Prayer is implied in the Church of Jesus Christ.
When you pray, asking is a big part of the prayer. Prayer is relating to God, conversing with God, and yes, asking of God.
As desperation for an answer increases we may cry out to God.
Sometimes it can be difficult to discern an answer from God. For instance, we are told to pray for our leaders. How do we truly know if God has answered? What are the signs, if any at all? We pray for alleviation of poverty and yet, how do we know if God is answering?
The truth is, many Christians miss the transition from praying to acting. In other words, they miss the transition from asking for a solution, to acting to see the solution come to pass. A very simple illustration is this: I can open a door for you, but only you can walk through that door. If you stand still and refuse to move, you will never enter. I truly believe that God answers some prayers with openings and we miss them because we don't stop crying out long enough to test for an answer. You see, there are doors that God will open that no one can shut (Rev 3:8) but are we moving, walking through the door that God opened. God parts the Red Sea and then people walk.
I love what Bill Johnson, Lead Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, says of this: "Prayer is the place where we receive boldness and power to go into enemy territory and take the spoil." Given this quote, our prayers can take on a whole different dimension than usual. Instead of saying, "God, do something..." we can pray, "God, give me (power, assistance, help, boldness, gifts, courage) so I can do something mighty for Your Kingdom!" Now THAT'S a completely different way of praying.
That kind of praying speaks of your willingness, not just your request. That kind of praying seeks for yourself to be engaged in the answer, not just asking God to answer for you while you wait in the shadows.
When it comes to your prayer life, how much of it is filled with willingness? What would happen in your life with God if you began to pray more and more in this fashion? Consider the requests on your 'prayer list' right now. How many of them can you add you willingness to? How many of them can you bring before God and add your own living sacrifice to be part of the solution?
That kind of prayer will be answered in one way or another because God wants willing servants. You don't even need to be qualified, because your willingness is the only qualification God needs. The equipping for the job is on God. He will give you everything you need to take the spoils of the battle from the enemy. When that happens, your faith is built-up as well. You simply can't go wrong praying this way. Don't miss God's answers by asking without acting.
One reality of being a part of the Kingdom of God is that we are blessed to have access to the unlimited resources, wisdom, knowledge, and power of the King. If you are yoked together with Jesus and following Him daily, then there is no limit to what He can do through you! However, we need to have our minds renewed and understand the barriers we have established to keep us from reaching our potential.
Barrier #1: "Clergy / Laity Divide"
The establishment of the division between clergy and laity has kept many in the Body of Christ from reaching their potential. As a pastor, I regularly have people come and ask permission to do ministry. Jesus raised up disciples and set them free to minister. Yes, it is good to be accountable to one another... to check our motives or to discern particular issues within our ministry. It is good to seek wisdom from the church and it is right to submit to authority. However, there is still this overall mindset that a person can't engage in ministry without plugging into a program that is sanctioned by the church. Only 5% of the church population will ever engage in paid, "occupational" ministry. What about the other 95%? Is our Lord not able to lead the 95%? Is our Lord only speaking to the 5%? No, of course not. Jesus will lead. The challenge for the Clergy is to remove any and all shackles of control from the people and set them free to minister. If someone get's something wrong, then have an accountability conversation, but please, please do not squelch the body before it starts to minister.
Barrier #2: "Selective Obedience"
People tend to hear all of the commands of Jesus as a buffet of options rather than a list of expectations. When we pick-and-choose what we want to obey instead of coming under the authority of Christ, we will fail to live up to our potential. The commands of Jesus are good ... they are Spirit and Life. Jesus' commands lead to abundant life! Selective obedience is a sign that you desire to have Christianity on your own terms. You pick what is good for you, but not what is commanded by God. People tend to divert their attention away from commands that hit them where they live. Our own unresolved issues, our own unhealed wounds, our own disregard for selected commands of Christ, hold us back from our potential. What if you thoroughly examined the gospels for the direct commands of Christ and then took the mental posture that "Jesus really meant this." How different would your life be?
Barrier #3: "The Casual, 'It's Not My Job' Mentality"
There is a tendency for Christian people to disregard anything that lies outside their "calling." We take a spiritual gifts test and then disregard anything that falls outside the results. Is it wrong to show mercy even if your gift is not mercy? Is it wrong to help if your gift is prophecy? Is it beneath you to teach if your gift is giving? You see, the Good Samaritan got it right. Perhaps mercy and giving were not his "gifts" but he did what was right because it was the right thing to do. We really need to erased the world's view of Job Descriptions from our work in the Kingdom. Sometimes we need to minister outside our gifting or ability because Jesus will prove Himself powerful in our weakness.
What would you do for Jesus today if you knew you couldn't fail?
Go do it.
It's quite common for God to do things in ways that you and I really don't expect. It's quite common for God to answer prayers in ways we don't expect. It's quite common for God to transform you through your own mind renewal in ways you didn't expect. So, if our expectations are different than God's ways, answers and thoughts, then how do we know if He truly has answered, spoken and/or moved a mountain?
Here's what I've come to understand about praying for ministry fruitfulness; God creates openings, not happenings. Openings are full of favor and give us confidence and assurance, but the happenings are on us. We are, after all, the workers in His vineyard. What... not what you expected? Imagine you wanting to grow a great garden but had no land on which to plant one. A friend comes to you and says, "Here. Take this acre of land I'm not using and feel free to plan your garden there." What is your next course of action? Would you simply return home and expect vegetables and fruit to appear on that land without doing any tilling, planting, cultivating, watering or harvesting?
If you are looking for God to do a new thing in your church and in your ministry, expect His answers to your prayers to create openings of favor so you can work diligently, but don't expect Him to do your work.
Let's return to the garden analogy for a moment. So, you go to the land offered to you by your friend and you begin to dig, till, cultivate, plant and water. You then wait for Gods creation to do what only it can do. You wonder if the garden will grow at all because the weather conditions have not been ideal to growing. But, when seedlings begin to appear above ground, you discover that your garden is growing faster and more lush than any other you have planted. In the midst of the opportunity, you are presented with favorable results that defy the laws of nature. That's how God does things. His favor, when placed upon your work causes city walls to crumble, armies to turn on themselves and flee, demons to leave, and fruit to appear in barren wastelands.
Knowing when God has created an opening for blessing and favor to multiply your work in ministry is absolutely discernable. How, you ask? Get to work... that's how. If you want to know if a door is locked, go check the door handle! If it's open, walk in and if it's locked you'll know.
Many pray for revival but refuse to do the labor related to revival. If God were to open the heavens over you and your ministry work would you know it? Would you be like the farmer who cancelled all his daily plans to give his whole day to plowing his field because the weather was finally ideal to do so? Or, would you be like the farmer that looked out the window and, though he saw the favorable conditions, went back to bed and slept the day away?
Matthew 20:1 NIV "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.
If you are in a season of God's favor, then get to work!
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.