"While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit...they sailed to Cyprus." Acts 13: 2-4
When I was a fifth grader, my family moved to Long Island, New York. In September 1960, my Dad, Don Miller, was called and commissioned as a Home Missionary, Evangelist and Church Planter. After serving as pastor of a large Dallas church for eight years, and serving as President of the Dallas Pastors Conference, Dad heard a call to go to New York.
I will never forget, as a ten year old boy, being invited into my parent's bed room at 1426 South Fitzhugh, and asked to gather around their bed, with my siblings, and kneel in prayer. The Call was a life-changing moment for our family.
We had been to New York City in 1957 for the Billy Graham Crusade. It had been held in the old Madison Square Garden, and had made quite an impact on The City. Dad had been commissioned by the Dallas Times Herald to do an article for the evening paper. Even as a child, I could tell something had happened to Dad, on the New York trip. He couldn't stop talking about it. Three years later, we were on our way back.
When I entered Main Street School in Farmingdale, New York, I was a real oddity. They had never met anyone from Texas. Their questions proved their knowledge of The Lone Star State was limited to Lone Ranger reruns or B-Westerns. They thought we all rode horses to school, and fought Indians along the way. I am not making this up.
One of the earliest memories I have of the deepening of my faith, was the question I was often asked by my new friends. "Why did you leave Texas to come to New York?" On the face of it, the question seems simple enough. My answer came readily to my lips. "God called us here." That is when the questions really started flying.
What had been an acceptable, and understandable statement to my friends in Texas, made no sense whatsoever to my friends in New York. They had never heard of any such thing. They asked, "How did He call you? Did you hear His voice? Did it scare you? Did He send an angel? What did He say, exactly?" And on, and on, and on, the questions poured out.
I am a little bit ashamed to say, I wasn't sure how to respond. We were speaking a different language. More than a Texas twang and a Long Island brogue separated us. We were from different worlds. Since that day, I have been intrigued by the way God calls His people to serve Him.
In Acts, the call to serve came directly from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a prayer agent. He interprets our prayers to God, even when they take the form of groanings too deep for words. In turn, the Spirit convicts people of sin, and transforms them by conforming them to the character of Christ.
Though a prayer agent, the Holy Spirit is not a free agent. Nor is the Holy Spirit a junior partner in the Trinity. He is God, The Spirit. He is no less God than, God, The Father and God, The Son, but He glorifies both. His greatest work, may very well be, the influence upon someone to pray, "Not My will, but Thy will be done." This is where The Call begins.
In Acts, it was in the climate of prayer that Barnabas and Saul were "set apart...for the work to which I have called them." v. 2
This climate of prayer is crucial to The Call. Prayerless people do not have their hearts tuned in to the voice of God. Prayerful people hear God call. Prayerless people have the voice of God on MUTE. When He calls they simply do not hear Him.
Set apart carries a positive and a negative connotation. It sometimes means to ostracize someone. It can mean pulling them out of an intimidating situation. It also refers to a special assignment for a specific purpose. Paul spoke of being set apart from his mother's womb by the call of God. So much for that Road to Damascus experience. Paul described his call this way...
"But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,..." Gal. 1:15
The Call is heard best in a climate of prayer, but God is more than able to get a person's attention, where ever he or she may be. The Holy Spirit is not limited by the borders of any state of the union or shocked by any state of rebellion.
The Holy Spirit calls people to die to their own agenda, and to live for Christ. Prayer and fasting loosen one's grip on the call of the world, and open one's heart to receive The Call of God. Do both.
Some people are consumed with The Call of the Wild. Others are comatose from The Call of the Mild. It just doesn't matter to the Holy Spirit. If God calls a person to Himself, the Holy Spirit gives people the courage to get over themselves. Prayerless people, running over a cliff or hiding in the tall grass have two things in common. They are both separated from God's will, and candidates for being set apart for it.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. To hear The Call, first, READ THE WORD, second, LISTEN TO IT, third, OBEY IT.
On a trip through lower Alabama, I passed by an old radio/TV station. The rusted tower, and aged, neon-sign, with the old call letters were no longer sending out signals or guiding people to tune in. They were disconnected, and no longer served their original purpose. I found that image a bit depressing, until I drove down the road a few miles, and saw a new station, taller tower, and different call letters. The message was being sent and received, in a different place, by different announcers to a new audience.
Prayer exchanges your call letters for God's call letters. Prayer doesn't lead you to tune in to others or to have them tune in to you. Prayer tunes people into God, and keeps your life in tune with His. Prayer allows the Holy Spirit the elbow room He desires to have in your life, to transform you into a faithful messenger of God's plan of redemption, and an authentic representative of His Son's character. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!