Thanks for meeting us at the prayer circle.
Thanks for meeting us at the prayer circle.
Jesus Christ obviously present and actively in charge is our promise for life’s ultimate fulfillment, because our life is replaced by His life (Jesus at the table—Revelation 2 and 3).
Every one of us could chuckle at the ways we have looked for fulfillment. My list of notable “fulfillers” starting with childhood would include: playing with my dog “Ring,” sandbox farm implements under the big maple by the well, driving a team of horses, riding my pony pretending to be Roy Rogers (the king of cowboys) or Zorro, or running out to warm up before grade school basketball games. Later it was getting my driver’s license, having a car and a girlfriend. On the farm, it was driving heavy equipment, watching the diesel smoke roll, and smelling freshly plowed soil or fresh cut hay.
As life goes along, fulfillment becomes having a wife and children and enough money to pay bills and finally retirement. Even in gospel ministry, we can seek satisfaction from big audiences or busy programs with the hope that something’s happening. All of these can become subtle substitutes for the one thing that really satisfies and that is being transformed in the presence of Jesus. I love Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
For those readers who may think I am a hopeless mystic, this part may encourage you. Those who know me know that I love expository preaching that presents a clear message from the interpretation of a scripture in its context. I am not a mystic, but I am trying to understand the mystery of Christ in us the hope of glory. So, take heart and let me rush to the believer’s ultimate privilege in the presence of Jesus.
First of all, let me say, prayer will always be boring and powerless if it’s only a monologue, i.e., us talking to God. Oh, the dread of my early experience in prayer meetings. After a Bible study, prayer requests, mostly outer man needs, would go on and on. We would break into groups—men with men and women with women. The men would pray around the circle basically repeating all the same requests with varying clichés. They talked and repeated and informed God of all these things that He evidently wasn’t aware of—all with our heads bowed and eyes closed! I still don’t like it to be that way. Prayer is meant to be a dialogue where listening to God becomes as much a part as talking to God. Praying for the strength of the inner man is always better than just praying for the healing of the outer man. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear” (Proverbs 18:14).
Secondly, the best way to listen to God is through His written Word. We pray best with our Bibles open—and maybe with our eyes open! Why not? Let’s say our church is praying about the marriages of our families. Why not open our Bibles to classic passages on marriage and formulate prayers from the verses in front of us?
Why not take time in prayer meetings to write prayers on 3×5 cards, then read our freshly crafted thoughts back to God in the hearing of our fellow prayer warriors? It sure beats vain repetition and shallow thoughts off the top of our heads.
I heard one Bible teacher say, “If I pray from my mind, I generally pray for only a few minutes. If I pray from my heart, I can pray longer. If I pray from Scripture, I can pray all day.” How true. I used to think Bible study and prayer had to be two separate things. For many years now, I have lumped them together, meditating on the text and praying for it to be true of my life and the life of our church. I truly pray best with my Bible open.
Finally, if done right, we will be transformed in the place of prayer. To be like Him is the goal and privilege of our praying. The entrance of God’s Word gives light and understanding (Psalm 119:130). Here’s a verse I cherish that gives me great hope for my life and our churches. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Warren Wiersbe says it best. “When the child of God looks into the Word of God and sees the Son of God, he is changed into the image of God, by the Spirit of God for the glory of God.”
Here’s the point. Humbly praying Scripture back to the Lord transforms the individual and the church who practices the same. Our wandering hearts are most satisfied when we realize that our metamorphosis results in our life being replaced by His. Beholding our transformation is life’s ultimate fulfillment. This is what happens when we pray and humbly engage the Scriptures with Christ obviously present and actively in charge. If believers and churches want to change, this is where it starts. Transformation and ongoing revival can be the experience of any church who humbly prays with Bibles open.
Those sad and confused disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) were empowered with burning hearts (v. 32) because Jesus began at Moses and the prophets and explained all the Scriptures concerning Himself. He opened the Scriptures to them. Soon they would join with the others and be used to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). This Jesus is the foremost reason for being an intentional part of the prayer life of your church. When He is, we too can see Him with the eye of the Spirit and are being changed by the saving life of Christ. When we know Him, see Him, are changed by Him, the fullness of joy launches us out from the inside of our hearts to talk about Him.
Joe Humrichous is the executive director of Paradigm One and Bible Prayer Fellowship. The message of the sufficiency of Christ for both the pastor and the local church was birthed during a time of brokenness in his early ministry. Now after 50 years in ministry, Joe is passionate to share this reality as it applies to corporate prayer and church leadership. He recently served as a pastor at First Baptist Church in Covington, Indiana. He and his wife Teresa have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.