Lesson 11 – The Prayer Ministry of the Church
THE PRINCIPLE OF GOD’S WORK
Do you know the principle of God’s work? As in mathematics and science, once people understand a given principle they can achieve predictable and consistent results every time. The law of gravity, Newton’s law, and E=MC2 are examples of such principles. If you know the principle of God’s work, you will pray much to cause God to work. We know that God’s ultimate work is to build the church. There are many steps required to achieve this goal, such as our friends’ salvation, reading the Word and prayer, coming to meetings, etc. What principle does God use to accomplish His work? There are seven steps to His principle.
The first step is that God has a will to do something. The second step is that God reveals His will to man through His Word by His Spirit. The third step is that God’s church responds to His will by agreeing with it in prayer. The fourth step is that God accomplishes the thing that He wills. The fifth step is that we go and reap the accomplished work. The sixth step is to give God thanks. The seventh step is to enjoy the accomplished work together with God and the church.
THE PRAYER MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH—
BINDING AND LOOSING WHAT HAS BEEN BOUND AND LOOSED IN HEAVEN
We have already mentioned how God has His will concerning all things, but that He will do nothing by Himself alone and independently. He will take action only after the free will on earth responds to His will. Were there only the will in heaven, God would make no move; the heavenly move will be accomplished on earth only when He is assured of the same will on earth. This is what we today call the ministry of the church. Believers need to realize that the ministry of the church does not consist merely of the preaching of the gospel—it most certainly does include this, let there be no mistake of that—but also the church’s ministry includes the bringing down to the earth the will that is in heaven. But exactly how does the church bring this about? It is by praying on earth. Prayer is not a small, insignificant, non-essential thing as some would tend to think. Prayer is a work. The church says to Him, “God, we want Your will.” This is called prayer. After the church knows the will of God, she opens her mouth to ask for it. This is prayer. If the church does not have this ministry, she is not of much use on earth.
Matthew 18:18 says, “Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth shall be what has been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on the earth shall be what has been loosed in heaven.” Who are the “you” here? They are the church, because in the preceding verse the Lord mentions the church. So that this is a continuation of verse 17. Therefore, the meaning of this verse 18 now before us is: that whatever things you the church shall bind on earth shall be (what has been) bound in heaven, and whatever things you the church shall loose on earth shall be (what has been) loosed in heaven.
Here lies a most important principle: God works through the church today; He cannot do whatever He desires to do unless He does it through the church. This is a most sobering principle. Today, God cannot do things by His own Self alone, because there is in existence another free will; without the cooperation of that will God is not able to do anything. The measure of the power of the church today determines the measure of the manifestation of the power of God.
EXAMPLES OF PRAYER IN ACTS
In Acts chapters 1 and 2 we see that 120 disciples were praying. Before receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples were fighting one another for a position in the kingdom while on the way to Jerusalem before the Lord’s crucifixion. After they received the Holy Spirit essentially in John 20 and the instruction from the Lord to stay in Jerusalem to wait for the power from on high—the clothing of the Spirit economically for God’s work—they prayed for ten days. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came down upon them. The church was formed and the gospel went out; 3,000 people were baptized. By prayer, they loosed the Spirit from heaven and loosed 3,000 souls on earth into God’s kingdom. Praise the Lord for prayer. These saints continued in prayer daily.
In Acts chapters 3 and 4 we see that Peter and John were going to pray. On the way, they preached the gospel, and 5,000 were saved. They prayed again with the church after they were threatened by the Jews, and were told not to preach by the name of Jesus. Their prayer caused an earthquake; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
TWO TYPES OF PRAYER
Prayer to have Fellowship with God
The significance of the first aspect of prayer is that we use our spirit to contact God, and to absorb God, and to have our entire being brought back to our spirit to have fellowship with Him. When we contact God, absorb God, and have fellowship with God in this way, God has the opportunity to reveal Himself in us and to infuse Himself into us. As God flows Himself into us in this way, our mind, emotion, and will are gradually mingled with God. As a result, God can open His heart’s desire to us, causing us to apprehend His purpose. At the same time, as He is operating and moving within us, He will oftentimes point out our weaknesses, our mistakes, our hindrances, and our difficulties, and then remove them. Therefore, the significance of the first aspect of prayer is to contact God, to touch God, and to let God have the opportunity to mingle with us and to eliminate all our difficulties. Therefore, whenever we come before God to pray, we must look upon this as the first priority. That is to say, whenever we come before the Lord to pray, we should not first petition Him for any other matters. We should rather first turn our entire being back to our spirit and lay our whole being in the light of the Lord’s face, waiting for His operating and moving, enlightening, revealing, anointing, infusing, mingling, filling, and saturating. We should also let Him expose our weaknesses, mistakes, hindrances, and difficulties. If we are willing to confess thoroughly and to allow the Lord to remove all these difficulties, our conscience will be at peace, without any accusation. Our spirit would thus be full of the presence of God. At this point, we can then mention to the Lord the things we want to pray for.
Prayer for God’s Work
After having the proper fellowship with God in prayer, a foundation is laid for us to go on to petition God for His work. Because of our proper fellowship, the Lord is able to impart into us His burden for a particular person or matter. At this time we can petition God for them. The Lord, upon hearing our petition, will act from His throne in the heavens to accomplish the work. Sometimes He does not act immediately because we may still have some hidden problems not yet confessed; or His timing requires that we wait. At other times Satan and his fallen angels are resisting God’s work. If we do not see an immediate answer it does not mean that prayer does not work. It means that we need to persist in prayer.
This type of prayer also energizes us by filling us with the Spirit and with boldness to go to open peoples’ eyes with the Word, turn them from darkness to light, and deliver them from the authority of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and the common portion among the saints. Finally, this type of prayer shows us how to approach our friends, what to say to them, what verses to use, etc. Many times we claim that we do not know what to say, or that we are afraid, or that we cannot get anyone saved. If we pray, God will work within us and within our friends.
INDIVIDUAL AND CORPORATE PRAYER
We need to pray individually and corporately. In Matthew 6:6 the Lord says that we should pray in our private room. Certain sins should be confessed privately without anyone knowing but the Lord. It is also more convenient to pray by yourself. But even when we pray by ourselves, our standing should always be in the Body. We are praying individually yet not as an individual.
In Matthew chapter 18 the Lord mentioned praying with two or three. In Acts chapters 1 and 2 the 120 disciples were praying together. We also need to pray together. Corporate prayer is stronger and more effective. In fact, the keys of the kingdom were not given to an individual, but to the church corporately. Therefore, the most powerful prayer for God’s work is still the corporate prayer of the church. Some may say, “It is good enough for me to pray by myself. I enjoy the Lord better by myself.” It may be true that you can enjoy the Lord by yourself. However, we must ask ourselves, “Is God’s work accomplished through your individual enjoyment?” You may be enjoying the Lord for yourself and not for the Lord. Our individual enjoyment is for the corporate work of God. Therefore, we must get together to pray for God’s work and to carry out God’s work.