For several weeks, we have engaged in spiritual Spring Cleaning. We have cleaned up our motives, brought down the walls of improper motives, and examined our unrepentant hearts. We have learned that, in prayer, we must lay aside our will, to enable God’s will to be done, and to bind our commitment to Him.
Last week, we cleaned the junk room in our hearts, the unrepentant storehouse of sin—the failure to forgive, lust, desecration of our bodies (God’s Temple), fear, pride, gossip, satanic thoughts, past-due debts, and ingratitude for our many blessings.
In this final missive, God calls me to address the power and influence of prayer, our cable connection to Him. What does it take to maintain a clear connection? Ronnie Floyd, in How to Pray, says, “Anyone can follow the crowd. But you need to be willing to stand for God. Your stand for God is usually determined by the power of your prayers, and the strength of your stand will be determined by your clarity in prayer.”
Paul and Silas were deemed influential because they were men of prayer (Acts 16:16-40). Amidst persecution, they became dedicated to prayer.
God wants us to become prayer warriors, capable of influencing others. Why then, are prayers, however sincere, often ineffective? At fault are improper motives, unrepentant hearts, and attentiveness to false teachers.
Jeremiah (29:24-28) and Paul (Acts 16:16) raise the issue of false prophets and fortunetellers. Jeremiah was himself accused of false prophesy by Shemaiah, a false prophet. Jeremiah’s message from God (29:1-8), that deliverance was not at hand, fell hard upon the ears of those in exile.
Shemaiah sought to bring, through lies, short term comfort to those who preferred not to know the truth.
We see Paul’s courage as he confronts and casts out a demon in a fortune-telling slave girl (Acts 16:16). Paul realized that, by accepting the girl’s praise, he would link himself to demonic influence, destroying the integrity of his message. The gospel is readily corrupted by association with demonically influenced teachers.
Paul and Silas suffered beatings and imprisonment as a result of Paul’s casting out of the fortuneteller’s demon.
The elements needed to make clear our cable connection to God are trust, tone, and testimony. Paul and Silas, in spite of their imprisonment, showed trust in God, praising and singing hymns to Him, in earshot of other prisoners (Acts 16:25). When we show trust, no matter how dismal the situation, others may be led to Christ through our example.
There is a special tone one must use in prayer. We must speak to God with respect, submission, and reverence. We must emulate Jesus in His difficult moments in the Garden, hurt by the rumors of those who were threatened by His power and who wanted Him dead, among them the
Pharisees whose livelihoods were at risk. Christ, shaken and aware that His earthly journey was near its end, and disappointed in his disciples’ inability to stay awake, adopted a tone of total submission, “never the less not my will but thy will be done” (Luke 22:42).
Testimony is evident in the account of the jailer who witnessed an earthquake that set free Paul and Silas (Acts 16:31). Unlike many of us would do, Paul and Silas remained in their cell. The jailer, afraid that his prisoners had escaped, and prevented by Paul from committing suicide, asked, “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” Paul provided Jesus’ name and the promise of salvation, an act of testimony.
Jeremiah, Paul, and Silas each demonstrated trust by maintaining faith amidst difficulty, tone within their prayer, and testimony through their revelation of God’s message.
Has God done anything for you that warrants praise? Have you trusted in Him? Have you maintained a proper tone in prayer? If so, you are likely to be called upon to give testimony.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To reach the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at email@example.com.