Thursday, November 21, 2019

Three MORE Ways to Pray to Prepare for Trials, Part 3

I spoke this morning with a missionary friend in a country that has been experiencing political turmoil, resulting in rioting and violence. All the government offices are closed and her visa expires in a week. As we talked, she communicated confidence that she was where God wanted her to be and was more concerned about upcoming ministry opportunities than her own safety. As we prayed together, we expressed to God that even if she got kicked out of the country for not renewing her visa on time through no fault of her own, God is still sovereign and has a place for her to be serving Him.

My trust: God's sovereignty
I think of the Peter and John who, in the name of Jesus, healed the lame beggar who sat at the temple gate (See Acts 3 & 4). For this good deed, they were arrested and severely warned to not speak any more in the name of Jesus Christ. When they got together to pray they talked to God about who He is and what He has done in the past. They recognized His control over things that seem out of control. They spoke to God in prayer about how at Christ's trial and crucifixion Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel (basically the whole world at that time) did "whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur." (4:28) It wasn't out of God's sovereign control at all! We know that Christ had to die to pay for our sins. That was the plan. The disciples recognized God's sovereignty. When we are in difficult situations, we need to know this, so praying that God would not let us forget His sovereign control over all things is another thing we should pray. With 20/20 hindsight, I now see how God was working in the past in some situations in my life when I thought everything was going wrong.

Then I look at the disciples' prayer. If it had been me, I'm sure I would have prayed something like, "Change the minds of the men who are against You. Remove them from power. I wouldn't be opposed to a well-placed bolt of lightening, Lord. Oh, perhaps You could convert them (though I doubt that's possible)." But after the disciples worshiped God and recognized His power, wisdom, sovereignty, and goodness, they had only two requests (4:29-30):

1. Boldness to continue speaking
2. For God to continue working in lives convincing people of the truth

My action: Boldness
The disciples said, "take note of their threats" because we, your servants, those who carry out your work, need extra strength to "speak Your Word with confidence." Threats can't help but affect us. We are weak humans. But God is the one who is strengthening us and He is all powerful. He could give them the fortitude to preach no matter how men have tried to intimidate them. So we need to pray now, and especially in times of trial or persecution, that we will have boldness to share the name of Christ with those who need to hear it.

With 20/20 hindsight
I can now see
how God was working
when I thought
everything was going wrong.

My expectation: God working
The disciples specifically prayed that God would do "signs and wonders" to validate their ministry and bring people to Him. Whether or not you believe you should be asking God to do miracles of healing and other things, what greater miracle could there be than for the salvation of souls, the redemption of a sinner? We can definitely be asking God to continue working in people's lives around us, whether we are experiencing a trial currently or not, and to ask Him to continue when we are suffering and, perhaps, because of it.

That we would remember God's sovereignty, boldness to speak, for God to continue His work--three more requests to pray for now to prepare for suffering, and to keep on praying in the midst of it.

Are you following this series? Are you talking with your family about this around your dinner table? (Or any time!) Here are some questions to get the conversation going:

* Have you ever experienced persecution because of your faith in Jesus Christ?
* What kind of persecution can you imagine happening in your school/work/neighborhood?
* How would you react if you were told you could no longer go to school or lost your job because you are a Christian?
* What can you do to prepare for trials and persecution?
* How would you pray when you were suffering?
* How do you think God wants you to respond to trials?
* Do you think there are examples in the Bible of people who prayed during a trial? What examples can you think of?

*  *  *  *  *

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  1. These are great discussion questions! Your thoughts on God's sovereignty are spot on. Very encouraging post!

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Summer. God has used this to prepare me. Next post will explain that.



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