Charles Spurgeon, the great 18th century English preacher and evangelist, described prayer as the ‘engine room’ of his ministry. Whatever else he was doing, for Spurgeon, serving God began with prayer.
For us – whether it’s our Christian lives, ministry in our local church, or the bigger picture of the diocesan Mission – the fundamental starting point must be to pray.
In theory, we could actually reach the ten per cent without God being there. Amid our planning and hard work, we might find we have ten per cent of our population in church, but they may simply be there as ‘nominal’ Christians, without the Spirit of God being present.
How do we guard against that? We keep going to God in prayer, asking that his Kingdom will come, that his Spirit will be at work in changing people and saving the lost, and that we will be enabled to do these things in his strength. We need to pray that we will be equipped to live godly lives and tell his gospel, whatever the cost.
In seeking to implement Policy One of the diocesan Mission focusing on prayer and spiritual renewal, I have developed five imperatives to help us.
1. Publicise the strategy
A range of resources is being made available to publicise both the Mission prayer and the policy calling for Spiritual Renewal. A prayer website from the Wollongong region will be available in mid-September (at [url=http://www.anglicanmedia.com.au/index.php/bishop_piper/]http://www.anglicanmedia.com.au/index.php/bishop_piper/[/url]). This will include resources on prayer, the opportunity to post prayer requests related to Mission, and a journal of answers to prayer, to encourage people right across the Region and Diocese to be praying for Mission activities.
2. Call the diocese to prayer
We need Christians who will commit to praying for the Diocese and the Mission. To this end, I’m inviting people to join the ‘E61820 Battalion’. This refers to Ephesians 6:18-20, where Paul exhorts readers to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
I am looking for people to commit themselves to learn about prayer, to petition God earnestly and to thank God gladly when they receive answers to our prayers. I want them to commit to five personal sessions of prayer per week, for a six-month term. The aim of this is to get people to commit in a focused way to this fundamental task of the Mission.
I’m also looking for leaders of our pray-ers, who will commit to four personal sessions of prayer per week and will gather the prayer group every week. I also want them to ask one fellow believer to enlist as a pray-er every week.
3. Pray for the right reasons
Why should I pray? Because I want other people to know the Lord Jesus. If we are assured of God’s love through his word, we will tell of the love of God. But not only that; we will encourage the obedience of faith, so that we will please our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The resurrected Christ gave one command a number of times in different forms: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” That must be our motivation – to see this command of the Lord Jesus obeyed and fulfilled.
4. Pursue the desired outcomes
None of us can actually make the Mission outcome happen. God has to do that. But we can do all the responsible things within our power to play our part. The starting point in this will be for all of us to devote ourselves to prayer, which will then drive us to pursue the desired outcomes in all areas of life.
Prayer has to be on the agenda at every level of our diocesan life, so that our senior members are actually taking the lead in this matter. An old Polish proverb says, ‘Fish rot from the head down’. I hope to lead by example, but every one of us must take the responsibility for regularly coming to God in prayer and committing ourselves to his mission – from our Archbishop and Bishops, our rectors and ministers, our CEOs of organisations, to every member of our churches.
5. Set the strategy in a Mission context
Part of this will be to report our Mission progress and see where prayers are being answered, and to stay focused on the initial goal, fundamental aim and the other three policies.
It’s also helpful to reflect on times when God has done great things, and specifically how he has answered the prayers of his people. For us, the times of the Apostles in the first century, the 16th century Reformation, and the 18th century revival in England are probably the three main historical periods. Recently I was in London and visited the home of John Wesley, one of the great 18th century preachers in England. Next to his bedroom, there is a small room where, at 4am every day, he would pray until 5am. Then at 5am he would have prayers with all the guests in his house. That sort of thing can inspire people to say their prayers regularly.
It’s vital for us to understand that we don’t exist in a ‘Christian vacuum’. We are part of a great work of God happening down through the ages.
The Rt Rev Reg Piper