Christianity 201

June 3, 2012

The Great Empowerment for The Great Commission as Prayer Pattern

Okay, a long title today…

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Growing up in Toronto, Canada in Sunday School, our teachers tried to make this somewhat applicable by changing it to, “You will be witnesses… in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the uttermost parts of the earth.”  If you grew up in Chicago, it would be “…in Chicago, in Illinois, in the United States, and the farthest parts of the world.”  Then they would draw concentric circles showing the geographic destinations; and perhaps, maybe in the upper grades, a more astute teacher would reconfigure the verse to suggest that the first destination is the people only you can reach: Your immediate and extended family, your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend.

But as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the verse wouldn’t be interpreted that way by the audience that heard it spoken.  Samaria, would mean the place you don’t want to go to.

But Samaria would not be seen that way by those receiving the great commission. In Judea they will like me and receive but in Samaria we have a mutual distrust and dislike for each other. Samaria is the place you don’t want to go to. Your Samaria may be geographically intertwined in your Jerusalem or your Judea. Your Samaria may be at the remotest part the earth and it’s your Samaria because it’s at the ends of the earth.

Your Samaria may be the guy in the next cubicle that you just don’t want to talk to about your faith, but feel a strong conviction both that you need to and he needs you to. Your Samaria may be the next door neighbor whose dogs run all over your lawn doing things that dogs do. Your Samaria may be the family that runs the convenience store where you rent DVDs who are of a faith background that you associate with hatred and violence. Your Samaria may be atheists, abortionists, gays, or just simply people who are on the opposite side of the fence politically. Your Samaritan might just be someone who was sitting across the aisle in Church this weekend.

[At this point I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek Scott Wesley Brown song, Please Don’t Send Me To Africa.]

…This morning however it occurred to me that there is a place where it would be appropriate to use the concentric circles: In our prayer lives. Most of our prayer petitions are so centered on our family; I believe the phrase is “Us four, no more.”

We need to make the needs of the greater world part of our prayer life.  I want to use the phrase, we need to “pray big,” but Will Davis has already used that phrase for his series of books.  Here’s the publisher’s precis of the first book:

Do we test the Holy Spirit’s patience with prayer that asks nothing of him? This might sound surprising at first blush, but most people have experienced being at a prayer meeting, in church, or (gasp!) in their own personal prayer time and hearing prayers like this: “God, bless Tom” or “God, just be with Sue in her need.” Will Davis Jr… calls believers to a more risky and rewarding practice of prayer. Pray Big teaches readers how to pray with biblical, pinpoint accuracy. In other words, it teaches them prayers that get things done. From audacious prayers for miracles to mundane prayers about lost car keys, Davis takes the reader from a point of weakness to one of boldness. As a result, readers will want to pray more, they will see more results from their prayers, and they will be emboldened to ask God for everything he has promised them.

There have been several recent books written about “praying big,” and I’ve referred to three of them on this blog and at Thinking out Loud:  Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala.

But as important as it is to ask God to increase our faith, I think we need to think about the concentric circles and pray wide.  (Or for you American football players, pray long.)  We need to take the verse above from Acts, the verse that tells us we will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the command to “go into all the world and share the gospel;” and use its geographic model — JJSR, where R=rest of the world — and use it as our prayer pattern.

I’ll be the first to admit that we struggle with this as a family, but help is available through websites that will keep us abreast of what’s going on in areas of hunger and persecution.

We need to broaden our prayer horizons.  We need to pray wide.

~Paul Wilkinson

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