Prayer and ministry of the Word

This article was submitted to the missions magazine of the World Evangelism Ministry, Global Harvest.

Proclaimers of the gospel have a double responsibility. Before they step out into the street or into the home of someone outside of Christ, they ought to double their knees in prayer. When his people pray, God acts in ways that he otherwise would not.

When the Grecian widows were being neglected in the Jerusalem congregation, the apostles declined to do this work. They had been given a different service. Peter replied for the Twelve, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” Acts 6.4.

These two elements are noteworthy. They constitute the two great activities of apostles and of all proclaimers of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The order in which Peter mentioned them is also important. God’s people are to pray without ceasing. But speaking to God has priority over speaking to those who need the gospel. It is this prior prayer which makes the gospel effective.

The verb “devote” which Peter applies to both prayer and the proclamation of the Message indicates, in connection with objects, “to hold fast to something” (TDNT). Louw and Nida’s lexicon describes it as “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty — ‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in’.” The book of Acts shows the example of Christians continually devoting themselves to prayer, Acts 1.14; 2.42; 6.4. This involved “a different attitude and manner of prayer from those customary in contemporary Judaism, which had fixed hours and patterns of prayer” (TDNT).

Over the decades of service in Brazil, it appears to be a valid conclusion that Americans thrive on Bible study but put less emphasis on prayer, while Brazilians excel at prayer but do less reading and study of Scripture. Although it is a personal observation without support from scientific research, it seems to hold value for emphasizing the importance of prayer among God’s messengers. Exceptions abound to both observations, but the generalizations seem to hold true.

To encourage all of us in the responsibility of prayer, the GoSpeak.org ministry launched an English-language website called Believing Prayer (believingprayer.com). The prayers are varied in content and form, but are often focused on fulfilling God’s mission in the world.

The site has been active for over five years. It is one of the least successful in the GoSpeak group. It has fewer subscribers and fewer visits to the site than other online efforts of this ministry. The reason why is hard to discover.

It may be that the site has not been well publicized. It could be that the prayers published on the site have not resonated with an American audience. It might be, also, that Americans are accustomed to reading articles about Bible subjects, including prayer, but are not used to reading prayers as a means of praying. There’s also the possibility that the site’s failure to grow reflects the lower level of devotion to prayer that has been observed above.

Whatever the reason, to those who have visited the Believing Prayer website, read the prayers, and said amen to the praises, supplications, and intercessions, the content has provided a rich variety of material for spiritual growth and power in service to God.

It must also be acknowledged that often the heavenly Father uses the small and unsuccessful things, in the world’s eyes, to accomplish great works for his kingdom.

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