What then should we do differently?

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Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 6:

(If you haven’t yet read previous posts, go ahead and read a few of them to give you some context).

Matthew 7:24-27 reads, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 

This is where the rubber hits the road, as they say. If we believe that Jesus’ life is a real and viable model for our lives, and if we believe what he said, then we need to respond with word and deed. Let’s consider some alternatives:

1. Jesus did not do and say the things recorded in the Bible. The Bible is in error and is therefore an unreliable record of Jesus’ life and teaching. I have written this series on the understanding that the Bible is a reliable record of what Jesus said and did. I have tried to apprehend what it records, in a logical and reasoned manner, yet the persuasive power of my arguments stem from biblical authority more than logic. If the New Testament is not an accurate record of what Jesus and his early followers said and did, then P3 is not worthy of applying.

2. Jesus did not intend modern people to take literally what he said to his first disciples. To hold this view is to rob the master’s teachings and examples of most of their current relevance. If we believe that what Jesus modelled and taught regarding prayer, power, and proclamation applied only to the unusual early church times, then we will not seek to emulate his example. If we believe that he meant us to understand his words in a purely symbolic fashion, then we will not obey his instructions. Once again, P3 will not be applicable.
      
3. Jesus meant all of his disciples, in every age, to take him at his word, and to apply what he taught and modelled. If you find options 1 and 2 unacceptable, then you are compelled to choose this third option. Have I missed an option or two? If not, then you are compelled by your own sense of integrity to take seriously, and to seek to apply, what Jesus said and did concerning P3.
I have titled this chapter ‘What then should we do differently?’ The answer is ‘almost everything!’ The world in which we live operates on diametrically different principles to those proposed in this series. Much of Christendom operates on religiously modified principles which are not much different from those of the world system. Materialism is the most dominant philosophy in both secular society and the church. Inward orientation (self-centredness) is hardly less predominant in the church than in the world. Instant gratification is not just a secular phenomenon. Pragmatism rules in both domains. If we take P3 seriously, then we will have to challenge these worldly traits.

Here are some areas where I believe we will need to think and act very differently.

  • Outward orientation. The teaching of scripture is clear – we should be outwardly focused and not inwardly self-serving. This ‘others’ orientation is one of the key tenets of authentic Christianity. The world, on the other hand, encourages us to look after number one and to serve others only after we have served ourselves.

Sadly, a large part of the modern church teaches the same thing. Name and claim what you want, and once you have more than enough, then give to others. A variation on this theme is that we should give generously to the church which teaches us this way of living, and then, in reward, God will give us what we want! Most of us need to learn how to be outwardly oriented. We need constant challenge and encouragement to change the orientation of our lives away from our own needs and wants.

  • Sustained focus. Society has convinced us that we all deserve instant gratification. The motto of our age is, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try something else.’ Producers gear television shows to those with a concentration span of less than ten minutes. Advertising continually sells us the concept that we should have whatever we desire … now! Executives design electronic communications and banking systems to facilitate our insatiable desire for instant gratification. We will have to learn how to focus our thoughts, prayers, and endeavours for prolonged periods. This is not going to be too easy for most of us.           

At my church, we have a prayer room, and we sometimes encourage people to commit to one-hour slots there. The other day one of my leaders suggested that we reduce the time commitment to fifteen minutes, because people were complaining that they could not see themselves being able to pray, read the Bible, and meditate for a whole hour!

  • Spiritual capacity. Most of us live impure lives. Our thoughts, words, and actions are tainted. Our spiritual ‘batteries’ are clogged up with sin sediment. If we are to increase our spiritual capacity, then we are going to have to take the biblical call to holiness a lot more seriously.
  • Faith. Most of the modern teaching on faith presents it as a force which can be increased and manipulated. However, if it is a ‘switch’ that is either on or off, then we either have it or we do not. We will have to unlearn what we have learned about faith, and then we will need to learn how to activate it. Visualising something with clarity and empowering that vision with emotion is not going to be easy for most of us. We will need to learn how to see the not yet visible, and to see it with such clarity that we feel passionately about it. We will need to learn to think differently.
  • Expectation. We need to raise the bar of our expectation. Should we not expect results if we come together with one heart and mind, confirm the Father’s will for the particular situation, ask the Holy Spirit for power from on high, and then proclaim in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? 

A word of caution here. We must not think that we can obtain results independently of God, as if we are ‘creators’ or ‘little gods’. God is central in all three of the processes that I have articulated. In prayer, we seek to know his specific will in any given situation. We do not generate power, but receive it from God. Faith is the switch which allows us to receive; but if the Holy Spirit did not choose to pour out spiritual power upon us, there would be nothing to receive. In proclamation we speak, not on our own authority, but in the ‘name’ of Jesus.

  • Making space in our structures. Perhaps the prayer meetings at your church already contain the elements of prayer, power, and proclamation. If they don’t, then they need to change. A corporate prayer meeting should have a time when the believers speak to almighty God. It should also include a time of listening. By ‘listening’, I mean an expectant silence where the folk present can read from scripture, speak out a prophetic word, or relate the content of a vision or an intuition. Once there is a sense of what God is communicating, then there needs to be a corporate request for empowerment. Here it would be appropriate to lay hands upon those whom the Holy Spirit identifies. After that, there needs to be bold declarations of God’s will concerning the things for which we have been praying. The Holy Spirit might also instruct that we do certain additional things, like visiting the person concerned to anoint with oil.
  • Ministering. We need to change the way we minister to people. Instead of just praying for them, we should seek immediate guidance and prompting from the Holy Spirit, lay hands on them and proclaim what we believe to be God’s will in the particular circumstance. We should ask the Holy Spirit for the manifestation of discernment, so that we can boldly cast out any demon which might be present. We should also ask for the manifestations of knowledge and wisdom.
  • Teaching and Training. If you are a teacher or preacher within the local church, you will need to instruct the people of God how to minister in accordance with P3 principles. You will need to explain the key elements of faith, perseverance, and outward orientation.
  • Perseverance. We need to encourage each other to persevere. In order to minister as Jesus did, we all need to make many changes to the ways we think, speak, and act. This will take time. At first, we are not likely to be very successful, and our ministry will not immediately reflect the levels evidenced by the early church.
  • Incorporation. We need to incorporate the practice of P3 into all aspects of our Christian lives, both personal and corporate. Prayer, Power, and Proclamation should not be reserved for ‘prayer’ meetings; neither should they be regarded as three elements which always need to be exercised in the same time frame. Rather, P3 represents a cycle of practices, as illustrated in the following diagram.

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