Newsletter for Dec 2010
In the 1930ís, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered that all Bibles were to be confiscated and all Christians sent to prison camps as ďenemies of the state.Ē The military carried out these orders in thorough fashion, but in the city of Stavropol, Russia, they did so with an intense cruelty.
Several years ago, a ministry team went to Stavropol to conduct a crusade. They were having difficulty getting Bibles shipped to them for distribution when someone in the city mentioned that they had heard a rumor: Bibles confiscated during Stalinís reign had been stored in a warehouse outside of town. A team member went to city officials and asked if this rumor was true. Incredibly, it was true and there were stacks and stacks of Bibles in the warehouse. Even more amazing, the officials said the ministry team could remove and distribute the Bibles as they saw fit.
A large truck was borrowed and several local citizens were hired to help load the Bibles. One of the helpers was a college student who was a professed agnostic. He was very rude and unkind toward the mission team members and made it clear that the only reason he was helping was for the pay.
Later in the day, it was noticed that this young man was missing. They began searching and found him sitting in a corner of the warehouse weeping uncontrollably. Out of curiosity, he had taken one of the numerous Bibles and quietly slipped away from the others to read what it said. When he opened it, he was shaken to the core at what he saw: the inside page of the Bible had his own grandmotherís handwritten signature!
Out of the thousands upon thousands of Bibles in that warehouse, the very one he had picked up had belonged to his grandmother; the one which had been taken from her just before she was sent to the prison and death. His agnosticism turned to faith and he accepted Jesus as his Savior.
Some would say this was nothing more than an astonishing coincidence. No way! We may never know the number of prayers this grandmother offered up on behalf of her children and the children they would one day have. But one thing is for certain: she will spend eternity with her grandson.
As I think about that grandmother, she knew she was going to her death the day she was arrested and transported to the prison camp. Separated from her family, she knew the likelihood of ever seeing them again was lost. Then, out of all her earthly possessions, her captors took from her the one thing that meant the most: her Bible. I simply cannot imagine facing a future without Godís word in my hands.
But I also think about the prayers she must have presented to God. Oh, how she must have poured out her heart on behalf of her children! I can picture her lying on a dirty cot in the dark of night quietly whispering their names to the Father, interceding for their protection and asking Him to send laborers into the harvest field of their lives. I can just imagine her praying for the grandchildren she would never know, asking Jesus to reveal Himself to them. Undoubtedly, her faith touched the Fatherís heart.
What is even more astonishing is how her prayers were answered more than 60 years after her death! Think about it: her prayers, offered to God with unfailing faith, were so powerful that they outlived her, creating a set of circumstances that led to her grandsonís salvation.† What this means is that our prayers can change the course of history for our loved ones, even decades after we have passed from this life. Knowing this, how can we ever think that we are praying in vain?
All too often I have encountered Christians who seem to think that God is going to sovereignly move in the lives of their family members and to save them. I know this is a wonderful thought, but it is scripturally unsound. Yes, God is sovereign; but He has already made some sovereign decisions that will not change. One of those decisions has to do with our authority on this earth.
If youíll take the time to read the first two chapters of Genesis, you will discover that God has given to man dominion and authority on earth. This means that before God moves, He requires our involvement. A good example of this is our own salvation. God wants everyone to be born again, making this possible through the completed work of Jesus Christ. But the only way He can cleanse us from our sin nature is if we put our faith in Jesus and accept Him as Savior. Once God has our involvement, He can change our lives.
This principle holds true for everything we desire from God, including the salvation of our friends and family members. Some Christians, upon learning that a family member who lived in sin for years has finally accepted Jesus, have said things like, ďWell, I guess it wasnít Godís timing until now.Ē Without realizing it, what they are actually saying is, ďIt must have been Godís will for (that family member) to live in sin for all those years, not knowing the joy of salvation.Ē
Such thinking is diametrically opposed to scripture! It is always Godís timing for someone to be born again. The only reason a person lives for years without Jesus is because they havenít asked Him to be their Savior. What is it that would keep a person from seeking a personal relationship with Jesus? The fact that they do not yet recognize their need for salvation. What would keep a person from recognizing the need to be saved? The fact that they are deceived. Who would want them deceived? The devil!
The Bible plainly reveals that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Thus, it cannot be Godís will for people to be deceived about their need to be born again. With this being true, it is very easy to understand that God would sovereignly move to save someone the moment they pray to receive Jesus. So then, why doesnít God just kick the devil and his deception out of the way so He can save the lost? Itís because He needs us to exercise our authority through prayer to tear down those deceptive strongholds so our loved ones will understand their need to call on Jesus.
Think again about that grandmother. There she was in a prison camp, days away from being murdered simply for being a Christian, and she is praying for a grandson she will never meet. Using our imagination, letís pretend weíve been listening to her prayers,
ďÖand God, even though he is not born and I will never see him, I lift my grandson up to you. Please see to it that Christians come to tell him about Jesus and that your word is placed in his hands. Please speak to his heart and let him know you love him. Holy Spirit, please convict him of his need to repent and be born again. Father, it is by faith alone that I called him saved.Ē
Because she released to God her authority here on earth, He was able to work through her prayers and bring about conditions that caused her grandson to come face-to-face with his need for Jesus. Just think: for decades after she had prayed, God was working to bring about that single moment in that warehouse. And then, in that one, single moment of eternity, God Ė because of that grandmotherís prayers Ė was able to direct that young manís attention to the only Bible out of thousands that would have a life-changing impact on him. Even though God could not force him to accept Jesus, those prayers represented the avenue by which the Holy Spirit was able to get the gospel to him.
As a Christian, you and I have that same God-given authority on earth. We have the ability, through prayer, to get God involved in the lives of others. We cannot control their will or ability to choose, but we can impact the conditions surrounding their lives. Some people seem to think they are waiting for God to move. In reality, God is waiting for us to pray so He has an open door through which He can release His power. This is why He said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Pray without ceasing.
One of the most important things to do when praying is to pray Godís will. Some Christians donít seem to know what that means. As a result, they pray things that may sound good, but which actually contradict what God has declared in His word. But if we do not pray and release our authority in line with His will, He will not be able to move the way He would desire. Iíll give you an example.
Suppose I have an uncle named Joe. Joe is unsaved and living like the devil, but I want to see him accept Jesus. Therefore, I begin to pray like this, ďOh, God, please save Uncle Joe. Please God, change his life and deliver him from sin. He needs Jesus, so reach down from your throne and bring him into your Kingdom.Ē Though this prayer sounds good, there are some things I need to understand:
#1 God already wants to save Uncle Joe
#2 God already want to change his life and deliver him from sin.
#3 God already knows he needs Jesus.
#4 God really does want to reach down and bring Joe into His Kingdom.
The problem is that God cannot do any of these things unless Joe wants Him to. We want Uncle Joe saved, God wants Uncle Joe saved and Jesus is ready to save Uncle Joe; but no one, not even God, can force Uncle Joe to be born again. What I really need to do is pray in a manner that will change the circumstances surrounding Uncle Joe so he can recognize his need for Jesus.
Here is a prayer I could pray which lines up with Godís word and will help impact and influence the events and circumstances of Uncle Joeís life; a prayer that paves the way for God to touch him with limitless love and grace (scriptures relative to this prayer are in parenthesis):
Heavenly Father, I come to you on behalf of Uncle Joe. It is not your will that he should perish, but that he should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). You sent your Son to die for him so he could have everlasting life when he believes in Jesus (John 3:16). I say, may your will be done on earth in Uncle Joeís life as you have already designed it in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).
You have given me authority to cast out devils (Mark 16:17); therefore I say, in Jesusí name, all you devils that have been influencing Uncle Joe and blinding him to his need for Jesus must cease your activity in his life. May the confusion you have brought about in his life be turned on you. May all of your lies, imaginations and high things that have been exalted against the knowledge of God be cast down in his life (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Father, I ask you to continue this day moving in Uncle Joeís life, revealing Jesus to him. Angels, you are ministering spirits sent forth to minister on behalf of those who shall be heirs of salvation; I am an heir of salvation, so I release you to go forth this day and create an atmosphere conducive for Uncle Joe to realize his need for Jesus (Hebrews 1:13-14). Jesus, please send laborers into the harvest field of Uncle Joeís life (Matthew 9:37-38). By faith, I call Uncle Joe saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, faithful in church attendance, and on fire for God with a holy fire that will never be quenched (Romans 4:17). In Jesusí name, may all of these things be so, amen.Ē
This is just one example of how to pray Godís will. By praying in this manner, we are using our authority to open a door for God to move. We are not attempting to control a personís will; rather, we are bringing change to the circumstances around them to that they will become aware of their need to be born again. In this manner, we can intercede for people again and again (i.e. without ceasing) until eventually, the walls Satan has constructed to keep them from Jesus are torn down. When this happens, they will see how the devil has deceived them into rejecting Jesus and they will understand more clearly the life God is offering.
This kind of prayer is effective for any situation you may be facing. Confusion, fear, sickness, depression, financial stress and absolutely any other area of your life can be changed through praying and confessing Godís will. When you speak His word you are giving Him direct access to a situation so He can release His power and anointing to bring about changes.
But we must be patient! Satan does not give up ground easily. He wants to retain control over things. Yet we have authority over him and if we continue to intercede according to Godís will, we can drive him off.
Keep in mind that many years passed between the time that grandmother prayed and her grandson found her Bible. She never saw the results here on earth, but she will in Heaven. This is where our faith comes in. We must believe that our intercession is having an impact on the kingdom of darkness and that change will come. We must believe that if we continue to pray, the results will take place. We have to trust God that, if necessary, our prayers will outlive us; that even if we donít see the results in our lifetime, we will seem them in eternity. Remember, our prayers are for the purpose of Godís will being accomplished Ė He needs our prayers!
Donít ever think that God doesnít want to help you. Donít ever think that He doesnít want your friends and family saved. Donít ever think He isnít working on behalf of your prayers. Pray His will, opening a door through which He will pour His love, power and grace. Pray without ceasing and you will see Him move. During this time of year when so much focus is on giving gifts, possibly the greatest gift you could give anyone is to pray Godís will over their life.
†May His peace and joy flood your soul!