looking like and living like the world! We must stop rationalizing our participation in things that are not of God! I am specifically referring to personal sins and worldly holidays.
In the Church today there is adultery, fornication, gossip, lying, deceit, bitterness and overall selfishness. Divorce is rampant among believers. This should not be!
God says in Ecclesiastes 5:4-7:
“When you make a vow to God, do no delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.”
Other areas in which we are rationalizing and justifying our behavior is in the participation of worldly holidays, the vilest of which is Halloween. In the past my family and I rationalized this away ourselves. We told ourselves that if we participated in a church parking lot, it would be OK. It is a “community outreach”. But many Christians even participate in the darker things. What is going on here? The celebration of fear and death! What does God have to say about fear? Is it from God? Not the kind of fear that is embraced and spread forth during Halloween! I don’t see how this glorifies Christ. The world sees our behavior in these things and thinks that we are no different – and rightly so!
I will close with words from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, 18-22
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit.”
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”