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Revd Dr Stuart Robinson is the Senior Pastor at the Blackburn Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia.
Luke 11: 1 - "Lord teach us to pray."
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In 1952 Albert Einstein was asked by a Princeton doctoral student what was left in the world for original dissertation research Einstein replied, "Find out about prayer". English preacher Sidlow Baxter, when he was eighty-five years of age, said, "I have pastored only three churches in my more than sixty years of ministry. We had revival in every one. And not one of them came as a result of my preaching. They came as a result of the membership entering into a covenant to pray until revival came. And it did come, every time (Willhite 1988:111).
Chaplain of the United States Senate, Richard Haiverson, advised that we really don"t have any alternatives to prayer. He says, You can organize until you are exhausted. You can plan, program and subsidize aIl your plans. But if you fail to pray it is a waste of time. Prayer is not optional. It is mandatory. Not to pray is to disobey God" (Bryant 1984:39).
Roy Pointer, after extensive research in Baptist churches in the United Kingdom, anived at the conclusion that wherever there was positive growth, there was one recurring factor: they were all praying churches.
In the United States of America, at Larry Leas Church on the Rock in Rockwall, Texas, numerical growth was from 13 people in 1980 to 1 l,000 people by 1988. When he was asked about such amazing growth, he said "I didn't start a church - I started a prayer meeting". When David Shibley, the minister responsible for prayer in that church was asked the secret of the church, he said, "The evangelistic program of the church is the daily prayer meeting. Every morning, Monday through Friday, we meet at 5:00 a.m. to pray. If we see the harvest of conversions fall off for more than a week, we see that as a spiritual red alert and seek the Lord" (Shibley 1985:7).
In Korea, where the church has grown from almost zero to a projected 50% of the population in this century alone, Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho attributes his church's conversion rate of 12,000 people per month as primarily due to ceaseless prayer.
In Korea it is normal for church members to go to bed early so they can arise at 4 a.m. to participate in united prayer. lt is normal for them to pray all through Friday nights. lt is normal to go out to prayer retreats.
Cho says that any church might see this sort of phenomenal growth if they were prepared to "pray the price; to "pray and obey." Cho was once asked by a local pastor why was it that Cho s church membership was 750,000 and his was only 3,000 when he was better educated, preached better sermons and even had a foreign wife ? Cho enquired, "How much do you pray? The pastor said "Thirty minutes a day." To which Cho replied, "There is your answer. I pray three to five hours per day."
In America one survey has shown that pastors on average pray 22 minutes per day. In mainline churches, it is less than that. In Japan they pray 44 minutes a day, and China 120 minutes a day. It"s not surprising that the growth rate of churches in those countries is directly proportional to the amount of time pastors are spending in prayer.
Growth - a Supernatural Process
The church is a living organism. It is God"s creation with Jesus Christ
as its head (Colossians I:18). From Him life flows (John I4:6). We have
a responsibility to cooperate with God (1 Corinthians 3:6). We know that
unless the Lord build our house we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). The
transfer of a soul from the kingdom of darkness to that of light is a
spiritual supernatural process (Colossians I : 14). It is the Father who
draws (John 6:44). It is the Holy Spirit who convicts (John 16:8-1 I ).
He causes confession to be made (1 Corinthians 12:3). He completes
conversion (Titus 3:5). It is the Holy Spirit who also strengthens and
empowers (Ephesians 3:16). He guides into truth (John 16:16). He gives
spiritual gifts which promote unity (I Corinthians I2:25), building up
the church (1 Corinthians 14:12), thus avoiding disunity and strife
which stunt growth. This is fundamental spiritual truth accepted and
believed by all Christians.
Obviously God wants our pastors, other leaders and His people to
recognize that only He can do extra-ordinary things. When we accept that
simple premise, we may begin to pray. b In the Bible The battle which
Joshua won, as recorded in Exodus 17:8-13 was not so dependent upon what
he and his troops were doing down on the plain. It was directly
dependent upon Moses prayerful intercession from on top of a near by
hill with the support of Aaron and Hur. In the Old Testament, not
counting the Psalms, there are 77 explicit references to prayer. The
pace quickens in the New Testament. There are 94 references alone which
relate directly to Jesus and prayer. The apostles picked up his theme
and practice. So Paul says, "Pray continually, for this is God"s will
for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16)Peter urges believers to be "clear minded
and self controlled" so they can pray. (1 Peter 4:7).
When we read the biographies of William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David
Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, or whomever, the initiating thrust of the
work of their lives began in prayer encounters. About a century ago,
John R. Mott led an extraordinary movement which became known as the
Student Christian Movement. It was based among college and university
students. It supplied 20,000 career missionaries in the space of thirty
years. John Mott said that the source of this amazing awakening lay in
unified intercessory prayer. It wasn't just that these missionaries were
recruited and sent out in prayer; their work was also sustained through
Luther, Calvin, Knox, Latimer, Finney, Moody, all the "greats of God practiced prayer and fasting to enhance ministry effectiveness. John WesIey was so impressed by such precedents that he would not even ordain a person to ministry unless he agreed to fast at least until 4.00 p.m. each Wednesday and Friday. Yonggi Cho (1984:103) says, Normally I teach new believers to fast for three days. Once they have become accustomed to three-day fasts, they will be able to fast for a period of seven days. Then they will move to ten-day fasts. Some have even gone for forty days." These people seem to have latched onto something which here in Australia we hardly know anything about. We are so busy, so active. We try so hard to get something good up and running. But it doesn't seem to grow much or permanently change many lives. Why? Is it that the ground in Australia is too hard? Compared to other times and places, this could hardly be so.
For example, back in the eighteenth century things didn't look good.
Eighteenth century France was working through its bloody revolution, as
terroristic as any of the modern era. America had declared its Rights of
Man in 1776. Voltaire was preaching that the church was only a system of
repression for the human spirit. Karl Marx would later agree. A new
morality had arisen. Amongst both sexes in all ranks of society
Christianity was held in almost universal contempt. Demonic forces seem
to have been unleashed to drive the church out of existence. In many
places it was almost down and out. Preachers and people would be pelted
with stones and coal in places in England if they dared to testify to
Jesus Christ in public. But even before those satanic forces
collaborated to confound and confuse it appears that the Holy Spirit had
prepared His defense, like a plot out of some Peretti novel.
Copyright Stuart Robinson. First published by the Australian Baptist Missionary Society, 1992. Used by permission
This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at firstname.lastname@example.org. Source: http://www.globalchristians.org/starterkit/gospel1.htm. Used with permission from John Edmiston - www.globalchristians.org
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