He desires everyone to be saved
Have you met some believers who are "so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good," so to say?
They have very little or no influence on the community they live in and for the common good. Perhaps, some of such people are only very religious and strongly devoted church people but they have never had a life transforming experience with the Lord Jesus personally.
Their spirituality may not be Biblically healthy. Rev. Dr John Stott says, “Where is the salt? “God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain comfortably in elegant church salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad.
And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves?
One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?”
But in this conversation, we are not dismissing piety and the critical importance of prayer for the individual believer and the church. Perhaps, Daniel in the Bible was such a very effective public servant and very positively influenced kings and significantly impacted society because of his deep and consistent practice of prayer and his lifestyle of godliness with integrity, personally, at work and in the community.
People saw the beauty of God in him and even though he had evil competitors in the public service space, God’s presence with him, and God’s divine intervention in his life, made him overcome the plots of those who made wicked plans to destroy him. His testimony of good success in public service was great! He was a "holistic" godly person.
Believers must pray very hard, and do their work very hard and diligently, as we see in the life of Daniel. We depend very much on Christ and His Holy Spirit, through prayer and fasting to succeed in whatever task we engage in. The song writer is right, "the arm of flesh will fail you." You dare not rely on your puny strength!
In fact, “prayer must be the first response, rather than the last resort for the individual believer and the Church in any task we take on and in every situation that we face. When just after Pentecost, the Apostles of the New Testament Early Church were threatened by the ruling Council not to speak about Jesus and to abandon their God given task of making the peoples of the then world Christ-like persons, they turned first to prayer. Individual believers and churches today need to recover and practice effectively the secret of the Apostles and the early church in succeeding at discipling communities and “nations."
Prayer must be our number one focus! Really? But not prayer to merely promote, "me, myself and I" selfish interest. Let us turn to the following Bible verses on the primary importance of prayer for the individual believer and the church and the purpose, and desired outcomes of Biblically healthy praying: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.
For, there is one God and one mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (1 Timothy 2: 1- 6 NLT).
We pick the following guidelines (among others guidelines in this Bible passage) for effective, fruitful, and transformational prayers of individual believers, and Church Congregations, or fellowships:
• In everything and in all situations, prayer must be our first activity. Prayer must be our continuing and consistent activity. Jesus says, "apart from me you can do nothing" of enduring value, fruitfulness and lasting impact. We must first look up to Jesus in prayer. Prayer must be our first response always, rather than resorting to prayer in panic cries later on!!
• We must pray for everyone in our household, institution, community, nation and beyond. (The scope of prayer must go beyond you, and your family matters and the matters of your local Church only. Actually, the verses in this passage give special attention to “Prayers of Intercession". Pray hard until something godly, good, and great happens.
• Next, individual believers and Churches are to lift up powerful prayers for national, community, institutional leaders and various kinds of people placed in authority over us and as national leaders. We need godly and effective leaders who themselves are first led by the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God.
• Then there is the big "so that" or outcomes for our Intercessory prayers. In other words, when our intercessory prayers are truly effective, we will in our communities, traditional areas and nations "live peaceful and quiet lives, marked by godliness, and dignity." The outcomes listed here are not only most needed in our communities and in mother Ghana, but they are also most to be desired and worked for by leaders, authorities, and citizens of our country. We must live in peace, we must have a quiet and serene environment, for meaningful development of this country, for the common good. We must be leaders and citizens who live lifestyles of godliness with integrity in whatever role we play. Only godly conduct and godly practices will exalt this nation, and will let this nation grow "great and strong " . We must live in human dignity, socially, economically and politically as people made in the image of God, to serve Him and enjoy Him forever!
• Next, the passage moves to the climax. The supreme goal of all prayers in Christian spirituality, is to know Jesus Christ and experience His salvation. The salvation He alone has the capacity to give. (See 1 Timothy 2:3-5). Powerful and effective intercessory prayer of individual believers and Biblically healthy Church congregations, "pleases God our Saviour who wants everyone to be saved"
Is it because of this supreme goal of prayer, including intercessory prayers, that as a believer you give yourself regularly to the practice of prayer and fasting? Is it because of this supreme goal of prayer, according to this Bible passage, that your church congregation organises prayer services, all night prayer sessions, prayer retreats and prayer festivals? And so we call individual believers and the churches to pray with the Psalmist: "Will you not revive us again, that your people may praise you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:6 & 7)
God our Saviour "wants everyone to be saved"!!
(The author is a consultant in Authentic Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)