We are living in difficult times where right has become wrong, light has become darkness, and human life has been declared insignificant. It is a time when we hear people asking the difficult question of "Where is God in all this?" to try and bring comfort for all that is happening. This is not just a question coming from unbelievers, but from believers as well. Many in the church declare it to just be a result of the "end times", but we also need to remember that the disciples also believed that they were in the "end times". That said, there is something very powerful that we can learn from the first century church in how they responded to the "end times" thinking.
Acts 2:42 says "All believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer". Too often, we quote this verse in talking about the dedication the body of Christ had to one another and God. But how often do we see this as an inspiration and call to prayer? If this was the disciple's response to the darkness they faced, how much more should it be ours as well?
Prayer Releases the Presence of God
Many times when we think of prayer, we think of presenting a list of needs to God in hopes that He will be in favor of granting us those needs. Though there is no reason to believe that He would not want to bless us or move on our behalf, this really is not the reason for our prayers! In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray and in doing so, focused on 2 important factors before "having our needs met". He focused on worship ("Hallowed by Your name"), and then focused on bringing "His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
When we take the time to worship the Father, and then transition that into releasing His Kingdom and His will onto the earth as it is in heaven, we are essentially releasing His Presence into difficult and dark situations around the world. As we do this, people or situations that we are praying for begin to experience Joy (Psalm 16:11), Fellowship & Intimacy with the Father, Victory, and Safety & Rest (Psalm 91). Because of His great Light shining around them, the Impossible becomes Possible, Darkness turns to Light, and Fresh Vision is born!
It has often been said that darkness exists due to an absence of light. In a time when darkness keeps getting darker, how much more should we be striving to release His light and presence through daily times of prayer.
Through Prayer We Can Hit the "Bulls-eye"
Did you know that the Hebrew word used in the Bible for Intercessory prayer also means "Bulls-eye"? I have always found this usage of the word very interesting, especially when considering what Paul wrote to the Roman Church in Romans 8:26. "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed on words".
As we look at all that is going on around the world, it can sometimes be overwhelming to even know where to start in regards to prayer. The good news is that we do not need to know where to start or where to end. When we commit our hearts and minds to focusing on Him, He is more than able to lead us straight to the bulls-eye. This can come through simply praying in our prayer language or it can come from just waiting quietly before Him and writing down the thoughts He places in our hearts. Taking these thoughts, we can then begin to pray through them and as we do, we will often find ourselves praying about situations that we may have not been previously aware of.
Prayer Connects Heaven & Earth, Releasing Angelic Activity
In Genesis 28, Jacob has a vision of a ladder extending from heaven to earth with Angels ascending and descending on it. Thousands of years later, Jesus also promises His disciples that they would see the same thing happen. There is no question that involvement of angels in bringing the Father's will to the earth. This is clear all throughout the old testament. However, what is not clear until the new testament is the role that New Testament believers would play in the releasing of those angels.
One of the most famous stories comes from Acts 12. Peter has recently been jailed and was likely going to be sentenced to death so that Herod Agrippa could make an example of him. In verse 5, we read that "the church prayed very earnestly for him". We then see in verse 7 that as Peter was sleeping, a bright light appeared in his jail cell and an angel appeared before him. The angel then awakens him and leads him out of the prison and down the street. Peter finally comes to his senses and in verse 11 says "The Lord has sent his angel and saved me...". Peter then goes to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where "many were gathered for prayer" (verse 12).
Blessing the World Through Prayer
Church, one of our greatest privileges as Christ followers is to be able partner with God to bless the nations. We see God making this promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants would be a special people, a blessing to the world. As Christ followers, we are in His line of descendants and carry that same burden to see His Kingdom come to earth and bless the nations. Prayer is one of the most important weapons that God has given us to push back the darkness. The question now to the church is this..."Are you ready to take on the same mindset as the early church and devote yourselves to prayer? I pray that your answer is a resounding "YES!"