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Voices of the Faithful
By Kim P. Davis
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention
All rights reserved.
Prayer, the Priority
Even if you and I don't get our words right, if our hearts are right, God hears them. —Beth Moore
Receiving a handwritten letter was not unusual in the early 1990s before the time of e-mail, but I did not recognize the handwriting. News from anyone back home was a treat, so I tore open the envelope and began to read. The letter writer introduced himself as David. He explained that God had called him to a ministry of intercession for missionaries. He quoted Scripture, gave encouragement, and again assured us that he was praying for us on a regular basis.
I didn't think too much about that letter I received during our first year as International Mission Board missionaries in South Africa until we got a second, third, fourth, and more letters from the same man. After 13 years as missionaries and four years of my husband working on staff at the IMB, we are still receiving letters from David telling us the ways in which he is praying for us and our ministries. Even after 17 years.
My husband and I met David in 2001 at a conference center in Glorieta, New Mexico. In appearance, he was totally unassuming. I probably wouldn't have noticed him in a crowd. He humbly introduced himself to us and explained that he had been writing us and praying for us. I couldn't believe I was meeting this committed prayer warrior. What surprised me even more was the fact that he went up to every missionary at that conference and told them the same thing.
We spoke to several of our colleagues. They all had been in correspondence with David. He prays for thousands of missionaries. Boy, was I glad to be on his list! Who knows what his prayers have accomplished all over the world. We were absolutely sure that God had powerfully worked through his prayers in our own ministry.
Faithful intercessors are hard to come by, but they are absolutely vital for kingdom work. God raises up people like David because He wants His people to have the joy of making a difference on earth. This month, you will read stories of how prayer makes a difference. Even when we aren't sure how to pray for the people groups of the world or for missionaries, God hears us and His Spirit helps us know how to pray. In one devotion, Joe says, "One of the great privileges of prayer is the ability to be a part of what God is doing. We may not know the people or the results of those prayers until we get to heaven, but what a glad day it will be when we meet them face-to-face."
This month, and in fact this year, God is calling you to a new journey of prayer for the nations, for missionaries, for lost people around you, and for yourself as you participate in kingdom work. He is giving you an opportunity to be part of what He is doing in our world today. Become a David.
—Kim P. Davis
How important is prayer?
"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16b (NKJV)
We received word that our translator could not go with us to an unreached city where we hoped to start future ministry. Feeling God's leadership to keep the appointment, we spent the travel time frantically practicing basic Russian and asking God to miraculously equip us to communicate. The meeting with the city leader was a challenge, but successful. It was over a year later, however, that we learned the true miracle of that meeting when the leader told us, "As I watched you struggle to communicate and saw your hearts of love, I began to question why a family would come from the West to the middle of nowhere to help me. There must be a God who loves me very much. I decided to make room in my life for Him." Dumbstruck and convicted, we realized that our initial prayers had been focused on our inadequacies, not on the salvation of this man. We had forgotten the most important thing!
We all understand that prayer is crucial to world missions, but we sometimes forget to pray or even lose sight of what to pray for. With millions lost with no access to the Gospel, our intercession must be daily. Countless lives hang in the balance! We need to ask anew for God to "teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1, NASB). —Rusty and Lori, European Peoples
Our Father, teach me to pray for the lost of the world and for missionaries who faithfully serve You. May my prayer life be radically changed this year, and may millions come to know You, the one true God. Amen.
Could you teach me how to pray?
"Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, 'Lord, teach us to pray.'" Luke 11:1 (NLT)
A neighborhood Bible study started in Lucy's home. Lucy's 78-year-old father-in-law, José, showed up from time to time at the study hour, but he would always sit on the other side of the porch despite repeated invitations to join the group.
On those early Thursday mornings, José began to inch closer, but heneverjoined.ThechronologicalBiblestoriescaptivatedthelisteners. They asked questions and prayed for each other. Although only about seven or eight attended each week, they began to grow spiritually.
One morning, José arrived late. He sat a little closer to the group. The leader casually asked him to come over, and he did! There he was, sitting in the circle with all the ladies. As we finished, he asked, "I don't know much, and this is something I should know, but I do not. It almost embarrasses me to ask. Could you teach me how to pray?"
What a blessed time we had! Jesus taught His disciples to pray informally, which was unheard of in Jewish circles. We shared that talking to God is like talking to a best friend. Then each member prayed, and José joined in. I was reminded that prayer is not formal, but a close, personal way to speak with our Friend.
—K.B., American Peoples
Thank You, loving Father, that You draw near to us as we draw near to You. May Your grace and blessings surround new believers today as they grow in their knowledge of You and learn to hear Your voice. Amen.
A call to prayer
"Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed." Revelation 15:4 (NLT)
Echoing through the streets was the haunting call to prayer. I felt the heaviness of lostness, overwhelmed by knowing that millions around me prayed in futility.
I had climbed to the highest point of the city with my national friend and her family. It was a beautiful night to see all the lights of this massive city. While I was looking and thinking about how wonderful it was to live here, the calls to prayer began to ring out from one mosque to another. My heart was heavy, and I began to cry. I began to pray again for the city that God had called me to and that I loved. I prayed that God would exchange the peoples' hearts of stone for hearts of flesh and that they would instead sing prayers of praises to Him, the one true God.
After praying, I couldn't help but sing a prayer of praise knowing that one day every nation will bow before Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord. Praises to Jesus are what I want to hear echoed across this great land.
In my own life, I couldn't help but evaluate my daily prayer life. Are my prayers out of habit or out of praise? The One alone who is holy deserves my sincerest prayers.
—Mallory, Central Asian Peoples
Break our hearts, Father, for the multitudes living in total darkness, depravity, and hopelessness. Thank You that You are not silent but are actively drawing the peoples of the world to Yourself. May Your truth be shared and embraced in dark corners of the world today. Amen.
Always joy and prayer
"Rejoice always! Pray constantly." 1 Thessalonians 5:16–17 (HCSB)
The police followed us everywhere. My husband was called in for questioning about once a week: "What are you doing out in the countryside? We know you gave them Bibles! Did you teach them about Jesus?" The stress was intense. We finally were "invited" to leave our city by the increasingly hostile authorities.
We faced weeks of transition outside our country of service, living in a nearby country. Only able to get 30-day visas into our country, we went back and forth. Living out of a suitcase, there was no way to continue homeschooling or normal routine.
Finally, we felt we had the Father's direction and took a role reaching a city of about 4 million. As we unpacked our boxes, I was upset to discover that a favorite plaque had cracked during the move. Displayed on the plaque was 1 Thessalonians 5:16–17, both in English and our country's language.
My first instinct was to throw away the plaque. Instead, I mended it, although the crack was still clearly visible. It was a reminder that no matter what we're going through—persecution, moving, unstable lifestyles, unanswered questions about the future, political problems, or exhaustion—we are called to a life of prayer and joy.
—A worker with East Asian Peoples
Father, Your Word reminds me that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that lay before Him. Christians are not exempt from trials, heartaches, and even persecution. Please draw near to Your children who are suffering today, and fill them with Your peace and joy. Amen.
In it for the ice cream?
"[I pray that] you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and width, height and depth, and to know the Messiah's love that surpasses knowledge." Ephesians 3:17b–19 (HCSB)
Thirty-four children didn't sleep the night before in anticipation of a day at an amusement park near Manila. We were taking the group of urban poor, where they experienced the Ferris wheel, roller coasters, and log flume for the first time with lots of laughter and delight.
While the kids were appreciative, their reactions to the experience differed. Some asked for nothing, while others asked for everything their eyes beheld! One 8-year-old girl wanted food, especially sweets, after almost every ride. She wasn't hungry; she was simply eager to enjoy foods she rarely ate. We wanted her to have a special day, so we indulged her.
As I was standing in line for yet another ice cream, I wanted to help this child understand that we desired to have a relationship with her that went beyond treats. It was then that I realized how God desires to have a meaningful relationship with me as well. I had to admit that many times my prayers sound very similar to this girl's wish list. I imagine that God simultaneously smiles and sighs as He indulges me out of His boundless love while recognizing that all too often I am focused on the ice cream also.
—Joe, East Asian Peoples
Lord, create in me a new heart, one that desires You above all else. Don't let me be satisfied with less than a deep, intimate relationship with You. Give me an insatiable desire for You, Your Word, and Your passion for the salvation of those peoples without hope. Amen.
"And you can join in helping with prayer for us, so that thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift that came to us through [the prayers of] many." 2 Corinthians 1:11 (HCSB)
"Andy" and "Linda" were devastated by the news. Doctors said of their son, "Without surgery, he will die. But we do not think he will survive the procedure. There is little hope."
The church began to pray for the entire family. We did, too. During the risky surgery and the frighteningly long recovery, this family of new believers lived on prayer.
Throughout the surgery and the many days of wondering if their son would survive, Andy and Linda grew closer as a couple, and their prayer lives were strengthened. They reached out to God, and He reached back through His people who ministered to them.
My wife and I sat with the couple many times during the ordeal. One day, Andy and Linda said, "We hoped that others were praying, but we knew you were because we could see, hear, and feel it." Active praying sometimes includes being physically present where the prayer is being focused.
Being active in prayer allows people to see God at work and to experience how He can change lives. We don't always think we have the time, but praying for others in person is a great encouragement.
—John, European Peoples
Thank You, Holy One, that You are never distracted or absent, but are always present in Your children's lives. You have called and empowered believers to walk alongside those in need. Help me to prayerfully accept this ministry, confident of Your presence, power, and enabling. Amen.
A prayer full of love
"Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:18 (NASB)
"Mary" grimaced after the truck hit a bump. I reached over to squeeze her hand and slowed down a little. My friend had given birth to her sixth baby the night before, and I was driving her home from the rural hospital. Her sister was with us, as well as Mary's toddler. When we arrived, I carried the sleeping newborn to the mud-brick hut while the sister walked with Mary, waving off the children so they wouldn't bump into her.
Once inside, Mary sat on her bed while her sister rushed around to make sure things were arranged. In the hustle and bustle of children and family members peering at the new baby, I knelt next to Mary's bed and asked, "May I pray for you?" She said, "Yes, I'd like that."
In halting Sereer, I prayed for Mary and the baby. I also prayed that her family would love Him. I ended the prayer in the name of Jesus. I had concentrated so hard on praying, and my heart was so full of love for this family who didn't know my Jesus, I hadn't noticed the bustling noises had stopped. Mary's eyes glistened as she took my hand and said, "Thank you for everything."
God reminded me that the simple act of praying for someone opens hearts to His love.
—K.F., Sub-Saharan African Peoples
Father, remind me of the peace and serenity that surrounds me when I'm focused on You. I ask that You provide opportunities to share Your love and truth with someone today. Help me to be obedient. Amen.
Timely birthday prayers
"Finally, pray for us, brothers, that the Lord's message may spread rapidly and be honored ... and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3:1–3 (HCSB)
Have you ever wondered if your prayers for missionaries make a difference? One evening while I was home alone waiting for my family, I saw a man staring at me, just inside our front door. Thinking he was a neighbor who was coming in ahead of my family, I went to him with my hands outstretched in greeting. He pushed me roughly aside and said threateningly, "This is a robbery! Do you want me to kill you?" A second armed man came into our house at that point.
God gave me the words to say and the grace to respond. "I want you to know that this house and everything in it belongs to God. Do you know Him?" I asked. Tied and gagged, I prayed facedown on our bed, asking God to protect me and to have mercy on these men.
When my family returned, they were startled to find me tied up, but God's grace led them to respond calmly. The day before was my husband's birthday. Because his name appeared on the prayer calendar found in LifeWay's Open Windows devotional magazine, individuals and churches had bathed him in prayer just hours before the home invasion. Property was taken, but I was unharmed. Thank the Lord for faithful prayer warriors!
—Lisa, American Peoples
Excerpted from Voices of the Faithful by Kim P. Davis. Copyright © 2009 International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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