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Saturday, June 30, 2012

There are Giants in the Land

There Are Giants in the Land

God made a promise to the Jewish people-the people He called His own –a promise that He would give them a special land to live in – a land flowing with milk and honey – a Promised Land!  Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation.  And when God called Abraham and asked him to leave his home and his relatives, God promised Abraham that He would lead him to this special Promised Land. This new homeland would belong to him and to his descendants after him. God gave this promise again to Abrahams’ son, Isaac and again to Isaacs’ son, Jacob, who was later given the name “Israel” by God.   Every Jewish child born in the growing tribe of “Israel” learned that God had promised their people a special homeland. 

Jacobs’ large family (the Israelites) had gone to Egypt during a severe famine and had stayed there.  After four hundred years Jacob’s family was still in Egypt and had been forced into slavery by the Egyptians. And by now the Israelites had grown into a nation of about two million people. It was into this mix that God came to Moses and called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and back to their Promised Land. 

Of course the Egyptians did not want to lose their Jewish slaves and Pharaoh refused to allow them to leave Egypt. So God set the Jewish people free by sending plagues and even death (the Passover) upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh finally changed his mind and allowed them to go.  

 The Jewish people were overjoyed and they packed up and left Egypt, but then Pharaoh changed his mind again and sent his armies after them to bring them back. The Jewish people had traveled as far as the Red Sea when they looked back and saw Pharaoh’s armies coming after them.  Terrified, the panic stricken people began crying and screaming. The Red Sea was too deep for them to cross. What were they to do? They were stuck between the Red Sea and the cruel Egyptian armies wielding their spears and swords. Would they all be killed by the soldiers? 

So God performed yet another mighty act and caused a wind to open the Red Sea so that all the Jewish people with their wagons and animals and little children could cross over easily . Then when the Egyptian armies chasing them arrived and started to cross the Red Sea, the winds changed and the waters closed in around them keeping them from capturing the Jews. The Jewish people only had to stand and watch as their God delivered them from the Egyptians by performing one miracle after another.

But Gods’ miracles and protection did not stop for the Jewish nation after He delivered them from Egypt. To reach their promised land the Jewish people had to walk across a hot dry desert- a wilderness- with all their animals and wagons and children. And God was with them every step of the way.  By day God led the people through the wilderness.  His presence was with them in the form of a pillar of cloud and by night God stayed there in their campsite in the form of a pillar of fire.(Exodus 13:21-22)  God gave the Israelites food (manna) (Exodus 16:19-35) every morning and when they couldn’t find enough water He caused water to flow out of a rock.

This was a special time. God was performing miracle after miracle to bring the Jewish people back to their Promised Land. Wouldn’t you like to have been there? If you could take yourself back in time and visit those traveling Jews in the desert you could see for yourself Gods’ presence in the pillar of cloud gently leading the group during the day. And if you camped with them at night  you could look out of  your tent and see Gods’ presence in the pillar of fire standing there in the middle of the campground and you would know that God was there protecting everyone.

 Every morning you could run outside with a basket and gather your food for the day.  God left new  manna for them to eat each morning.-little pieces of sweet bread like dew scattered everywhere on the bushes and rocks.  New manna appeared each morning  month after month – enough for everyone to eat. (Exodus 16)  Everyone could clearly see Gods’ glory right there with them in the camp. And they could see that God was feeding them and providing for their every need.

After many months this large tribe of traveling Jews had finally crossed the desert and was getting near their destination - their Promised Land.  At this point, God told Moses to send twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, into the Promised Land (called Canaan) to check out the land.  So Moses called twelve men, one from each tribe, and sent them to spy out the land and bring back a report of what it was like. The twelve men left and spent forty days spying out the Promised Land, and when they returned to camp all the excited people gathered around to hear what they had to say.

Ten of the twelve men who checked out the land gave the Jewish people a bad report. And only two of the twelve gave a good report. This is what ten men in the group told the Jewish people. “The land truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. (They brought back some of the luscious fruits)  Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large: moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there - who are giants.”  (Numbers 13:27b-28) 

When the people heard this they began to cry and grumble.  Two of the twelve spies- Caleb and Joshua - didn’t agree with the other ten.  Caleb stood before the people and quieted them down and told them: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”  (Numbers 13:30)  Joshua agreed with Caleb and begged the people to trust God and not be afraid of the giants. God had taken care of everything else on their journey- with miracles and mighty acts- so He would take care of any problems they might have with giants as they took over their land.  Joshua and Caleb called upon the people to have faith in God and move forward.    

But ten of the men who had spied out the land disagreed and reported: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.  The land …is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people who we saw in it are giants.  …and we are like grasshoppers next to them.”  (Numbers 13:31b, 32b, 33)

After all that God had done for the Jewish people, taking care of them, and performing miracle after miracle to bring them this far, surely the people would trust God to take them on into their promised land!  But sadly Scripture says that the crowd listened to the ten men who scared them with stories of giants. And they forgot that God had always been there for them in power.  All night long the people cried and wept.  They complained against Moses and Aaron and against God and said to one another: “Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims?  Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?...Let us select another leader and return to Egypt.?  (Numbers 14:3-4)  They all refused to trust God and move ahead and instead decided to select another leader to take them back to Egypt and slavery. 

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes.  Then Joshua stood up and pleaded once more with the crowd.  But they all started shouting frantically and running at him, grabbing stones to stone him.  As the crazed crowd circled around Joshua to kill him, God showed up. “The glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all of the children of Israel.” (Numbers 14:10b)

And God was angry.  He spoke to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me?  How long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?”  (Numbers 14:11)  God said that He would disinherit the Jewish people and make Moses’ children into His people.  And amazingly Moses argued back with God and begged Him to give the Jewish people another chance. And then even more amazingly, God listened to Moses, and changed His mind. 

Since the Jewish nation had refused to trust God and go into their land, God gave them what they wanted.  God promised that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years.  He promised that all of the adults who had voted against going into the land would never go into the land.  And after they had all died (over the next forty years) out in the desert then their children would go into the land.

 And that is what happened. After forty years the generation who refused to trust God was all gone.  The ten men who checked out the land and didn’t trust God but stirred up the people with talk of giants – all ten got sick and died.  Only Joshua and Caleb, the two men who encouraged the people to trust God – lived and later led the next generation of Jews (the children of the faithless generation) into their land.

This is one dramatic Bible story. What can we learn from it?  The Jewish people in the story only focused on the giants and seemed to forget their God. They feared that they would fight the giants in their own strength. God was angry with their lack of trust in Him.  Because of their lack of faith in God they never entered the Promised Land.  Their unbelief left them in the wilderness.

Do we have impossible circumstances (giants) in our lives?  And are we afraid that we will have to fight our giants all alone in our own strength?  Are we like the Jewish people and forget that God is there with us? That prayer changes things? Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrew 11:6)  Faith in God is all important. God has so many good plans for our lives.  He wants to lead us into the Promised Land.  But we need to trust Him.  Let’s learn to trust God with our giants.  We don’t want to be left wandering in the wilderness.










Monday, June 25, 2012

My Christian Journey

Each of us who believe that Christ is our Savior has our own individual story – or journey- of how we came to Christ.  How we became a Christian and how we crossed over the line from unbelief to belief, from doubting to faith!  Even if that faith was small when we first believed. (Jesus said that we only need a small amount of faith – the size of a mustard seed! – Matthew 7:20) There are so many enemies to the Christian faith.  So many things that can stand in the way!  The Bible tells us that God sends the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. (Romans 8:13-14)  But of course we can resist. You have your exciting story – your Christian journey and I have mine.  And of course there is much in our stories of how we came to Christ that we probably don’t see or understand – that only God sees and knows. 

Here is one Christians’ (my husbands’) story of how he crossed over the line from being an “agnostic” to becoming a Christian.

My Christian Journey
Brendan F. J. Furnish

I was born into a Roman Catholic family and grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Boston.  My father was a serious practicing Catholic, while my mother was a very nominal Catholic.  She seldom attended Mass, although she always referred to Protestants as “damn Protestants.”

My mother went to work when I was six years old, leaving my live-in grandmother to take care of me. Grandmother Mary was a war widow, who migrated from Ireland with her young son (my Dad) to America. She was a fanatical Irish Catholic, who taught me Catholic doctrine with a vengeance.

My grandmother was also a deeply mystical person, with a strong knowledge of practical theology.  She would talk to me for hours about spiritual issues (although I did not grasp the full import of this at the time.)  I still vividly recall her story about the encounter of King Canute and the old woman who was trying to sweep away the sea.  This was her illustration concerning the mystery of the Trinity. 

 I had to attend each and every “holy day of obligation,” as well as all the innumerable novenas that Saint Mary’s Catholic Church offered.  Onerous as this was there was a beneficial aspect to all of this. There was a seemingly self satisfied feeling after performing all of these works.-  a coming to God through a system of works rather than by grace.


My grandmother died when I was fourteen.  Despite the best efforts of my father, I began to lose interest in the Catholic Church.  By the time I was sixteen, I viewed God as “an old man in a nightgown” who was trying to spoil my fun. I had no real knowledge of who Jesus Christ was.

 I was seventeen years old when Pope Pius X11 brought out the birth control encyclical.  I had just learned about the population explosion problem in the world. and I realized that this new policy condemned millions of Catholic couples to poverty and I was enraged.   This was one of several things that led me to question my Catholic faith. I also began to question a lot of the superstitions held in Catholicism.  On my eighteenth birthday I became a publicly declared agnostic.  In retrospect, I did this because I was bored with my church and because being an agnostic seemed to be intellectually fashionable.  At this point in my life, I had no real idea about the significance of Christ. 

I went off to the University, where I had a difficult time as a freshman, eventually dropping out.  Because the draft board was breathing down my neck I joined the Army Reserve and spent some time on active duty.  After my active duty stint I worked at Varian Associates as a technician and then moved to Stanford University where I became an operator on the Linear Accelerator (e.g. an “atom smasher”).  This allowed me to work night shifts and go back to college during the day.

While at college I met my future wife.  She was a Baptist, and a pretty fundamentalist one at that.  I didn’t give that too much thought, except to occasionally tell her that she was a religious fanatic.  My parents were none too pleased that I had married a “damn protestant,” but quickly accepted her into the family. 

Our early life together as a married couple was difficult.  I worked full-time and carried a full load in college and was also in the army reserve.  I soon became a father but I loved my wife and children so the difficulties seemed not particularly onerous.  I also was flying for the Civil Air Patrol. 

My wife was concerned about my salvation, although I didn’t give it a thought.  She would talk to me about spiritual things, but I tended to discount what she said as the ravings of a religious zealot.  I had become very interested in positivism and the philosophy of science, so I was now viewing all “religious” ideas as “pseudo constructs.”  My wife went to a nearby Baptist church: I never went with her to services, but occasionally went to church socials.  As a consequence I got acquainted with the young pastor there at her church.  Unbeknownst to me, my wife had been praying for my salvation since we had been married. 

I became the Executive Officer of the Civil Air Patrol squadron that I flew with.  We needed a Chaplain, so I recruited my wife’s pastor, and he took that opportunity to engage me in spiritual dialogues.  Concomitant with this, other spiritual events began to occur in my life.  I was attending San Francisco State College, where I encountered a student who literally became a “fool for Christ.”  (1 Cor.4:10), in her defense of Scripture in my class.  This incident led me to check Biblical references whenever they were given in class lectures, which occurred more frequently than one would imagine.  Around this time my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, causing me to again begin to seriously consider the afterlife in more than a cursory manner.

These and other event coalesced to lead me to a somewhat Pauline conversion.  My wife’s pastor continued witnessing to me and answering my spiritual questions. As a consequence, after some months of struggle, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in the pastor’s study.  And I began to grow rapidly in the Lord.  I voraciously read the Bible and other evangelical literature. Several years later I became a professor at a Christian College in Santa Barbara, California. I have since then had many struggles persevering in my faith in the crucible of academia – even within the confines of a Christian college.  My faith has matured and I am at peace with the Lord.   

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

It was a lazy summer evening and my Grandmother and I were sitting out on her porch swing rocking back and forth.  I would ask her one question after another and my Grandmother always had time to answer my questions and tell me stories.   I was ten years old and I loved listening to my Grandmother’s stories. The porch fan was humming and whirring and the crickets were chirping in the warm night air.

The old woman living next door hobbled out on her porch and waved at us.  “Has she always lived next door to you?” I asked my Grandmother.   “No, she moved here thirty years ago after Blanche and Hugh left,” my Grandmother answered.  “Tell me about Blanche and Hugh,” I begged.  And that’s when my Grandmother told me a story I have never forgotten.

Blanche and Hugh had moved in next door to my Grandmother as newlyweds in the 1920’s and appeared to be deeply in love.  They joined my Grandmother’s Presbyterian church where Hugh became a deacon and Blanche taught Sunday school and cared for the babies in the nursery.  Times were difficult during the days of the Great Depression and homeless men often went door to door begging for food.  And Blanche was always there to give a hot meal to each hungry person who came to her door. 

Blanche was a good Christian: she and my Grandmother became best friends. As the years passed, the couple had three children and Blanche became a devoted stay at home mother. As time passed Hugh was becoming more successful in his business.  He was making more money now and not always coming home at night after work.  Blanche would wait up and worry. 

My Grandmother began to hear fighting next door - Hugh yelling and Blanche crying.  And when my Grandmother would see Blanche, her face would be swollen and there would be cuts and bruises on her body. Hugh had become involved with his attractive young secretary. He deserved a better woman than Blanche and he told everyone that she was insane.

Hugh was furious when the courts ordered him to pay child support. As soon as the divorce was final he arranged for a friend to “kidnap” the children for him so that he wouldn’t have to pay.  One day the children were stolen from their mother right  in their own front yard as they were playing.  My Grandmother heard their screams as they were being carried away.  Blanche ran frantically after the car in a futile attempt to rescue her children. But for years Blanche did not know where her children were or even if they were alive.

Day after day my Grandmother would watch from her window as Blanche walked the streets desperately searching for her missing children.  My Grandmother cried and prayed with her.  Divorce was considered a major sin, especially for a woman in the 1920’s and Blanche was not welcome at her church any longer.  As a divorced woman many of her old church friends shunned her. Her children and her church had been Blanches’ whole life and now she was alone and destitute.  Hugh spread gossip around that she had lost her mind. (a stigma at that time)

Years later Blanche discovered where Hugh had been keeping her children.  It had been such a long time that she had been searching for them.  With tears of joy running down her face, she ran to her children with her arms outstretched.   But the children screamed and ran away from their mother, refusing to see her.  Hugh had spent the years telling the children that Blanche was a bad person. That she was insane and dangerous.  He had filled their young minds with fear and hate for the mother who loved them so. Blanche sank into a deeper depression and moved away. The story ended as my Grandmother told me that she never saw Blanche again after that. 

My Grandmother stopped talking and for a long time we both sat together on the porch in the darkness not saying a word.  Finally I broke the silence: “But you said that Blanche was a good person – a Christian?”  “Yes,” she answered.  “You have to understand that bad things happen to Christians and bad things happen to good people.”

The Bible tells us that if we are Christians we will have to take up our cross and follow Christ. (Matthew 16:24)  Bad things will happen to us and we will share in Christ’s sufferings.  We skip over those many scriptures that warn us that we will be persecuted – that bad things will happen.  But they are there. 

Jesus tells us: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you..  Remember …a servant is not greater than his master.  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”  (John 15:18-20)

Jesus seems to be saying that when we belong to Him we belong to His kingdom.  He takes us out of this world and we don’t belong anymore. We won’t “fit” into the worlds’ mold and that is why we will be persecuted. He even tells us that sometimes we won’t even “fit” into our own families because of Him.  (Matthew 10:37) Even our own parents or children may reject us.  What a price to have to pay!

And when a rich young man asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered: “Go sell all you have and come and follow Me,” (Mark 10:21) The rich young man went away sorrowing.  The price was too high.

It sounds like following Jesus is costly.  There is a huge price to pay.  Jesus seemed to be saying to the rich young man (and to us) “Go sell your security.  Put Me first.  First before career, money, reputation. Let your egoistic patterns pass away – all the things you cling to for meaning, success, validation.  Give up the image you have of yourself – the ones others have of you too.  Let them all die.” Jesus is telling us that all who follow Him will participate in change.  And those who participate in change will participate in death.

 Are we willing to let go and let God – die to self – participate in His death.  Be crucified with Him?  It’s a lot to ask.  The rich young man wasn’t willing to pay the price.  Are we?        




Sunday, June 10, 2012

God Will Answer "Yes" to These Prayers - According to the Bible

God Will Answer “Yes” to These Prayers – According to the Bible

Scripture says: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the answers that we have asked of Him.”   (1 John 5:14-15)

In this Scripture and in many others, we are given the promise that if we pray for something that is Gods’ Will; God will give us what we ask!  When Jesus was teaching his disciples (and us) how to pray, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer.  In this prayer, Jesus taught this same truth as He prayed: “Your (Gods’) will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)  

Scripture tells us that heaven is a place where God’s will is accomplished – a good place where there is no sin and no death.  Isn’t Jesus teaching us that we should pray that God’s will be accomplished here on earth too?  Since everyone will love  God in heaven we can pray that a family member or friend will come to love God here on earth.  And we can know that it is God’s will that the one we pray for loves Him.  So we know that we are praying according to His will.    

 These scriptures tells us that if we ask in faith for something that is Gods’ will, then we can count on receiving what we have asked for.  That’s a heavy promise- but that’s what the Good Book says.  But there is no promise in Scripture as to how long it may take for our prayers to be answered.  We all want our prayers to be answered quickly. It could take years (centuries) for the answer to arrive – maybe a life time to wait while the “answer is on the way.”  

Let’s read James 4:2-3.  “You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.”  Isn’t this passage saying that we may not get some of our prayers answered if we ask God to give us things we want that aren’t in His will?  We need to learn to subordinate our wishes to His will?

How do we know what is God’s will anyway?  Scripture says that the Holy Spirit guides us to know the mind of the Father.  And also I would say that we can know much of God’s will by studying the Bible since the Bible is another way that God speaks.  We can listen to what God may want to say to us as we read and study the Bible.  Psalm 119:11 says; “I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.”  When we study the Bible (Gods’ Word) we learn what God says about an activity or a relationship and we can obey what He commands.

 We read the Ten Commandments in the Bible (Exodus 20) and we find that we are commanded to honor our parents.  (Fifth Commandment)  We may have excuses for not treating our parents with respect, but this commandment in the Bible brings us back to reality.  And we may have never thought that if we want (desire) something that doesn’t belong to us that that is wrong.  That is until we read the Tenth Commandment, where we are commanded not to covet (want, desire) anything that belongs to other people.  In these cases God’s Word becomes a lamp for our feet and a light on our path as we walk through this life.  (Psalm 119:105)

These passages in the Bible about praying in Gods’ will make our prayer relationship with God sound simple.  But then there are more Biblical teachings about prayer that we need to consider too.  Scripture tells us that unbelief and a lack of faith can be a hindrance to our prayer and to our relationship with God. James 1:6 reads:  “Let him ask in faith without doubting…”  

We can ask God to give us more faith in Him.  I like the prayer in Scripture; “I believe, please God, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) And the Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God,(Romans 10:17) so we should spend time in Bible study, since our faith grows by “feeding on the Word.”  We need to feed the soul as well as the body, and God’s Word is food for our souls. Worshiping and praying with other believers helps our faith to grow as well.  We need to take care of our precious faith.    

Another hindrance to prayer is sin.  If we cling to our stubborn pride or our sin it can hinder our prayer life and our relationship with God.  Psalm 66:18 reads: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened to my prayer.”  We can pray and ask God to reveal any sin or broken relationship that we need to attend to.  And if He reveals something, we can confess that sin and repent.

 Of course we will never be sinless, but we can turn from the sins that God shows us.  We need to be humble and willing to follow where He leads.  So when we enter into Gods’ presence to pray we need to enter humbly before Him with faith in Him and with a repentant heart.  And then we can pray in agreement with His will and know that we will have the answers.    

Years ago I knew a loving Christian woman whose husband was an agnostic.  This woman began to pray for the salvation of her husband, but nothing happened.  She prayed and she prayed for him but still there was no change.  Years passed and she stood on the promises in Scripture that if she asks anything according to God’s will, He would answer. And she also clung to the passages that tell us that it is always His will for a person to have eternal life.

 Forty long years went by and she continued praying and believing and waiting for her husband to come to Christ.  And her agnostic husband continued holding tightly to his unbelief and nothing seemed to change.  But one day the husband surprised everyone and announced that he would go to church with his praying wife. And not long after that he accepted Christ as his Savior and his whole life changed.  The wife’s many prayers were finally answered and her joy was over the top.  But she waited forty years to see her prayers answered. 

 This woman explained to me that because she knew that it was Gods’ will that every person have eternal life she could continue praying and waiting, knowing that her prayers for her husband would be answered.  She said that when she would get discouraged she would read the many passages in Scripture that say that God wants everyone to know Him and come to eternal life.   One such passage is: “The Lord is …not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)

I was young when I heard this story, and this older woman and her prayer life was an inspiration to me.  I wanted to learn to stand on the promises in the Bible like she had done.  I too began to pray for things to happen that I knew were in God’s Will and I began to wait for the answers that I knew would eventually come.  Many of my prayers have been answered miraculously.  But some are still on the way.  And I’ve been waiting twenty-five years for one desperate prayer to be answered.  

 It’s an exciting way to live - wondering how the answers to our prayers will come. Waiting and anticipating!  And then over the top rejoicing when our prayers are finally answered!  We have a generous heavenly Father who loves to give His children good gifts.  And we have a wonderful loving God who wants us to ask so that we may receive and to knock so that He may open the door.  We are so very blessed!       

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Praying Together

Praying Together

Something new and strange was beginning to happen.   The year was 1744 and   some of the members of the churches around Scotland along with their pastors began feeling a burden for people they had only heard about in far away countries!  People they had never met - who were trapped in cycles of hopelessness, poverty and immorality. There was so much evil and injustice in the world and so many people in distant lands who had never heard the gospel!  Why were so many Christians in Scotland beginning to care about these things?  Was this their own doings or was God putting these burdens on their hearts?  

And then their own Scottish churches were not doing well either.  The preaching seemed dry and church members argued and lacked love for one another.  Did they need a revival?  Was God leading them to pray for the outpouring of the life of the Holy Spirit into the world around them and into their dead churches?

So many of the pastors in Scotland got together and decided to call their people to set aside time on Saturday evening or Sunday morning every week for prayer in private groups or public meetings or individually.  The proposal also invited church members to set aside a whole day the first Tuesday of each quarter for prayer.  If urgent circumstances prevented a person’s attendance at one of these prayer meetings, then the individual was encouraged to devote the next available day to private prayer. 

For two years many of the Christians in Scotland got together in prayer groups in their churches and prayed each week as their pastors had asked them to do.  And their dead churches seemed to come alive as church members who had criticized one another, now learned to love each other as they continued praying together.

Things went so well in Scotland that after two years the Scottish pastors sent a proposal to fellow ministers abroad to join them in prayer.  As a result, prayer concerts began to spread to England, Wales, Ireland and North America as well.  Christians everywhere were praying in unison that the Holy Spirit would be poured down upon them and their churches and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be spread around the world.

By 1792 the “Second Great Awakening” began to break out in England.  Word of this revival spread across the Atlantic Ocean and by 1797 revival fires began to break out in the United States.  A strong spirit of love and sharing spread throughout the churches.  Everywhere Christian outreaches were being established to help the poor and sick and needy.  The hope was contagious and millions of people came to Christ.

 One of the lasting benefits of this united prayer movement was the development of the modern missions’ movement.  Christians had been praying for “the spread of the Gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe,” and in 1784 the English Baptist Missionary Society was organized and the first missionaries were sent to India.  And other mission organizations soon followed.  Actually throughout history every major mission’s movement has been preceded by a corresponding major prayer movement. It seemed as though that was how God got things done!

The very first Christian church in Jerusalem (made up of the followers of Jesus and new converts after Jesus ascended to heaven) spent much of their time together in prayer.  “All these were continually united in prayer.”  (Acts 1:14)   and “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers,” (Acts 2:42) 

And there was great power in the prayers of the Christians in that very first church.  Scripture tells of many healings and miracles that occurred through the fervent prayers of these first Christians as they prayed together. Thousands of people came to Christ and were converted through the prayers and witness of those early Christians. 

When Peter was thrown into prison in Jerusalem, those same Christians got together and prayed day and night begging God for his release.  “Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church.”  (Acts 12:5)  And because of their prayers, an angel appeared to Peter in the prison.  When Peter saw the angel his chains fell off and the angel led him past the barred gates (the gates opened) and the prison guards (dazed guards) and out to safety.  Peter was freed from prison miraculously because a group of Christians earnestly prayed together. 

As you can see, there is great power in the prayers of Christians when they come together to pray.  Jesus promises us Christians a special presence when we gather together to pray. Matthew 18:19-20 reads: “I assure you; If two of you on earth agree about any matter that pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among you.” 

Of course there is power in just one Christian praying in faith. “…the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous person avails much” (James 5:16) But we shouldn’t neglect the habit of praying together.  Nearly all of Jesus’ teachings on prayer focus on corporate or group prayer.  Once when Jesus went to the temple He saw people buying and selling animals right there in the temple.  Jesus was so upset that He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove these people out.  He reprimanded them with these words: “It is written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”  (Luke 19:46)

Scripture tells us that our Christian fellowships – our churches- should be houses of prayer.  (Isaiah 56:7)  And yet many churches today do not even have prayer meetings or schedule times when church members can gather to pray. A church must be a house of prayer, or it may begin to oppose God and what He wants to accomplish.  (Taken from “Pray in Faith,” p.30 by T.W. Hunt and Claude King )

Is your church a “house of prayer”?  If it isn’t, perhaps God is calling you to pray for your church that the Holy Spirit will be poured out into your church.  And that God will open doors and lead your church members into learning how to pray together.  Do you have another person or a group that you can pray with often?  If you don’t, can you ask God to help you find such a person or group – or start a prayer group yourself? 

Today our world is in desperate straits.  There are so many people and situations around us that need our prayers.  And we are not helpless.  Our Christian faith is not a fatalistic faith.  We never need to say:” Whatever will be, will be!”  God wants us to be active – not passive. He has given us an invitation to to work with Him and make a difference in our world.  He has placed a powerful weapon in our hands to do the job – the weapon of prayer. I believe God is looking for Christians that will pray together for the needs that are all around them- for Christians that will stand in the gap. Will you be one of them?  Will you answer the call?