Want to see God at work? Start by praying the Lord’s Prayer today

praySince 2015 I’ve been on a quest to discover how God is at work. You see, I serve with a mission organization, One Challenge. In 2015, we adopted a new strategy statement, which says: “We ask how God is at work, then assist the Body of Christ to bring God’s transformation to individuals, communities and nations.” It seemed logical, then, to ask how is God at work? So the Global Research Team, on which I serve, then spent the better part of a year and a half searching the scriptures to discover how God is at work in the world and applying those insights to our work.

When it was time for us to organize a gathering for all the mission information workers in our organization back in September 2016, we came to the consensus that “Asking how God is at work” should be our conference theme. There I shared a brief presentation on the biblical basis of how God is at work in the world.

Upon returning home from the conference, our pastor asked me to share a twenty minute message on Mission Sunday.  It seemed fitting to share something about God at work.  But my great challenge was to identify one passage that touched upon the many ways that God is at work in the world. After some reflection I was surprised to conclude that the Lord’s Prayer touched on many of these themes. Thus the Lord’s Prayer became the text of my sermon.

A few weeks later I was visiting with a friend at church who is a Bible professor at Taylor University. He remarked:  “I teach a class on the Lord’s Prayer, and  I’ve read a lot of books on the Lord’s Prayer.  So when you said you were speaking on the Lord’s Prayer, I was attent to see if you had any new insights into the Lord’s Prayer. My friend, you did not disappoint.”

I thought I might write a blog series about the Lord’s Prayer, coming at it from the angle of what we discover about how God is at work in the world and how he invites us to join him in what he is doing.  Writing a series is a lot of work, beyond what I have time to do. So here is a summary of seven ways God is at work in the world based on the Lord’s Prayer.

Seven ways we discover God at work in the Lord’s Prayer

  1. “Our Father in Heaven” – God is at work building his Family here on earth
  2. “Hallowed by Your Name” – God is at work bringing glory to his name on earth
  3. “Your Kingdom Come” – God is at work establishing his kingdom on earth
  4. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – God is at work bringing the perfections of heaven to earth
  5. “Give us today our daily bread” – God provides us with all we need for living & so much more
  6. “Forgive us our debts” – God is at work restoring relationships
  7. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” – God is at work delivering us from temptation and the wile s of the Devil, aka Satan, the Evil One.

The breadth God’s work described in the Lord’s Prayer is quite mind boggling!

I’ve come to view each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer as an iceberg. As we know, the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” points to a huge mass of ice below the water’s surface. So it is with the Lord’s Prayer.  Each phrase points to a greater reality found in the biblical narrative.  This point really struck me back in 2012. As I was reading through the Bible, I started to jot down passages that were related to the seven parts of the Lord’s Prayer in a section in my journal. To date, my list covers 56 hand written pages! Each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer points us to a greater reality of how God is at work in the world. There is much more going on “below the surface” than is immediately apparent.

So what does all this mean for us?

Do you see that God invites us to join him in what he is doing in the world? Simply put, there are many things that God calls us to do, but the first and greatest thing God invites us to do is to pray. That is the whole intent of the Lord’s Prayer, to pray, isn’t it? We pray. God works. So if you want to see God at work, start by praying the Lord’s Prayer today.

Here is a great book on the Lord’s Prayer

I’ve just finished reading  Darrell W. Johnson’s book on the Lord’s Prayer,  Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey Through the Lord’s Prayer.   This short book (119 pages) is full of insights into the Lord’s Prayer. I heartily recommend it.

Click here to go to Amazon to take a look inside.

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Persecution: The New Norm for Christians in the USA Today?

The International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church are on Sundays, November 1 and 8, this year.   Often Western Christians think of persecution happening “over there” in North Africa, the Middle East, India or Asia. However this year, persecution –and even martyrdom — seems much closer to home.

The “2015 Role of Martyrs” now includes persons from the United States, having in view the shootings in Oregon and South Carolina – interestingly nine persons were shot/martyred in each case and the shooter chose a “lucky one” to tell the world why he did what he did.

The news source I regularly follow draws attention to the persecution of Christians in the United States: hate speech, lawsuits, jail, ridicule, pressure to not publically practice one’s faith. Thinking about this rise of persecution in the USA Today, I came across these words of Jesus.

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7)

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”( John 15:20)

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when {people} insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

I guess we should not take it personally when we are “persecuted for righteousness sake.” This is just a manifestation of people’s hatred of Jesus. They hate us because they first hated Him.

So the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church are not only for our brothers and sisters “over there,” but for us too. Perhaps this will add a bit more passion to our praying. Check out the website for the International Day of Prayer for specific ways to pray.

God Opens Doors for Effective Ministry

Last weekend I was sharing at a missions conference in Kansas about the work of One Challenge. I pointed out that in 2014, OC workers were active in 102 countries –  the highest number of countries in the history of the organization. Since I’ve started writing this blog series about the ways that God is at work in the world, it occurred to me to look at the broadening of OC’s ministry from the God-at-work perspective.

New Testament Teaching

Turning to the New Testament, we find five passages that state God opens doors for effective ministry. The majority of these are about Paul’s ministry.

When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27

But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective {service} has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord. 2 Corinthians 2:12

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned. Colossians 4:2,3

In Revelation we have the words of Jesus Himself.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.’” (Revelation 3:7-8)

While all these passages point out that God opens doors for effective ministry, the Colossians 4 passage adds the additional point that God opens doors for effective ministry in response to prayer.

Modern Examples of How God Opens Doors through Prayer

As I reflect on how God opens doors for effective ministry through prayer, one striking example comes to mind. In 1982 God led Brother Andrew, the founder of the organization “Open Doors,” to launch a seven-year prayer campaign for the opening of the Communist Bloc. The campaign began in 1983. Seven years later on November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and rest of Eastern European countries soon came out from under the Communist yoke. As a result, the 1990s witnessed the beginning of religious freedom first in Eastern Europe, then in the former Soviet Union.

I well remember reading Charles Colson’s accounts of the role that people of faith played in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in “The Body”. Little did I realize that God would open a door for me and my family to serve in Romania for 15 years, strengthening the churches there.

Paul reminds us that God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). In the case of Brother Andrew’s seven year prayer campaign, not only did God “open doors” in Eastern Europe, but God also opened up Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time Central Asia was an even tougher “no access zone” than Eastern Europe.

God gave me an “open door” to have a short term ministry trip to Mongolia 2013 – where I learned how God opened this closed country with just four believers in 1990, built his church, which numbered at least 41,000 in 2014, and was using Mongolian believers to enter even more difficult “no access zones”.

Yes, God is able to do way more than we can ask or think.

Oh God, now open the 10/40 Window!

As Eastern Europe and Central Asia were breaking free from the Communist yoke, Christian leaders began to focus prayer attention on the world’s toughest “no access zone”, the 10/40 Window. For over two decades now, the month of October has been chosen to “pray through the window.” Although we have yet see an opening of North Africa, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Asia similar to the Communist Bloc, there are signs that God is at work in the region in an unprecedented way. What wonderful testimonies we hear of how God is drawing peoples in this region to himself and how encouraging to see the growing number of church or disciple making movements!   These “first fruits” should encourage us to continually intercede for the opening of the 10/40 Window.

So in response to prayer, God opens doors to for effective and fruitful ministry. This is another way that God is at work in our world today. Since this is the case, how are you praying for God to open doors? And when God opens a door for ministry, he has in mind someone to walk through that door, and you just might be the person! Are you ready to go with God through that open door?

October 4 is 10/40 Window Mission Sunday, a part of “Praying through the Window” month.

From 1 – 31 October 2015 Christ’s follower worldwide  will be Praying Through the Window. The first Sunday in October has been designated 10/40 Window Missions Sunday, which is October 4 this year. It is not too late to tell your church leaders about this special day of prayer, and encourage their participation.

The 10/40 Window is located from 10 degrees north to 40 degrees north of the equator. There are 69 nations across Northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia in the 10/40 Window. More than four billion people live here, including 90 percent of the world’s poorest of the poor.

The 10/40 Window is often called “The Resistant Belt” and includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Communist Governments. It is estimated that 1.6 billion of these people have never had the chance to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not even once!  (Source: win1040.com)

Since the 1990s this region of the world has been the focus of concentrated prayer – and we are now hearing wonderful reports of harvest in this part of the world.  For example, here is one encouraging report of what of how God is at work in India.

“The last decade has seen a great escalation of disciple making and church planting,” reports Dr. Victor Choudhrie leader of a church planting movement in that nation. What does he mean by “a great escalation”? Between Pentecost 2009 and Pentecost 2010, Choudhrie’s ministry saw one million baptisms. That’s a one followed by six zeros!

As is true of any revival or great awakening, this didn’t just happen. It was a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit ignited by the prayers of God’s people. “This was made possible because of an avalanche of prayer,” Dr. Choudhrie explains. “Both praying through the Spirit and praying through the mind. Holy Spirit-guided, informed strategy resulted in a huge harvest that we could not think or imagine.”

Theologian Karl Barth advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’ In previewing the items of concern for this year’s Praying Through the Window, I was encouraged how the promoters blend current events with and a biblical view of God’s desired future. You will be encouraged to read how God is at work in the 10/40 Window — And you can partner with those on the front lines through prayer.

Click here to pray specifically for these Global Issues

  • Global Terrorism
  • World Religions
  • Corruption
  • Lawlessness
  • Persecution

Click here for daily prayer points for the 69 Counties

Your prayers can make a difference. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV)

21 Days of Prayer for Global Harvest, September 27-October 17, 2015

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The  21 DAYS FOR GLOBAL HARVEST prayer focus, promoted by the Student Volunteer Movement 2, happens September 27 – October 17, 2015.

During these three weeks, individuals, small groups and local congregations in many other settings around the world will  earnestly seek God’s face in prayer for a spiritual awakening and global harvest. You and your group or ministry can be a part of this movement. Register and receive a Prayer Guide (are available in English, Spanish and French and Chinese only Registering).

Click Here to REGISTER!

You can also help spread the word about the upcoming 21 Days. Spread the word through social media and invite all your friends to join you in prayer.

To learn more about the 21 Days for Global Harvest visit 21daysofprayer.net.

Prayer Movements for Muslims Precede People Movements of Muslims to Christ.

I was reminded today that Prayer Movements precede Muslim People Movements to Christ.

David Garrison in his outstanding book, A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ, points out that in the first twelve centuries of Islam, there were few voluntary conversations to Christ. Only at the end of the 19th century, what is known as the “Great Century of Protestant Missions,” did two voluntary movements of Muslims to Christ starting gain momentum, one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia; these continued to bear fruit into the early part of the 20th century. In 1965 around two million Indonesians voluntarily entered the Church. And in the final two decades of the 20th century, there were eleven people movements of Muslims to Christ. By the way, Garrison defines a people movement defined as 1,000 baptisms over 20 years. So by the end of the 20th Century Garrison documents just 13 people movements of Muslim Peoples to Christ since Mohammed.

But in the first twelve years of the 21th Century, Garrison documents 69 additional people movements of Muslims taking place in Africa and Asia. Something unprecedented is happening here.

My colleagues also pointed out that the Ramadan Prayer Movement for Muslim People groups started in 1993. Other significant prayer movements focused on Muslims also emerged in the 1990s.  Is it coincidental Prayer Movements focused on Muslims precede People Movements of Muslims to Christ? Unlikely. Prayer is not the only factor that accounts tens of thousands of Muslims turning to Christ (Garrison, for example, brings out other important factors), but it is significant.

Focused prayer for Muslims makes a difference. This is why I have encouraged people in earlier blogs to join in the Ramadan Prayer focus for Muslims, which starts today! For related resources see: http://www.30daysprayer.com/ and ramadanmillion.wordpress.com, which seeks 1,000,000 prayers for the country of Turkey during the month of Ramadan.

30 Prayer Points to Guide Your Praying for Turkey during Ramadan

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), said “When God wants to bless a people, he put on their hearts the desire to pray for that same thing.” Today we see God putting on the heart of God’s people the desire to pray blessings upon Turkey, one of the least evangelized nations in the world. Workers from among that people group have put together 30 Prayer Points for Turkey  Pray one a day starting on June 18, the first day of Ramadan, or pray them all at once or any other creative way you can think of. Print them out. Send them to friends. Click on this link to show your participation in this million person prayer initiative. Let’s see 1,000,000 people come before the throne of grace telling God, like Jacob, that we won’t let go until He blesses these precious people.

The following prayer points are drawn from the Ramadan Millions blog.. Once Ramadan ends feel free to continue using them as a guide throughout the year. May this be the beginning of God pouring out his blessing upon the Turkish people!

1 Prayer Movement – God loves Turkey. Pray for a prayer movement. May God burden many hearts in such a way that people approach the throne of grace on behalf of the Turkish people. Pray that many would not just pray but get others to pray as well. Please share the link to this page.

2 Government – The elections left the country in a bit of uncertainty as no party was able to gain a majority. This means either a coalition or more elections within the next few months. Pray that God would use the political situation for His glory and that many people would stop looking to government or political parties for their security and instead look to the Rock of Ages. Also, four Christian Background people were elected to the Parliament. Pray that they would represent Jesus well.

3 People of Peace – Pray that these people who are open to the message of Jesus and have influence over their communities will come into contact with people who have the Treasure and are able to share it in a reproducible way.

4 Turkish Apostles – Pray for these men and women who can’t be stopped. May God raise up people with a vision and heart for all of their people and may they get the training they need to go out and see believing communities multiplying throughout the country.

5 Near Neighbors – Many historic Christian peoples live near Turkey and some live within Turkey hidden from the general population. May they escape their historical and cultural religious baggage and come into a vital relationship with Jesus,i.e. become Christian in heart, not just name. Then may they catch a vision to see the Turks reached and send many apostolic workers into this land.

6 Unity (1) – Pray for unity within the Turkish church both between churches and within churches. Jesus said that the outside world will know that Jesus is true because of the love that believers have for each other. May the Turkish believers live this out.

7 Unity (2) – Expats working in Turkey have many ideas about the best way to share God’s love. Over the years there have been significant disagreements about what is best. God is calling us to unity within the diversity. There is not one best way. Pray that Expats can work out their differences, die to self, and learn how to work together in their diversity. There is room for many different methods/models. May the expats find ways to respect and honor each other in their work.

8 Unity (3) – Over the years there have been many misunderstandings and hurts between expats and Turkish Christian leaders. Pray for reconciliation where it is needed and for both sides to find ways to communicate and love each other. We all have the same goal. May we learn to work side by side in unity, each doing what God is calling them to.

9 Pray for more workers – Jesus said to pray for more workers for the harvest field (Matt. 9:38; Luke 10:2). There are many areas of Turkey with no resident gospel witness. In fact, 30 of the 81 provinces in Turkey have no church and no one who is planning on reaching those areas. Pray that this changes so that every town in Turkey has a resident witnessing community. Also, pray for a reawakening in the worker community after decades of cultivating the soil and planting in a spiritual drought. “Do not grow weary in well doing…” (Galatians 6:9).

10 Language – Language in Turkey can be complicated. Devout Muslim Turks speak a religious Turkish and secular Turks speak a secular Turkish. Also, many of the minority groups in Turkey speak other languages in the home. To reach these groups different language is needed. Pray for workers (of any ethnicity) for each of these language groups to be raised up and find effective means without causing division.

11 Bible Translators – There are a number of Bible translations available. Currently an Old Testament is being worked on in an easy to read format that uses more religious language. Pray for the translators to have discernment and wisdom as they make difficult decisions about words and phrases. May many more people be exposed to the gospel through new translations. Pray for audio versions to be made available as well.

12 Lies about the Bible – A lie that is common among most Turks is that the Bible has been changed. They hold to this in spite of facts to the contrary and even Quranic verses that show that God’s word can’t be changed. Pray that this lie would be exposed as a lie and that it would be unacceptable to voice it. Pray that this would lead to many Turks reading the Bible to see what it does say since it is true.

13 Discontent – For people to change they must be discontentment with their current situation. Pray that discontent would multiply on a mass scale and people would be start searching for The Treasure that brings true contentment.

14 Marriages and Families– It is rare to run across a Turkish couple that is happily married. Pray that they would be desperate enough to look to the Bible to find answers from the God who created marriage. Also, pray that the abuse in all its forms would be exposed and stopped.

15 Turkish Pauls – Pray that God would “knock” a Turkish Saul off their “horse” and make a Paul out of them. Saul was from Tarsus in southern Turkey and spent much of his ministry in current-day Turkey. May God raise up another Paul for today.

16 The Turkish Church – Many believers are persecuted and churches are vandalized. Pray that the believers would love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. Pray also for the churches to catch a vision for the whole country and have grow in faith that God can start a movement among the Turks.

17 Turkish Believers’ Children – Pray that the children of believers would follow their parents into faith in Jesus. Many Turkish believing children struggle at schools with forced Muslim religious education. Pray for them to stand strong and to find Jesus close to them during these times. Pray that this next generation would catch a vision for all of the Turkish people. May they enter every sphere of life and make a difference. Pray also for their protection and perseverance in the midst of persecutions.

18 Work for Believers – Pray that all Turkish believers are able to work in their profession. Unemployment is a problem in Turkey and many believers are ostracized due to their faith. Pray that they are able to find work and may Christians gain a reputation for being faithful, hard working employees.

19 Work Permits – Many expats want to work in Turkey but find it very difficult to get a work permit. Pray for favor for those seeking work permits. May they find jobs that allow them access to many people so as to live out their love for God and neighbor in the workplace in Turkey.

20 Internet Sites/BCC/TV/Radio – Pray for these media tools to be used effectively to reach people who may not otherwise meet a believer. May many Turks find these outlets and be drawn to the message. May every single person be followed up and have their questions answered. May many groups studying the Bible be started through these means.

21 Dreams & Visions – May many Turks see Jesus in dreams and visions and seek out how to know Him. May they recognize Him for who He is and may they be compelled to share their dreams with others.

22 Miracles, Signs, & Wonders – Research shows that the miracles play a significant role in people coming to know Jesus personally. Seeing that He has real power is an important step. Pray for God’s Spirit to move miraculously.

23 University Students – This is a time when people are often away from home and more open to figuring out what they really believe. May many university students find the real Treasure during these years.

24 Refugees – More than two million refugees from Iran, Syria, Iraq and other countries have flooded into Turkey in the last few years. Many of them are stuck in camps and have lost everything. Many are trying to help but it is still uncoordinated and the wheel is being re-invented over and over again. Efforts are happening to change this. At the same time many refugees are open to the Good News of Jesus who understands their suffering. Pray that they would be served in such a way that their physical, emotional, psychological, educational, and spiritual needs are met. Pray also for the Turkish/Kurdish church as they publicly love the almost two million refugees from Syria and Iraq. “That they may see your good deeds and praise your father who is in heaven.”

25 Iranians – Many cities in Turkey have large Iranian refugee communities. These cities often have two or more Iranian churches as well. Pray that these Iranians continue to grow in the Lord while they wait for acceptance to go to other countries. May they reach out to their neighbors while they are in Turkey. Pray also for the pastors of these churches who are often overwhelmed with the needs. May God raise up people to come alongside them in this work.

26 Syrians (Arabs) – Pray for the displaced Syrian Arabs in Turkey. Pray for the women and children many of whom are widowed and orphaned/fatherless. God loves these people. May they know it. Pray for compassion and help so they can get the services they need to survive and eventually get to a place of flourishing. There are reports that some have come to faith. Pray for those few who are engaging with them and for a wide-scale movement of God among them.

27 Yezidis – Pray for the Yezidi refugees who have felt especially vulnerable since their religious identity is different from everyone around them. They have received loving help from Christians which has opened them to Jesus and His love. Pray that Jesus would meet them in their need and give them His peace that is available in the midst of any storm.

28 Syrian & Iraqi Kurdish refugees – Pray for these who have been used as pawns for thousands of years. May they find salvation in every way during this dire season of life.

29 Armenians – There is a long standing conflict between Armenia and Turkey based on tragic events surrounding WWI. (Read the Wikipedia article on Armenian Genocide for details). Pray that the Armenian Christians would take the lead in living like Jesus- may they forgive and love their enemies and take the lead in seeking reconciliation rather than revenge and may they repent where it is needed. May peace reign between these two peoples like it did for centuries before 1900. Also, pray for the many Turkish pastors who are working on reconciling with Armenians – may many more Turkish Christians be humbled enough to continue to repent for their people and leaders!

30 Cyprus/Greece – This is also a hot button issue in this region (for background click here). As with the Armenians may Greece take the lead in reconciliation so that these neighbors can live in peace. May those who call themselves Christians live like Jesus who prayed for forgiveness even for those who killed Him.