In response to a talk I gave at a Men’s Breakfast in the North-West of England a little over a week ago, one man commented on the explosive spiritual power that must have been at work when the gospel was first preached. He is a nuclear engineer and was using nuclear energy as a metaphor for the work of God in people’s lives. So many people positively responded on the Day of Pentecost and in the succeeding weeks when the Apostles preached God’s Word.
His comment reminded me of the work of God in creating everything that exists, through the explosive moment of the Big Bang. God perfectly brought together the materials, the power, and the timing that were necessary to bring into existence the universe as we know it.
God at work in creation and re-creation. God’s work of creation is a helpful metaphor for his work of re-creation, or salvation. As we have been seeing, God has done everything necessary to address our deepest human need – namely, to rescue us from death, the consequence of our failure to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
God’s Spirit. As Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:5-8) and as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:3, God’s Spirit needs to be at work opening blind eyes and softening hard hearts to the truth of the gospel. But there is something else: God wants to involve us in this work of salvation, not just by telling his words of forgiveness and hope to others, but by speaking to him about others. God wants us to pray. In fact, effective outreach always begins with prayer.
Prayer. The French philosopher, Pascal observed,
“God instituted prayer in order to allow his creatures the dignity of causality.”
And C.S. Lewis commented,
“It is probably truer to say that God invented both prayer and work for that purpose. God gave us, small creatures that we are, the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different ways.”
God made the universe in such a way that we can do things to it – within certain limits, of course. This is both an amazing and perplexing idea. But the Bible shows us that God has given himself the discretion to be able to act within his overall plan according to our prayers. Prayer is not just a means of keeping the lines of communication open with God, or even bringing our minds and hearts into line with his will. Yes, that is part of its purpose, but not the whole. God listens to our prayers and, when he considers something is for the best, he will act on it. Prayer to the Almighty Lord is a very powerful tool, a potent force.
‘Never give up’. We often lose sight of this truth when it comes to outreach. In Colossians 4:2, Paul urged his readers to be steadfast in prayer. He understood that effective outreach begins with persevering prayer. Both Paul and Epaphras, the evangelist in Colossae, prayed.
The first Christians were committed and enthusiastic in their prayers; it is one of the reasons for their terrific evangelistic success. It may have been that the Christians in Colossae had become apathetic – they didn’t see the urgency or the need for prayer. And that’s why Paul insists, Continue steadfastly in prayer… ‘Don’t give up’.
Will you join me on Wednesdays in praying for people who do not yet know God’s good news – friends and family, work colleagues and fellow students. In particular pray that in his great mercy, God’s Spirit will be powerfully at work in their lives.
God’s joy. Jesus tells us that heaven rejoices when people turn to the Lord. It is one of the prayers that we can be assured God will answer.