“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer. From Pentecost to the Haystack meeting in New England and from the days when Robert Morrison landed in China to the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam, prayer has been the source of power and the secret of spiritual triumph.”
For nineteen years, before his death in 1913, Edward McKendree (E.M.) Bounds was known by local , patrolling policemen for his night-praying. When the town was quiet, and most people slept, Bounds would walk around town, pick a house, and pray for hours outside that house. He spent a minimum of three to four hours in prayer every day. He was known to be a man of courage and a man of prayer.
He wrote multiple books on prayer. Currently I am working through The Necessity of Prayer. When I began to think about faith and prayer, I was mainly researching the Bible, concordances, and commentaries. Later, I picked up E.M. Bounds book (approximately two inches thick with eight volumes between the covers!), and was thrilled to see that the first chapter was entitled “Prayer and Faith”! I decided to start studying the book.
That first chapter basically expanded the research I have already done, and confirmed the thoughts I have been trying to process. Here are some of the notes that I took while reading the first chapter “Prayer and Faith”.
- “If doubt be banished from the heart, and unbelief be made a stranger there, what we ask of god shall surely come to pass, and a believer hath vouchsafed to Him, ‘Whatsoever He saith’.” (E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer, p.4)
- Faith is the building block of Christianity. In 2 Peter 1:5-6, Peter says: “Add to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance”, etc.
- “Therefore I say unto you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24
- Jesus told the previously-blind-now-healed-man, “According to your faith, be it unto you.” (Matt. 9:29)
- Faith and prayer can only be expected to work if I am obedient. Faith and obedience CANNOT be separated.
- Faith is often asked to wait. Faith cannot grow disheartened simply because a prayer is not answered.
- When I have to wait, my faith has an opportunity to become stronger.
- When Lazarus died, Jesus delayed going to Martha and Mary. He told his disciples, “For your sakes, I am glad that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe.“
- God sometimes needs plenty of time before answering prayer so that He can teach valuable lessons while I wait.
- My prayer needs to be focused on present things. Those who live in the present time thrive best and get most out of life. God wants to inspire faith that leaves tomorrow in His hands.
- “Faith and prayer select the things, and God commits himself to do the very things that faith and persevering prayer determine and petition Him to accomplish.” (E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer, p.11)
- Faith must be defined and specific–there is nothing wrong with submitting unqualified, unmistakeable requests. Faith should never be a vague, indefinite, shadowy thing. It should not be an abstract belief in God’s willingness and ability to do things for me. I should expect to receive the things I ask for.
- The answers God gives to me will not be something different than I asked for.
- Faith is not believing just anything: it is believing God, resting in Him, and trusting His word.
- I must constantly and consistently guard against unbelief.
- “He that cometh to God must believe. . .that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:7)
- God rewards my diligence, — not just mumbled prayers that come out every few weeks.
- He delights in persistent, intercessory prayer!
And then there are numerous Bible verses that completely illustrate what E.M. Bounds is teaching:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let his ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith with NO DOUBTING. . .[if a man doubts] he shouldn’t believe that he’ll receive anything from the LORD.” (James 1:5-7)
So, is faith more than what I’ve always thought it to be?
“A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the chase, told me the following story: ‘Rising early one morning,’ he said, ‘I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw a young fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover, that its race was well-nigh run. Reaching the rails of the enclosure, it leaped over and crouched within ten feet from where I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, when the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted the little thing to my breast, and swinging round and round, fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its weakness had appealed to my strength.’
So is it, when human helplessness appeals to Almighty God. Well do I remember when the hounds of sin were after my soul, until, at last, I ran into the arms of Almighty God.”
I have started reading small parts of First Corinthians during most of my daily “pray-for-revival” meetings with God. I have been loving those times I have committed to keeping, because I get to spend thirty minutes talking to God and hearing from Him. It’s relaxing and refreshing. It’s so good for me, too, because I am constantly seeing revival needs in my own heart that need Divine Change. And I have never specifically opened the Bible to learn about areas where I and churches need God’s revival.
I just randomly opened my Bible to First Corinthians one afternoon before I prayed. I read a small part where my eyes landed and then thought, “This book would be an excellent book to read through for an idea of ways to pray for revival.” So, that’s what it’s become.
One of the first things that jumped out at me in First Corinthians was this verse:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10 ESV)
I am currently aware of several situations where a church is threatening to split. I hear of churches dividing everywhere, simply because people cannot and will not agree. Visions seem incompatible; some people are going too liberal; the church is too traditional; authority is not respected; the reasons go on and on. The more I hear about the division that happens between “Bible-believing” Christians, the more I am sickened. I have heard multiple accounts of churches losing the respect they had built in their community, because the community saw that the church was divided and people were not actually living like Jesus.
So, I criticise and roll my eyes when I hear about more brewing divisions. I hurt for the people that are placed into the situation with all innocence.
But then I hear how I talk to my family. I hear what I say about other people. I hear my tone of voice. And I forget that my negative words are words that divide.
My attitude comes through in the body language I show when I talk to a person that I have hard time loving. That immediately builds a wall. I forget that people see through me better than I can myself.
My attitude comes out when I make a snide remark about another person. I forget that my attitude becomes the attitude my younger siblings will develop toward that person.
I forget that I am put here on this earth to be a mini-Jesus. Jesus never came to build a church that crumbles because its members can’t agree. He came to create a people for Him, a bride who will be presented faultless before Him at His return.
How can I weed this out of my system? How can we prevent more division in our churches? Here’s what A.W. Tozer says about unity:
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and a higher life.” (A.W. Tozer
I have been thinking about faith, the Holy Spirit, prayer, joy, obedience and surrender.
But mostly prayer and faith.
In a class (studying the book of Acts) that I took at Calvary Bible school this summer (or winter in the States), I learned that God delights in giving people specific callings. And in the Bible, He obviously loves specifics–look at His instructions for building the ark, the tabernacle, etc. Pretty much any instruction that Jesus gave in His teaching was very detailed, very specific.
So, if God loves specifics so much, is there anything wrong with praying very specifically for things that look ridiculously impossible?
Okay, so I often hear myself and others say, “I’d love to blah blah blah, but. . .it’s just a dream. I’m pretty sure it’ll never happen”.
I wonder if God cringes when He hears that, because He loves to give us the desires of our hearts. I wonder if our “impossible” desires are never fulfilled because we treat them as desires that would cost too much to fulfill, or as desires that are just too ridiculously ideal and high-class to expect God to fulfill them. We don’t see any evidence pointing the fulfillment of that desire, so we don’t believe it will be fulfilled. Should we have evidence before we boldly ask God to give us the desires of our heart?
Where does faith come into this whole thing? Is it okay to have faith that God can and will move on my behalf if my desire is not clashing with His Word? If we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move a mountain into the sea (Mt. 17:20). “According to your faith be it unto you” is what Jesus told one guy after giving him sight (Mt. 9:28). In Rom. 14:23, one phrase says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” So, if I pray for something when I really don’t believe that my prayer will be answered, is that sin?
Another thing in Acts is that “faith” and “power” were often characteristics that went together, like, “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great works and miracles among the people”. Is that significant? Can the power of the Holy Spirit really work without faith, and vice versa?
“Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the altar of conformity and popularity.”
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
“When you give honest advice, have one foot out the door.”
“The neglected heart will soon be a heart overrun with worldly thoughts; the neglected life will soon become a moral chaos; the church that is not jealously protected by mighty intercession and sacrificial labors will before long become the abode of every evil bird and the hiding place for unsuspected corruption. The creeping wilderness will soon take over that church that trusts in its own strength and forgets to watch and pray.”