Tarquin Syndrome (6)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes in 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He is writing to a group of Jewish Christians who are being persecuted by the Roman Empire because of their beliefs in Christ. And the writer is urging them to come to God’s throne room regularly to find strength and grace for their time of need. In other words he is exhorting them to pray regularly and depend on God when their back is against the wall.
We may not be in the same predicament that these Jewish Christians are facing but every Christian needs to be coming to the throne of grace for mercy and grace in their time of need. It’s especially important in this kind of ministry where we work on the front line of God’s battle to reach the lost and broken for Christ. People who chose to work in more ‘deprived’ areas have their back against the wall and they need to be praying regularly for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, prayer is important because we are in a battle. Paul writes in Ephesians 6: 12- “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness., against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Christians need to remember that they are in a constant war spiritually. John Piper likens prayer to a wartime walky talky. Prayer, he explains, is an intercom to the General so that we can get instructions daily for the battle that we face. Prayer cannot just be used as a link to get what we want but used as a weapon to battle with the spiritual forces that try to keep God’s work at bay. The battle is all the more evident in estate like areas where the marks of sin are so clear and the war for people’s souls are very fierce. We pray especially for those who make professions of faith in Niddrie because boy, does Satan hate it when one of these guys makes a commitment to follow Christ and leave their old lives behind. They face being ostracized from their community of friends and family. They face being sucked into their old lifestyles as they face their drug dealers, old pals who are up to all sorts of mischief and general sin. They battle with the urge to sink back into their old patters of life. Furthermore, those who haven’t put their trust in Christ, like anywhere in the world, are so lost and blind without the Spirit’s intervention and so prayer is vital to war for people’s souls. We therefore need the Generals instructions everyday.
Secondly, prayer is important because we need to be dependent on God. Jesus says to his disciples in John 15:4,6 -“Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing” Those words are startling – “apart from me you can do nothing”. In our age of independence and self-autonomy how important it is that we pray all the more to remember that we are useless and fruitless without God. As the old hymn says “I need thee every hour, stay thou nearby…” We need to depend on God through prayer. There are so many circumstances in Niddrie where I need guidance, wisdom and discernment. I was counseling a man this week who had lost 3 children, had a drug problem, was deeply depressed and who had tried to take his life a couple of times. And he was asking me for his help. What do you say to someone who is so messed up? I was just praying in my head – “please God, help me. I don’t what to say or what to do but you are this man’s hope and I pray that you would help me to point him to you.” The Psalmist writes in 77:1 says: “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.” We need to cry aloud to God regularly and rely on him for all we need.
Thirdly, prayer is vital to keep our hope in God alone. We work in a place that is full of problems and it can be hard sometimes to see what God is doing. It can be easy to give up praying when things don’t work out as you expect them to. And so we need to guard our hearts from becoming cynical and continually hope in Christ though whom all things are possible. One of the things that I’ve learnt about prayer is that we need to remember what we’ve prayed for. I have found it helpful recently to write down a verse for a person that I’m praying for and pray that verse each week for them. It helps me to course what I’m praying for and to celebrate when there is breakthrough in people’s lives. It keeps my focus and hope on God. This is so important in order not to hope in our strength but God’s.
Please pray for us as we work in a hostile environment for the gospel. It is a battle and our hope needs to be in God constantly. Without Him we can do nothing!