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If you are a pastor or an elder in a church, you have many great responsibilities. But you have three primarily foundational responsibilities that you cannot neglect. If you are a student in a seminary preparing for ministry, or you are an intern in a church practicing for ministry, you must study and practice and prepare for many things in the ministry. But there are three foundational realities that you must be sure that you are committed to. In order to make this as simple as possible, I would mention those three foundational realities in three simple words. Pray. Preach. Pastor. By that I mean, first, you must be given to a ministry of serious seeking of the face of God and interceding for the purposes of God. Second, you must be accurate and clear in your preaching of the word of God. Third, you must be loving and compassionate in regards to pastoring the people of God.
And you remember Peter emphasizing these things in the beginning and the end of his ministry. In Acts 6:4, he told the disciples at Jerusalem we must give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. So doing, it sets a primitive pattern for all that follow such a ministry. And then many years later in 1 Peter in chapter 5, he said, “I exhort you elders among us, as a fellow elder to shepherd the flock of God which is among you, willingly not under compulsion, not for shorted again, not lording it over the flock of God, but proving to be an example to them.” So, we have Peter saying here in these words these three realities: We are to seek the face of God, we are to preach the word of God, and we are to pastor the people of God.
So, I want to talk to you about a subject that is very simple and that we have heard of many times before. Having been a Christian fifty years and seeking to continue to cultivate such a spirit in my own heart. I want to speak to you upon ‘The Preacher’s Private Prayers and Ministry of Intercession.’ The Preachers’ private prayer and ministry of Intercession especially in a time of difficulty, trial, and crisis.
And obviously, we see the difficulty, trial, and crisis in the world today throughout the world for various reasons. And I would just simply introduce this topic by reminding you by way of introduction of the reality and the certainty of trials, difficulties, and crises in our lives. And you will be looking at this more specifically at the pastors’ conference meeting in September. But I just want to mention it briefly to set a framework for hearing the word of God on this vital subject. We are not listening to Benny Hinn, we are not listening to Joyce Meyer, we are not listening to Creflo Dollar or Joseph Prince, or anyone else you might see on TV who tells you that Christians will not have trials, tribulations and difficulties in their lives.
We ought to listen to the Word of God and you will be reminded, first of all, from the Word of God that there are difficulties, trials, and crises that are common to all men. The book of Job put it this way: “Man is born for trouble as the sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). We live in a fallen sinful world that is infected and affected by sin. Paul said in Romans 5:12, “So as through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men in that all sin.” We live in a fallen world. The world itself, Paul tells us in Romans 8, is under a curse. The world has been subjected to futility and it groans under the birth pain anxiously awaiting the arrival of the children of God. So, the world experiences all manner of convulsion, all manner of difficulty because we are in a sin-cursed world and we are surrounded by people that have sinful hearts. And thus the sin brings sickness, disease, death, difficulty, trial, tribulation, and crises to all men generally: none escape that difficulty. There are natural disasters because this world is groaning under the weight of sin. That is trees and animals die. There are plagues. There is Covid-19. There is a flood. There is divorce. There is adultery. There are cyclones. There are earthquakes. All because of the presence of sin in the world.
The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1-2, “In the last days difficult times will come. Men will be lovers of self, lovers of pleasures, lovers of money. Holding to a form of godliness while denying its power.” Lovers of self, we can call that secular humanism. Lovers of money, we can call that materialistic idolatry. Lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, we could call that materialism. And then, of course, false religion. Holding to a form of godliness but denying its power. So, we have all around us the difficulty that comes to all men generally.
Also, secondly, I would remind you that there are trials, and crises that are peculiar to the Christians. Jesus said in John 15:18 “If they hated me they will hate you.” and he said in John 16:33, “In this world, you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world.” When the Apostle Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, and he went into Damascus and God sent Ananias to Paul to open his eyes, God told Ananias about Paul, “For I must show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” And the apostle Paul certainly did suffer as a Christian preaching the truth of the Word of God. So that, when he was out to plant churches in Acts 13 and 14 in his first missionary journey, you will remember he preached the gospel, he made disciples, he established churches and he appointed the elders, and he encouraged the disciples with these words: “Through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.” And he reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 that, “All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will know persecution and difficulty.” And Peter himself picks up this theme in 1 Peter. But he reminds us not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal that comes upon us for a particular purpose.
So, brothers, I know you realise this from the Word of God, but it is important that we understand that we minister in a context of a sin-cursed fallen world surrounded by men that are no friends of grace. So, the political systems and even false religions will oppose and will persecute the church of God and we cannot be foolish to suppose that this world is our home. We are only passing through. It is not a playground; it is a battleground. One of the primary means that God has appointed. In fact, the primary means God has appointed to advance his kingdom is the church of God. God has called you to be a pastor and a leader in the church. You are studying and preparing and training to be a pastor or a leader in the church. You need to be reminded that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but they are divinely powerful for tearing down the fortresses. God says, “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”
And we must be men that are committed to those foundational realities of seeking the face of God in prayer, accurately preaching and teaching the word of God, and lovingly pastoring and shepherding the people of God. Now God may have gifted you and called you to do other things. Some of you write blogs and write books. And it is very important that we have blogs and books that give fresh communication from Indian men for the Indian context concerning right Theology, methodology, preaching, History and Ecclesiology. We must do these things. Some of you are specially gifted and burdened to train and prepare other men. And this is crucial, vital and important. That is to keep carrying out in the context of the local church. We are to be given to finding faithful men who are able to teach others and train and prepare them for ministry. But whatever other ministry you have, whether it is also translating and editing books, as well as ministries of compassion and mercy, these ministries are crucial and absolutely necessary. But you must understand that God has called you to be a pastor in the church. Your primary calling is to pray and to preach and to pastor. That being the case, in a context of crisis and difficulty in which the world always is. But especially, as you presently experience in your own country, sickness, death, confusion, insecurity, and anxiety.
What ministry are we to have? We are to be given to a ministry of private prayer and intercession. I want to speak to you just practically from some things that I have learned in my own life from the Word of God after many years of seeking to develop such a ministry, some things that I trust will be useful to you. I trust that you already realize these things. I trust that you are already practicing some ministry of private prayer and intercession. But as Peter said, “I want you to stir you up by way of reminder so that even after I am departed we never see one another again, you may call to mind these things even though you might be established in them.”
So, realise again, first of all, that there is no rest in this world from the anxiety, insecurities, and the challenges and the complications of crises and difficulties. We minister in such a context. The question is, what kind of men we ought to be? We ought to be men that are committed to prayer and intercession. So, let me begin by just setting forth the very simple principles. And that is this, “Effectual prayer in extraordinary times of crises must be grounded upon disciplined prayer in ordinary times of peace.” That is, effectual prayer in extraordinary times of crises and difficulty must be grounded upon the habit of disciplined consistent secret prayer in ordinary times of peace. What do we mean by this? We mean simply this, your calling is to be given to prayer. You remember the example of Daniel. In Daniel 6, a very familiar verse. (We are talking about the necessity of developing habits of ordinary prayer. So that out of it we may be sharing extraordinary times of difficulty that we have a spirit of prayer.) Daniel 6, you know the story. The Medo-Persian King had taken over. He appointed Daniel and a hundred and twenty other satraps to run the country. Three men, Daniel and two others. And because they are jealous of Daniel, they seek a scheme against him and their scheme is to trick him and to betray him to the king and the king passes an edict and decrees that anyone who prays to any other god for thirty days will be thrown into the den of lions. And you are very familiar with the story. Notice, Daniel 6:9-10 “Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.” Now in verse 10, “When Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house and now in his roof chamber, he had a window open toward Jerusalem. And he continued to get down on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” That is as he had been in the habit of doing consistent, diligent, self-denying prayer toward Jerusalem the God of heaven and earth in ordinary times of prosperity, so that when this difficult time came in his particular life, he did not wring his hands and wonder what was going on. He continued and persisted in the work of a private prayer.
So, it is consistency then, in our ordinary practice of private prayer that will enable us to be faithful in extraordinary prayer during times of crises and difficulty. Of course, in the New Testament, you will remember the life of our Lord Jesus Christ both in his teaching and his examples. You know in Matthew 6, when he is comparing and contrasting false outward righteousness and empty morality of the Pharisees with the true righteousness of the people of the kingdom of God, he tells them in the familiar Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward in full.” That is they were showing in order to get glory from men but he says you in verse 6. When you pray, go into your room, close the room and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees what has been done in secret will reward you. Jesus taught that the practice and habit of the true citizens of the kingdom of God was not just empty morality and an outward show in order to please men. It was an inward work of the Spirit of God that enabled them to seek God for the sake of God in the secret place to be seen only by God and to receive a reward from God. This is the characteristic of the children of the kingdom of God.
And if you remember in the gospel of Mark in chapter one, Jesus not only taught the importance of secret prayer as a characteristic of the children of the kingdom of God, Jesus also practiced the habit of secret prayer. Notice Mark 1, remember verse 35, after a full day of ministry and half-night of ministry, so much so that they did not even have time to eat, and you remember that our Lord in his human nature was weary, tired and hungry. Mark 1:34-35, “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” Notice in verse 35, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed the house and went out to a desolate place, and was there praying.” Jesus practiced the habit of secret prayer.
Luke 11:1, you remember, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” The Bible tells us in another place that he was often slipping away to a lonely place to pray. So, what I am saying is: it is a consistent, habitual, practice of seeking God in ordinary times that enables us to be engaged in effectual prayer in extraordinary times of crisis.
So, brethren, I encourage you to understand that from the teaching of Christ, and from the life and example of Christ, and from the testimony of many good and godly men that laboured for the kingdom of God down through the centuries from the Old Testament and even until today, the primary characteristics of these men, regardless of their difference in certain aspects of theology. They were men who were given to the habits and practice of the secret prayer. The question is, why? What motivated our saviour? And what motivated good and godly men down through Bible history and church history, again and again, and whatever their background, whatever their theological convictions. They all had this one regular habit and they were given to ministry and to the practice of secret prayer.
This article is a transcript of a talk by Brother Andy H in June 2021 entitled ‘The Preacher’s Private Prayers and Ministry of Intercession.’