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Rev. Dr. Stuart Robinson is the Senior Pastor at the Blackburn Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia.
Luke 11: 1 - "Lord teach us to pray."
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
Second half of this article
The social impact of reformed lives was incredible.
William Wilberforce, William Pitt, Edmund Bourke, and Charles Fox, all
touched by this movement, worked ceaselessly for the abolition of the
slave trade in 1807. William Buxton worked on for the emancipation of
all slaves in the British Empire and saw it happen in 1834. John Howard
and Elizabeth Fry gave their lives to radically reform the prison
system. Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing. Ashley Cooper, the
seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, came to the rescue of the working poor to
end their sixteen-hour, seven-day-a-week work grind. He worked to stop
exploitation of women and children in coal mines, the suffocation of
boys as sweeps in chimneys. He established public parks and gymnasia,
gardens, public libraries, night schools and choral societies.
The prayer movement had a tremendous impact, but waned until the middle of the 19th century. Then God started something up in Canada, and the necessity to pray was picked up in New York. A quiet man called Jeremiah Lanphier had been appointed by the Dutch Reformed Church as a missionary to the central business district. Because the church was in decline and the life of the city was somewhat similar, he did not know what to do. He was a layman. He called a prayer meeting in the city to be held at noon each Wednesday . Its first meeting was on the 23rd September 1857. Eventually five other men turned up. Two weeks later, they decided to move to a daily schedule of prayer. Within six months, 10,000 men were gathering to pray and that movement spread across America. Surprise, surprise! Within two years there were one million new believers added to the church.
The movement swept out to touch England, Scotland, Wales and Ulster. Ireland was as tough a nut to crack as any. But when news reached Ireland of what was happening in America, James McQuilkan gathered three young men to meet for prayer in the Kells schoolhouse on March 14, 1859. They prayed and prayed for revival within a couple of months a similar prayer meeting was launched in Belfast. By September 21, 20,000 people assembled to pray for the whole of Ireland. It was later estimated that 100,000 converts resulted directly from these prayer movements in Ireland. It has also been estimated that in the years 1859-60 1,150,000 people were added to the church, wherever concerts of prayer were in operation.
Many would be aware of the Welsh Revival this century. lt
commenced in October 1904. It was spontaneous and was characterized by
simultaneous, lengthy prayer meetings. 1n the first two months, 70,000
people came to the Lord. In 1905 in London alone, the Wesleyan
Methodists increased from their base membership of 54,785 by an
additional 50,021 people. Coming closer in time and nearer to Australia,
in the Enga churches in Papua New Guinea there was a desperate spiritual
state 20 years ago. To redress the situation, people there committed
themselves to pray. Prayer meetings began amongst pastors, missionaries
and Bible College students. It spread out to the villages. In some
villages, groups of people agreed to pray together every day until God
sent new life to the church.
Spectacular growth is occurring in Argentina. Jose Luis
Vasquez saw his church explode from 600 to 4,500 with a constituency of
10,000 members in five years following a visit from Carlos Annacondia.
Hector Gimenez started his church from zero in 1983. His congregation
now numbers 70,000. Omar Cabrera started his church in 1972 with 15
members. There is now a combined membership of 90,000 members. Peter
Wagner, who is intensely investigating what lies behind such effective
ministry, has arrived at the conclusion that powerful intercessory
prayer is the chief weapon. Much of it is happening in a Pentecostal,
charismatic environment but the structure or doctrine is not the
essential thing. Walter Hollenwager, a prolific researcher into
Pentecostalism said that for them, from the earliest Pentecostals
onwards, it was more important to pray than to organize (1972:29).
Wherever that principle is invoked, amazing things happen. East Germany
started to form small groups of ten to twelve persons committed to meet
to pray for peace.
Will we "pray the price"?
Today there is great pressure from many directions in our
society to work harder, to become smarter, to produce results, or to be
moved aside. The church in many Western countries is in danger of
absorbing this mentality into its own attitudes and practices,
forgetting that in the divine-human endeavor, success comes not by might
nor by power but by a gracious release of God"s Holy Spirit (Zechariah
4:6). Years ago, R. A. Torrey (1974:190) said, "We live in a day
characterized by the multiplication of man"s machinery and the
diminution of God"s power. The great cry of our day is work, work, work!
Organize, organize, organize! Give us some new society! Tell us some new
methods! Devise some new machinery! But the great need of our day is
prayer, more prayer and better prayer." Friends, in the church in the
west we now have the most up to date, state of the art technology
available to communicate the Gospel.
David Bryant(1984)i Concerts of Prayer Ventura, California: Ventura Paul Y Cho (1984) i Prayer: Key to Revival. Waco, Texas: Word. S D Gordon (1983) "Prayer, the greatest thing; Australia's New Day, April, 40. Walter J Hollenwager (1972) The Pentecostals. Minneapolis, Minnesota:Augsburg. Greg 0"Connor (1990) "Miracles in Cuba; New Day, May. Devid Shibley (1985) i Let"s Pray in the Harvest. Rockwall, Texas: Church on the Rock R A Torrey (1974) i The Power of Prayer. Grand Rapids, Michigan Zondervan. Bob J Whillhite (1988) i Why pray? Altamonte Springs, Florida: Creation House.
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 email@example.com. Source: http://www.globalchristians.org/starterkit/gospel1.htm. Used with permission from John Edmiston - www.globalchristians.org
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