Rarely is a person saved from sin without someone’s help. Therefore, it is the task of the congregation as a whole, as well as the individual members, to pray for sinners to recognize their lost condition.
“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38) is an exhortation for congregations that still applies today. Even the sick and weak should see it as their duty to pray for laborers in God’s vineyard.
I know of a student who had every prospect of graduating with distinction from medical school. He was expected to have a brilliant career as a doctor. But one night, just before his final exam, he totally surrendered his young heart to the Lord and had a wonderful experience of salvation. With some uneasiness, he wrote to his mother that he now wanted to serve the Lord in full-time ministry. She had sacrificed a great deal for her son to study medicine. Yet the letter was no huge surprise to his mother. She boarded the next train and went to see him. Then she told her son that years ago she had sent his outgrown clothing to a faraway mission station. At the same time, she had asked the missionary to unite with her in praying that one day her son would become a preacher.
A congregation that persists in earnest prayer will seldom have a vacant pulpit and empty seats. The congregations of today, like those of the early church, need to learn to pray. They must return to the close and heartfelt communion with God as it occurred in the apostles’ time.
Prayer is the power of all work within the church. Without prayer, the church is prone to difficulties and failures. Spiritual life can grow cold and even die. But where a church abides in persistent prayer, it will grow.
Prayer is the first and most beautiful identifier of a consecrated life. Through prayer we receive strength from God. We communicate with God because He speaks to us. He shows us His thoughts, His desires and intentions. Through prayer, He molds our character to be more like Him.
“And as He [Jesus] prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening” (Luke 9:29). Prayer, true and humble prayer, brings a bright glow to a weary face. All fear, grief, and pain give way to a soothing, refreshing calm. Prayer connects us to God’s throne.
In February of 1861, a terrible storm raged along the coast of England. Eighty-one boats sank in a single bay. The “Rising Sun,” a two-masted sailing ship, also sank, leaving only the two masts sticking sadly out of the water. The crew barely managed to save themselves in the storm-tossed rigging. The wind intensified, the waves rolled higher; how long would the crew be able to hang on? Suddenly, there was a new, violent crash! The mast groaned and snapped. The sailors were tossed into the raging sea. Just then, the lifeline was thrown from the shore to save the shipwrecked. Then the second mast fell! Too late! Silently, the rescue team retracted the rope. “A wasted effort!” they thought. Suddenly someone shouted loudly, “Pull!” “Pull, there’s a man hanging onto the rope!” Joining forces, they brought the injured man ashore. It was the cabin boy, barely sixteen years old, who had escaped certain death. When his chilled body had warmed up, he opened his eyes. His first words were, “Mother prayed for me!”
It is so important that the church is always at its post praying. Then many a mother’s son or daughter would be snatched from the lusts of this world, from the clutches of Satan. We can save the lost only through prayer. If we fail to pray, the battle is lost before we have begun. But thanks be to God, He gives us strength for everything!
The church is the link between the Holy Spirit and the sinner. Therefore, it is precisely the church that needs a special measure of strength from above. We receive divine power and help through prayer. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit is moved to work on the sinner and lead him to repentance.
“But stay… until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) is a command that is also applicable to the church today. This will bring us victory in the fight for the Gospel if we obey it. If in our day there is a noticeable lack of divine power and strength that filled and permeated the early Christian church, is it not due to failing to follow the divine command, “Stay…!”?
The responsibility lies with us. Either we have to bear it now or on Judgment Day. I have also become bolder, aware of the great responsibility and my increased need to draw strength from above.
Brothers and sisters, in the fight for the truth, we must win the victory. We need heavenly power to win immortal souls for the Lord. We can win the victory if we want to. Why don’t we pray right now? Scripture tells us, “now;” the blood of Christ says “now;” our sense of responsibility for lost souls tells us “now!”
One dark, stormy night, a man attempted to cross a lake in a small sailboat. A sudden wave knocked his boat over. He, an experienced swimmer, tried to reach the shore. The night was dark and the sky overcast. He had lost his sense of direction. He struggled in the freezing water and swam with all his might. The cold and the discouragement weakened his strength; his strokes became slower. He sank. “Daddy, Daddy!” came the cry over the stormy sea. There, once more, drawn out, “Dad-dy! Dad-dy!” Concern for her father had driven the little daughter into the stormy night. The sinking man’s body shuddered! “Dad-dy!” – his child! New life flowed through his body. He pulled himself together, swam toward the voice, and collapsed safely at the shore.
Believe! The words of your prayer, the plea for the rescue of a sinking friend or your neighbor, will rise to the Father, no matter how stormy the night. They may feel discouraged and in despair right now. Instead of heading to the shore of salvation, they may be swimming deeper into destruction. They may be drowning. Then God will listen to your plea and save them. Your silence would have been their certain death!
As a church, let us unite in earnestness and bring our petitions to the throne of God. God will send a powerful answer.