OK, we’re done with the Christmas season, so let’s talk about our topic for the last few days of the year. When I was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, they introduced to me a four-point guideline on how to grow in Christ. Imagine a circle with four points coming out of it like the points on a compass.
The middle of the circle is a cross, representing Christ as the center of everything. The arrow pointing upwards is “Prayer.” The arrows to the left and right are “fellowship” and “witnessing” (with no significance attached to which is which). The arrow pointing downwards is “God’s word.”
These are known as the “Christian disciplines.” Please don’t think of that term the way we normally think of “discipline,” which usually means punishment for a child. Discipline is a teaching tool, whether in a child’s life or in the lives of God’s children. They’re the means God uses to make us more like Christ in this life. You did know that this is his ultimate goal for you, right?
Also I need to make clear that this list of four is by no means exhaustive. There are quite a few listed by others, such as fasting and adversity, which God uses to chip away the parts of us that don’t look like Jesus and refashion us into something which resembles him better. But these are the primary four which every Christian needs to practice, and they’re things which you have to make a decision to do. They take time and effort, but they’re more than worth it.
So today we’re going to have just a few words on prayer. There are so many passages on prayer that it was really hard to pick one. In fact, this will probably be a topical study next year. But today’s reading is one of my favorites, and it gives us insight into the subject.
You see, anytime we practice one of these disciplines or have any other interaction with the spiritual realm, there are two sides to whatever’s happening. Take prayer for example. You see a little girl at her prayers before bedtime. To the human eye, she’s a frail little thing who weighs in at around 70 lbs. Her words are faltering, since she's not very eloquent and has trouble finding the right words to say. Not much of a threat as far as we can see right?
But in the spiritual realm, there’s much more that’s happening. In some mysterious way the Spirit is interceding for her. The Son, acting as her High Priest, brings her petition before the Father, lending it his own authority. The One sitting on the throne of the Universe, the Almighty God before whom angels dare not show their faces, listens. And acts in a way that makes angels’ jaws drop.
Read today’s passage again, slowly. We can debate about whether or not this setting is past, present, or future. But I think the principle is timeless. When prayers go up before Almighty God, Heaven responds, and earth is moved. In this case, it literally set fire to the earth. Earthquakes, thunder, and lightening were the result of these prayers.
Now, do we always see such an immediate and open effect? No. Lots of times people pray and pray and pray, and don’t see results. But I promise you this: If you’re truly praying, then the God of Heaven is listening, and eventually you’ll see an answer that'll bowl you over. It might or might not come in the way you’re expecting, but it will come. It just might be that one last prayer before God says “Enough!!!” and moves in an open and public way.
So don’t give up. Keep praying until God tells you to stop. You never know what might be the result. You might even see some fire upon the earth.
Father God, thank you for listening. You attach such importance to the prayers of your children. Lord Jesus, to think that you attach your authority to anything which comes out of my mouth? Wow. Holy Spirit, please intercede as only you can, because my prayers so often are selfish, short-sighted, and not worth listening to. Before you set fire to the earth, set fire to me.