Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8:26 ESV
Welcome to our January 2017 First Friday Call to Prayer. Our aim is to provide you with teaching that we trust will be an encouragement to you. We will also provide you with praise items and prayer requests coming from within ANiC, ACNA and the Anglican Communion.
We encourage you to set aside the first Friday, January 6th, as a day of prayer and fasting for the Church in these critical days, ideally gathering with other believers in your parish or region for corporate prayer at some point in the day.
"Prayer breaks all bars, dissolves all chains, opens all prisons, and widens all straits by which God's saints have been held."
E. M. Bounds 1835-1913
Be Devoted to Prayer
by John Piper
My simple and humanly impossible goal in this message is that you would all be devoted to prayer in this New Year. This is my goal because this is what the Bible calls us to be. My text is Romans 12:12 which is part of a longer chain of exhortations. It says we are to be "rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted (proskarterountes) to prayer."
Your version might say, "constant in prayer" or "faithful in prayer." Those all get at aspects of the word. "Devoted" is a good translation. The word is used in Mark 3:9 where it says, "[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready (proskartere) for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him." A boat was to set apart — devoted — for the purpose of taking Jesus away in case the crowd became threatening. "Devoted" — dedicated for a task, appointed for it.
Now, boats just sit there. But people are not dedicated that way. When the word is applied to a person it means devoted or dedicated in the sense not only of designation and appointment but of action in the appointed task, and pressing on in it. So for example in Romans 13:6 Paul talks about the role of government like this: "You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing." That is, they are not only designated by God for a task, but are giving themselves to it.
What's remarkable about this word is that five of the ten New Testament uses apply to prayer. Listen, besides Romans 12:12 there are:
||Acts 1:14 (after the ascension of Jesus while the disciples were waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit): "These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers."
||Acts 2:42 (Of the early converts in Jerusalem): "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
||Acts 6:4 (The apostles say): "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
||Colossians 4:2 (Paul says to all of us): "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving."
So we may say from the New Testament scriptures that the normal Christian life is a life devoted to prayer. And so you should ask at the start of a new year, "Am I devoted to prayer?"
It does not mean that prayer is all you do — any more than being devoted to a wife means all the husband does is hang out with his wife. But his devotion to her affects everything in his life and causes him to give himself to her in many different ways. So being devoted to prayer doesn't mean that all you do is pray (though Paul does say in another place, "pray without ceasing," 1 Thess. 5:17). It means that there will be a pattern of praying that looks like devotion to prayer. It won't be the same for everyone. But it will be something significant. Being devoted to prayer looks different from not being devoted to prayer. And God knows the difference. He will call us to account: have we been devoted to prayer? Is there a pattern of praying in your life that can fairly be called "being devoted to prayer"?
I think most of us would agree on some kinds of praying that would not be called "being devoted to prayer." Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer. Praying only at meal times is a pattern, but does it correspond to Paul exhorting the church to "be devoted to prayer"? A short "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer at the end of the day is probably not "being devoted to prayer." Hit and miss "Help me, Lord" in the car as you need a parking place is not "being devoted to prayer." All those are good. But I think we would agree that Paul expects something more and different from followers of Christ when he says, "Be devoted to prayer."
Let us not forget in all of this that the cross of Christ — his death in the place of sinners — is the foundation of all prayer. There would be no acceptable answer to why we pray if Christ had not died in our place. That's why we pray "in Jesus name."
As I have weighed the obstacles to prayer that I could address, some of them fall under the question, why pray? So I will give three answers to the question why that I hope will stir you up to venture new levels of "being devoted to prayer".
The Bible tells us to pray and we should do what God says.
This text, along with many other says, "Be devoted to prayer." If we are not we are disobedient to the scriptures. That is foolish and dangerous. If prayer doesn't come easy for you, consider yourself normally fallen and sinful with the rest of us. Then fight. Preach to yourself. Don't let your sins and weaknesses and worldly inclinations rule you. God says, "Be devoted to prayer." Fight for this.
The needs in your own life, and in your family, and in this church and other churches, and in the cause of world missions, and in our culture at large are huge and desperate.
In many cases heaven and hell hang in the balance, faith or unbelief, life and death. Remember Paul's grief and anguish for his perishing kinsmen in Romans 9:2, and remember that in Romans 10:1 he prays for them earnestly, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." Salvation hangs in the balance when we pray. You will not know what prayer is for until you know that life is war. One of the great obstacles to praying is that life is just too routinely smooth for many of us. The battlefront is way out there, but here in my tiny bubble of peace and contentment all is well. O may God open our eyes to see and feel the needs around us and the great potential of prayer.
A third reason to pray is that God acts when we pray. And God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five years.
O how I have learned this over the years. What an amazing thing to bow my head repeatedly and plead with God during sermon preparation, or during some counselling crisis, or some witnessing conversation, or some planning meeting, and to have breakthrough after breakthrough which did not come until I prayed. What an important lesson to feel fretful and eager to get to work immediately because I have so much to do I don't know how I can get it all done, but to force myself to be biblical and reasonable and take time to get on my knees to pray before I work, and while on my knees, to have ideas tumble to my mind for how to handle a problem, or shape a message, or deal with a crisis, or solve a theological problem — and so to save myself hours and hours of work and the frustration of beating my head against the wall trying to figure out what came in five seconds of illumination! I don't mean that God spares us hard work. I mean prayer can make your work 5,000 times more fruitful than you can make it alone.
There are more, but these are three answers to why pray: (1) God commands us to pray; (2) the needs are great, and eternal things are at stake; (3) God acts when we pray and often does more in seconds than we could do in hours or weeks or sometimes years.
Praise God …
For the gift of a new year in which to further discover the depths of the Father's love for each of us, and to particpate in the incredible privilege of 24/7 access to Him in prayer.
For the many wonderful promises given to us in Scripture that shape our inheritance as God's adopted sons and daughters.
For the reformation God is working out in global Anglicanism – and the entire Christian Church. In the midst of chaos, He is building His Kingdom and refining His bride, the Church.
For faithful Anglican primates, bishops, clergy and laity – throughout the Communion – who are standing for truth even when their stand for Christ and His Word makes them targets of attack. Especially we praise the Lord for the continuing faithful witness by the GAFCON primates.
For our primate Archbishop Foley Beach (& Allison) – Pray for great wisdom, discernment, courage and strength as he gives leadership to ACNA in the days and months ahead.
For Bishop Charlie Masters (& Judy) – Pray for our diocesan bishop as he provides guidance and leadership of ANiC. May God grant him renewed courage, wisdom and vision. Pray also for physical protection and good health in the midst of his heavy travel schedule.
For Bishop Don Harvey (& Trudy) – Pray for Bishop Don in his roles as ANiC's episcopal vicar and senior chaplain to the ACNA College of Bishops.
For ANiC's suffragan bishops: Stephen Leung (& Nona) and Trevor Walters (& Dede). Pray for discernment, energy and grace as they care for their clergy and congregations. Also pray for Bishops Ron Ferris (church planting in Langley, BC) and Malcolm Harding (retired in Brandon, MB).
For our Archdeacons: the Venerables Ron Corcoran (Vancouver Island), Dan Gifford (BC), Bruce Chamberlayne (Alberta & BC Interior), Paul Charbonneau (Ontario), Tim Parent (Ottawa Valley), Paul Crossland (Prairies), Michael McKinnon (New England, USA), and Darrell Critch (Atlantic Region & Quebec).
For all ANiC clergy and families, especially those experiencing spiritual and physical attack.
For a major awakening, a sovereign move of God in our churches and across our nations like has not been seen in our lifetimes. Rise Up, O God we pray. Intervene, O Lord, in the midst of our decaying culture and society! Raise up an army of intercessors who will call out to you for a mighty visitation of your power and presence! Send out labourers into the harvest, O Lord!
Pray for God's anointing on the Ven Ron & Deirdre Corcoran's ministry, Wounded Healers, launching this month on the West Coast. May Christ's healing power flow to the hurting.
For the Anglican Relief and Development Fund Canada (ARDFC) whose new project is helping the ACNA church plants in Cuba purchase a van. This van will meet transportation needs and provide a means of revenue generation to reduce dependence on external financial support.
For those who serve us and are in authority over us – our police forces, our armed forces, our emergency responders, our municipal elected officials, our provincial MLAs, MPPs and premiers, and our federal MPs and Prime Minister.
For God's wisdom for world leaders with regard to conflicts in the Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq, and European nations struggling to absorb refugees. Pray for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are seeking safety and asylum in Europe and here in North America. Pray for those churches and communities that are welcoming refugees that they may be a witness to God's compassionate care, both by what they say and do.
Pray for protection of innocent civilians – adults and children – who so often are the victims in today's warfare. Pray especially for the many Middle Eastern, Asian and African Christians who are brutally persecuted for their refusal to renounce their faith in Jesus.
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