I’m having some renovations done on my house at the moment. My house is small and for the next few weeks it will feel even smaller as my family and I are restricted to living in just the front room – now stacked high with the contents of all the other rooms under repair. There are some benefits, I suppose, I’m back to eating Pot Noodles like a student and get to wash up whilst taking a shower.
The building work looked straightforward on paper. The plans were agreed months in advance and employing an architect gave me some assurance that we wouldn’t encounter any “surprises”.
Having watched way too many episodes of Grand Designs I should have expected issues. Now my less than grand design is quickly turning into a grand disaster. I dread phone calls from my builder despite him being such a lovely fella who remains ever so cheery as he tells me the latest costly issue that needs rectifying in order to stop my house from collapsing.
The most disheartening thing is that all the changes will be hidden. The structural alterations will never be seen. There is no extravagance on show. There will be no big 60 Minutes Makeover style reveal. I’ll just get to use my sink again and save using the camp stove for those special cold summer holiday in Wales.
Yet things will be different. The foundations on which my house sits will be secured, the floors on which I walk will be solid, steadfast and unshakeable.
There is a temptation for evangelists to find the secret weapon that will revolutionise our ministry. We search for the secret sauce or that shiny new appliance that will trigger greater gospel. With all the best intentions, we look to level up. Some try to hold their bible like Billy did, others imitate style and form – mild plagiarism for the sake of the gospel you could say.
Like my house, I can see the temptation to add in a way that externally everyone will notice and compliment. However, far more essential than this are our foundations. It’s the preparation prior to presentation that is vital to our witness.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossian church he writes a request that lifts the floorboards and lets us take a look at the foundations on which his ministry is built.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Colossians 4:2-4.
From the first verse in this passage there is an emphasis on prayer. Prayer is the foundation of evangelism. Mission flows from prayer not prayer from mission. I’ve been guilty of jumping into mission with gospel urgency as my justification. I carry on in my own strength only falling back on prayer in the face of failure or exhaustion. Paul flips things round, prayer establishes and sustain our mission, it underpins our ministry.
When prayer is done right it will lead us to mission because it’s in the place of prayer that God reveals his mission to us. Often we can go to God with our plans expecting prayer to the place where God rubber stamps our initiatives, commends our good ideas and grants us his anointing. Then, once we’ve got his anointing, we race off without a thank you.
However, it is the place of pray that is truly transformational. Saint Clement once said that, “prayer is keeping company with God.” When we keep company with God we learn his heart. When we learn of God’s heart it changes ours. In his presence we learn what he loves and we begin to love what he loves. In his presence we understand his love for us, but at the same time we should hear of his love for others. In his presence we are turned outward. In his presence we learn of God’s desire to seek and save the lost; his love for the poor and the weak, the broken and the outcast. Exposure to the heart of God is the underpinning that our ministry needs.
But how should our prayer life look like if it’s to be coming into the company of God? Below are 5 general ways that, as followers of Jesus seeking to build strong foundations, we can seek to apply.
Paul writes about prayer that is devoted, watchful and thankful. Our prayers are not momentary and fleeting requests that are thrown up to God seconds before we dive headlong into a gospel opportunity. God is not a final safety check before take-off. Our pray must be steadfast, faithful and consistent; devoted to spending time with the one whose mission we undertake.
We must be alert and watchful in prayer. Be aware of the changing world around us. Be alert to the season we are in. Far more important than this, we must be watchful for God. What is God doing in the world and who is he leading us to. Be watchful for the movement of God among his people, be watchful and move with him.
Our prayers should be riddled with thanksgiving. We need to thank God for his love for us, for the lost and for his faithful pursuit of salvation. We thank God for the plan he has authored that includes using people like you and I to in his service. We thank God he is at work and that his includes us. We thank God for his incredible mercy and grace. From gratitude comes a joy in the ministry of God and a contentment to continue on.
PRAY FOR OPPORTUNITY
Paul prays for opportunities for the gospel. He asks for open doors – quite remarkable considering he’s in jail. Paul is in chains and suffering yet his prayer is not for his own freedom but for gospel freedom. Paul sees that the gospel has caused him to be chained and he prays for the opportunities that this will afford him. Our circumstances may look like they undermine our calling and gifting but we must trust God to use this for his glory. Pray for gospel opportunities in all circumstances, situations and seasons.
PRAY FOR CLARITY
There is nothing worst that being given a clear gospel opportunity and then wasting it because you got your words wrong. Paul prays for the clarity needed to share the mystery of Christ. Paul anticipates that he will soon be stood before the Roman authorities where he will have to explain himself and give an account of his words and actions. His desire is to have the courage, boldness and clarity to land the truth. Pray I don’t fail, pray I don’t bail when the opportunity comes.
Our ministry effectivity is prayer dependent. Pray is not an inconvenience to our ministry, in fact, it’s the opposite. Prayer powerfully connects us to the heart of God. It grafts us into the mission of God from which we bare much fruit.
Spend some time working on your foundations. Lift the façade and the fancy fittings. Go deep, invest in intimacy with Jesus. Go deep to underpin the ministry you have been given.
- What do you think the purpose of prayer is in your life?
- How important is prayer to you and what role does it play?
- How might you try to mould your prayer life into one that is more about ‘keeping the company of God’?