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Pray for the Mission in 2016

6:30 pm | Last Sunday of Each Month

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6)

pray for the mission 2016 pptGod has given his church a mission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). This of course means faithful and clear proclamation of the gospel. It means loving our neighbors in sacrificial and tangible ways. It means a willingness to give, send, and go to the nations. But underneath and overtop of all these things, it means that we must be a people of prayer. Prayer is the church’s most important work.

If we are to have any hope at making disciples, any success in seeing the lost reached for Christ, any lasting growth in our own lives spiritually, the first and foremost thing that must happen is that we must pray.

Why We Pray

1. Because God is God and we are not.

The first reason we must devote ourselves to prayer is because God is God and we are not. Tim Keller writes in his book on prayer:

The Bible is all about God, and that is why the practice of prayer is so pervasive throughout its pages. The greatness of prayer is nothing but an extension of the greatness and glory of God in our lives. . . . To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule—it is a failure to treat God as God.[1]

Prayer begins by admitting that we’re not in control of the world. That there is someone over us, above us, stronger than us, wiser than us, someone who is in control of us and the world around us, and if something is going to happen, it will only happen according to his will and power. When we fail to pray and choose instead to walk in our own power, our own strength, according to our own wisdom and ability (and therefore often for our own ends), we are failing to treat God as God.

J.I. Packer writes,

In prayer, you ask for things and give thanks for things. Why? Because you recognize that God is the author and source of all the good that you have had already, and all the good that you hope for in the future. This is the fundamental philosophy of Christian prayer. The prayer of the Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helplessness and dependence. When we are on our knees, we know that it is not we who control the world; it is not in our power, therefore, to supply our needs by our own independent efforts. Every good thing that we desire for ourselves and for others must be sought from God, and will come, if it comes at all, as a gift from His hands. . . In effect, therefore, what we do when we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty.[2]

2. Because God is at Work through Us

Second, we give ourselves to prayer because our sovereign God is at work through us. He has given us a mission, to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus among all nations. But he has not sent us out to complete this mission on our own. He sends us in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2) with the promise that he will be faithful to complete his plan in the end (cf. Rev. 7:9-10). God is the one at work through us in the mission he has given us (cf. 1 Thess. 1:5). So we must pray.

We see this priority in Paul’s own life and mission. He writes to the church in Colossae: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (4:3-4).

Paul recognizes that God is God and he is not, even when it comes to the salvation of others. And so he asks for prayer. N.T. Wright explains, “He can talk all he likes, but unless God opens the door for the word to go through . . . he will simply be making a useless noise. Paul was under no illusions. You can never take it for granted. The door doesn’t open automatically. What opens the door, again and again, is prayer.”[3]

Yet even as Paul asks for the Colossians to pray for his mission, he reminds them of their own mission in 4:5-6: “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders [that is, those outside the church, outside of faith in Christ], making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” We too are entrusted with the Great Commission. To engage our friends, family, and neighbors who do not yet know Christ with wisdom and the gracious speech of the gospel.

And if Paul asks for prayer for his own mission, we’re foolish not to pray for our own. That’s because, as we pray for our mission, we acknowledge that God is sovereign even over the salvation of others. Yes, we have a responsibility to proclaim, to explain the message of Jesus. And yes, they have a responsibility to believe, to turn away from sin and trust in Jesus. But none of that will happen unless God shows up.

J.I. Packer captures this tension quite helpfully:

It is right to want one’s presentation of the gospel to be as clear and forcible as possible. If we preferred that converts should be few and far between, and did not care whether our proclaiming of Christ went home or not, there would be something wrong with us. But it is not right when we take it on us to do more than God has given us to do. It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts, and look to our own enterprise and techniques to accomplish what only God can accomplish. To do that is to intrude ourselves into the office of the Holy Ghost, and to exalt ourselves as the agents of new birth. . . . Only by letting our knowledge of God’s sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault. For where we are not consciously relying on God, there we shall inevitably be found relying on ourselves. And the spirit of self-reliance is a blight on evangelism.[4]

If we love our friends and family who do not know Jesus, and if we want to share Christ with them and see them come to saving faith, if we want to be found faithful before God and his call for us to make disciples, then we must devote ourselves to prayer. It is our most important work.

Pray for the Mission

Being a church of prayer is not accomplished by holding a few meetings and checking a few boxes; it means that prayer becomes part of our daily lives. That said, gathering to pray is essential, and gathering to pray specifically for the mission God has given us is wise. For that reason, in addition to other opportunities for prayer in the church, we are continuing to hold our monthly Pray for the Mission meeting on the last Sunday evening of each month.

Once again, the goal of this meeting is not to pray for our circumstances (that’s a good thing, and we pray for them in several other venues). The goal of this meeting is to pray loyally, boldly, and expectantly for God open a door for the gospel here in the MetroWest. We are asking that his Spirit would go before us to open blind eyes and unstop deaf ears. That men and women would see clearly the ugliness and danger of sin, and be compelled by the love of Christ who has dealt decisively with our sin. And we are praying that God would use us in that process of making his name known. We want to pray specifically for friends and family, for neighbors and colleagues. We want to pray that men and women would be snatched from the gates of hell and know the lasting joy of forgiveness and new life in Christ.

Please join us in this prayer. Join us in praying for God to show up. He is sovereign. He is supreme. Jesus’ blood is sufficient. Let’s pray for him to show up and change lives for the good of the lost and the glory of his Father.

Notes

1. Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Dutton, 2014), 26.

2. J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: IVP, 1961), 11-12.

3. N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Louisville: WJK, 2002, 2004), 188-189.

4. Packer, 28-29.