When Nehemiah heard of the desolate state of Jerusalem and of the plight of those who had survived the exile, we read that “as soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh 1:4)
This was not a momentary, passing thought but rather a deeply felt and sustained persistent prayer borne out of a love and concern for his people. This surely ought to be the hallmark of anyone who cares deeply about the Church of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 6, in response to a potential crisis concerning the provision of need for the Greek widows, seven godly men are appointed to sort out the problem and ensure proper care is being given to those in the need. The apostles delegate this work so that they can:
“devote ourselves to the ministry of the word and prayer” (Acts 6:4).
Did you notice anything strange about the above quotation? Read it again…it is the wrong way round. In fact, the text puts prayer first, then the ministry of the word, but I suspect many of us as evangelicals tend to put the emphasis on ‘ministry of the word’. This little incident is illuminating for us. I do not think that the apostles’ commitment to prayer here meant that they needed to be allowed time to have a ‘quiet time’ every day like everyone else was expected to in order to have time to pray, because they were too lazy to get up in the morning before work. Surely not. Rather, they saw ‘prayer’ – presumably intercessory prayer in particular – as part of their ministry. As Christians, like all other Christians they would have a regular time of devotional prayer but as apostles called to the ministry of the word, they were also called in a special way to a ministry of prayer. Their ministry of the word was undergirded and shaped by prayer, it is not accidental that Luke puts that first here.
Most evangelical ministers I know have a high commitment and disciplined approach to the ministry of the Word, most have time set aside each week for sermon preparation and only in the most exceptional of circumstances would they let something intrude into that time of preparation. But I wonder how many of us have the same disciplined and intentional commitment to time for sustained prayer? This is in addition to our regular devotional prayer time that should be the norm for all Christians, this is an integral part of full-time gospel ministry and inseparable from the ministry of the Word.
When we read the diaries of our godly forefathers, many would regularly set aside, mornings, days, seasons of time for sustained prayer. It might be argued, ‘but we live in such busier, more fast-paced times with more demands and expectations of our time’. Although there are undeniably many claims and demands on our time, the truth is we make time for that which we most value.
Prayer is not a luxurious add-on to gospel ministry, it is the very heart beat and foundation of it all.
This Day the Noise of Battle
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song.
To him who overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
They with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally
So…here it comes! This is where the plea to come and join us is given. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel, if you love his Church and if the characteristics of Anglicanism have resonated with you at all, and you are considering full-time gospel ministry, then I would urge you to explore the possibility of exercising such a ministry in the Church of England. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Behold now is the favourable time; Behold now is the day of salvation”.
There is no better day to be alive, there is no better time to be involved in gospel ministry – for today, now, is the gospel day.
In Revelation 12, a pivotal chapter in the whole book, we read of war in heaven (v7) and war on earth (v17). Satan in his fury has declared war on the ‘offspring’ of the woman. Who are they? John tells us, “the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (v17)
To be a Christian is to be at war – at war with Satan the accuser and the deceiver. A war that is fought here on earth and in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-12). Paul tells us that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but against the authorities and cosmic powers. John wants us to know that this is the reality of what it means to be a Christian now, on earth awaiting Christ’s return; that the followers of Jesus are the sole preoccupation and target for Satan and his fury.
Excerpted from Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, Revd Dr Mark Pickles, pages 120-122, 2017.