"...While He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove." Luke 3:21
Principle: Prayer precedes and initiates the fresh movement of the Spirit of God in the life of the Christ follower.
Several years ago, I was sharing Christ with a man who appeared to ready to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. We had been talking about this for some time, and yet there was a hesitancy on his part. His heart was open to the truth of the Gospel, and he was aware of his need for Jesus to be his Savior. He paused at the threshold of the door of his heart, and couldn't quite take the step of faith to invite Jesus to come in and take over his life. I was having lunch with him at a Mexican restaurant, one Sunday after church, and I asked him, "Is there any reason why you cannot respond to the voice of Jesus?" He was honest to say, "I don't know if I am ready for graduation." I had never heard this statement before, so I know my response had to be from God. I asked him, "Are you ready for initiation?" His eyes lit up, and he said that he thought he had to know more than he knew, before Jesus would count him worthy to be saved. It was my joy to relate to him that none of us is worthy to be saved. He turned his eyes towards Jesus who was prepared to initiate a new relationship with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. His prayer released a fresh movement of God in his life.
That evening we baptized him and his wife in the lake that is near our church. I found out from them after the baptism service that this was the first time in years that they had been in the lake. His wife told me that one of their grandchildren had drowned in that same lake, and it bore too much trauma and pain for them to ever step into it again. My heart sank. I had no idea that this had happened to them. When I apologized they stopped me. Still wet from the step of obedience they had taken, they said these words to me, "We believe God has taken something that was painful to us, and replaced it with something that was joyful." I had to agree with them. Their smiling faces said it all. God had indeed initiated something new in their lives through the power of prayer. You can't make this stuff up.
Luke's Gospel contains great insight into the prayer life of Jesus. While Jesus was praying, a movement of God was being released into His life that would change the world. The Bible does not record that Jesus was preaching, singing, rehearsing, studying, tithing, serving, teaching, worshiping, fellowshiping, or discipling. He was praying.
When the purpose or the mission of the church is discussed, prayer is rarely given the priority it deserves. To discover what the church should be about, it is safe to look at the life of the founder. Before Jesus began His ministry on earth, He was praying. The very word praying describes an on going process, rather than a one time event. The process of prayer was something Jesus consistently performed in order to prepare Himself for the will of God in His life. From His baptism at the Jordan River to the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke records Jesus was always praying. From cross to His seat at the right hand of the Father, Jesus can be seen as a picture of persistent prayer.
For years, the church has made a priority of everything under the sun except prayer. Men tend to think of it as women's work. Women can certainly do it well, but it doesn't excuse a man from the responsibility. The best way to clear a room in most churches is to call a prayer meeting. Few people attend, and very little is expected to happen by those who show up. What a difference in the life of Jesus. He must cringe when He looks as the schedules of the week posted by churches that call Him Lord. Schedules of the week become the schedules of the weak, when they are not empowered by the Presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.
My father, Don Miller, has a phrase he uses to describe churches that try to keep up appearances. He calls them, "painted fire." He refers to the tendency of churches to put more fire in their logos, and on their websites than they have stirred in the hearts of their people. God forgive us for not taking advantage of the Holy Spirit's desire to be at work in lives of Christ followers. Prayer preceded a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ, and the same will be true in the life of His church.
Prayerless people not only miss out on what God is doing. They miss God. When they leave out prayer, they are left to their own resources. In their zeal to initiate or to sustain some great work for God, they fail to take time to connect with God. It is an act of futility to launch out in the work of the Lord without spending any time with the Lord of the work.
The Practice of Prayer: Place your daily schedule and weekly responsibilities before God in prayer. Take time to write it down in a journal. Getting it off of your mind and on to paper (or into the electronic aid of your choice) is part of the process of prayer. Great men and women of God have used journals of this kind to help them keep track of their prayer life. Create this kind of holy tension in your life every day. You may have so much to do that you resist taking the time to pray about how to do it. This just reveals how much you to need to pray over every single thing, before you take it on in your own strength. Talk less! Pray more! Before you do, pray before!
Thought for the Day: Initiate a fresh movement of God in your life today. Yield control of every area of your life to Him. Ask the Spirit of God to transform your life, home, church, community, and country.
"When God desires to do something, He first sets His people apraying. " Matthew Henry