Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 233 | Wed 23 Oct 2013
Supporting International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2013: Sunday 3 Nov
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
PARTICIPATING IN 'BIG PICTURE' ISSUES
-- a reflection, for Bible study and/or contemplation
by Elizabeth Kendal
Isaiah 2-4 is a self-contained 'tract'. In fact most commentators believe Isaiah probably published it as such before incorporating it into the 'preface' (chapters 1-5) of his book. Bracketed by promises of what will be (2:2-4 and 4:2-6), this 'tract' presents a confronting picture of the present reality. Having rejected God, Judah had become the opposite of what she was supposed to be (Isaiah 2:6-9). Instead of being a light to the world, she had become worldly and faithless. But the promises of God will stand! For God will 'shake' the earth and all humanity's idols will fail and be rejected and God alone, the only true Saviour, will be exalted (Isaiah 2:10-21 cf Hebrews 12:26-29). Then the nations will turn to the exalted Lord (Isaiah 2:2-3; Psalm 22:27; Habakkuk 2:14) and spiritual transformation will culminate in social transformation marked by peace (Isaiah 2:3-4).
But how? Is God literally going to 'shake' the earth? Will false idols literally fall down and drop, as through a sieve, into oblivion? Does the Church just have to 'hang on'? Or does the Church have a role to play in this cosmic reversal of fortunes?
The Church is in the midst of a spiritual battle whether she wants to be or not. This spiritual battle (akin to mopping up operations) is not a sideshow; it is integral to God's plan of redemption. Those who choose to sidestep this issue are not missing an optional element -- they are missing the Big Picture! God is at work and the Church -- a people cleansed by the blood of Christ, then filled with the Spirit of God; freed from slavery to sin and death and empowered to live as witnesses to truth -- is the primary instrument of his working! While the decisive battle was won on the cross and victory is assured, a spiritual counter- offensive will continue until all Christ's enemies are under his feet (1 Corimthians 15:25 cf Romans 16:20) and the Lord alone is exalted (Isaiah 2). Those with eyes to see will recognise that this process is occurring throughout the world as the Church keeps growing while false saviours keep failing.
God's enemies work overtly (through outward confrontation) and covertly (through inner struggle). Every believer who experiences overt persecution also experiences varying degrees of inner struggle. Even the 'valiant man' of Lamentations 3 (probably the prophet Jeremiah) confessed that his endurance had perished as had his hope in the Lord (Lamentations 3:18). The only way he could regain hope was to energise faith by remembering truth (Lamentations 3:21-24). All persecuted believers need our prayers in this, that the devil might have no victory over them (see John 14:26; 16:13-15). We will not know how many believers were sustained, enlightened and energised through our prayers until we reach glory and hear stories of how the Lord 'lifted my head' (Psalm 3:3) in answer to 'the prayers of many' (2 Corinthians 1:11).
Intercessory prayer for the persecuted Church is not an optional extra for special 'prayer warriors' or spiritually-minded human rights activists. It is an integral element of the spiritual battle that ensues from God's redemptive work. As such, it should be an integral element of Church life and worship. Though God uses many often surprising instruments and means as he answers our prayers, one thing remains constant: God always delivers by grace through faith. Despite rumours that prayer is passive, prayer is faith in action and pivotal to the course of any and every battle.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --
* God will awaken and revive his Church, filling her with a selfless love for the Body and a driving desire to see the Lord exalted and glorified; may the Church of the 21st century go down in history as a Church that turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) through a renewed commitment to faith-energised strategic prayer.
* the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in the world's darkest, most inaccessible corners -- in prisons, labour camps, caves, safe houses and war zones -- to protect, comfort and sustain his imperilled children; may the devil have no victory over them! 'And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28 ESV)
* as the world slips deeper into chaos and failure, that God will awaken peoples and nations to the abject failure of their idols and to the truth of God's word, the wisdom of his ways and the wonder of his grace.
Please visit Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) to support the persecuted church through prayer.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
PARTICIPATING IN 'BIG PICTURE' ISSUES
The Church is in the midst of a spiritual battle. While the decisive battle was won on the cross and victory is assured, a spiritual counter-offensive will continue until all Christ's enemies are under his feet and the Lord alone is exalted. Those who choose to sidestep this issue are not missing an optional element -- they are missing the Big Picture! God is at work and the Church is the instrument of his working. As such, intercessory prayer for the persecuted Church -- in prisons, labour camps, caves, safe houses and war zones -- is an integral element of the spiritual battle. Therefore it should be an integral element of Church life and worship. Prayer is not passive; prayer is faith in action. Visit http://CriticalPrayerRequests.blogspot.com
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)