The Power Of Prayer Part 2: Vision
On Sunday 8th October at our morning service, we continued our series The Power Of Prayer with the topic 'Vision'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
When we talk about vision, it’s obvious that we’re talking about things that we can see, or imagine seeing. At EBC there have been lots and lots of visions from lots of different people and indeed one of the great things about part of a church like ours is that we recognise that vision can come to anyone - and everyone can play their part as things develop.
Everyone has gifts, passions, resources – where might yours fit into God’s plans? Sometimes it’s hard to envisage what we might do in the future, and even harder to realise a vision (i.e. make it come true) when you do get one! How can we make our dreams for EBC come true? I believe it comes back to prayer. The things we will see will come about from our spending time in the unseen discipline of prayer.
This has already been true of lots of things we do – in our work for older people with things like Holiday at Home, Lunch Club and the ukulele band, through our work with young families in Messy Church, through our involvement with the Night Shelter and our amazing work helping people via our Storehouse ministry.
When Jesus taught his disciples about prayer, he was very clear about how to pray and he went on to give us a model for prayer, which we know as the “Our Father” or the Lord’s prayer.
To recap on what Jesus said, you can read Matthew’s account of this by clicking here.
I think there are clues in this passage about how we can make sure our visions become reality.
The first is where Jesus is talking about how to pray – in private, behind closed doors where no-one but God is aware.
Jesus is making the point that God wants us to talk to him one-to-one, in sincerity – and when you pray behind closed doors, with no-one else around, obviously that’s sincere because there’s no-one else there you’re trying to impress. It’s just you… and God.
Jesus teaches that God, who we can’t see, rewards these prayers that no-one else sees. And what will be the reward? Well, Jesus says that God already knows what we need and he goes on to explain how to pray, so it seems reasonable to conclude that answered prayer for the things we need might be the reward he’s talking about. So if we need a vision for our lives and for the life of the church, we should pray about it – each of us, in private – seen only by the unseen God.
Answers about vision – which is seen – come from a private devotional life, which is unseen.
Then our second clue is in the nature of the prayer itself. As Jesus said
“Your Kingdom come, your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven”
So we should be asking God to reveal things to us that line up with His will. A simple prayer, perhaps like this - “Father in heaven, your will be done – please show me what to do, and help me do it. Amen.”
Remember, prayers don’t have to be long and eloquent – short and awkward is even better, so long as they are sincere!
God has a role for you in his Kingdom, and in His church. It’s his vision for you – his will for you, which as the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome, is good and pleasing and perfect. What that looks like will become apparent when you spend that unseen time with him and discern his will – and seek to align with it. To see it you have to seek it. I repeat - to see God’s will, you have to seek God’s will.
The realisation of Vision (which is “seen”) is driven by the unseen disciplines that connect us to God. And we have to plug into those disciplines. That means we have to pray about it. Sometimes you have to take a step of faith into the unseen before you get to the seen – before you see what was there for you all along.
So… are you willing to take some steps of faith? Are you willing to trust God and step out with him in prayer ? We can all get excited about the adventures that might lie ahead for us as a church – we all like to put on our adventurer’s hat, so to speak – but before we do that we have to make a leap of faith and spend time in prayer… sincere prayer. And if we do, what might that mean for us as a church? What adventures might God reveal to us?!? If we take that step of faith into the unseen, God will surely reveal the path he had there for us all along.
We can be assured God will strengthen us and enable us to do his will. He’ll provide visions and the power to realise them if our prayers are sincere and our requests line up with his will.
It’s exciting to think we each have a part to play in God’s plan! In the unseen prayers in which we ask God to reveal His will to us, and in the seen – the playing of our part. To see God’s will, we have to seek God’s will - and then we have to act on it.
I believe that if we do that we’ll see our church buildings busy and bustling with wonderful activity. I believe we’ll see developing social action throughout the town. More people reached for Jesus. More people going deeper with God, growing in faith. Improved environments for adults, teens and children. More impact with our partners in Sierra Leone. More impact globally as we partner with Tearfund and others to respond to crises overseas – the kinds of crises where you watch the TV and think “What can I do?!?”
We can make a real difference together. We can be known locally and globally for making a difference together. If we’re aligned with God it can and will happen – “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven”. Through love, not hate. Through softened hearts not hearts of stone. Through willingness to help, not turning away and leaving it to others. Through generosity not stinginess. Though diligence not laziness. But first through prayer, in private, devoting ourselves to seeking God’s will, God’s vision for our lives.
My vision, which I believe lines up with God’s will, isn’t about the exact specifics of what we’ll do in our ministries. It’s about what we do before that – all of us living a life in which we pray at all kinds of times and with all kinds of requests. About a church that really is the gathered body of believers – praying and fasting and devoting ourselves to God and his will for our lives. And if that vision becomes a reality – if the unseen devotion to God is there – then there will be many signs and wonders we’ll all be able to see as a result. But to see God’s will, we have to seek God’s will.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. When do you pray? If you don’t when will you start? What stops you and how can you take some easy steps to make a beginning?
2. What are some of the things you would most like to pray for? Whom do you pray for? Could you make a list of things you want to see happen and ask God to reveal his will about them?
3. What do you think Jesus meant when he said that people praying long-winded prayers in public had already had their reward in full? How does this contrast with prayers behind closed doors which Jesus said would be rewarded by God?
4. If people believe in God, and accept that prayer is the way to connect with him, why would they not make the connection as a top priority in their life?
5. Is there someone in your life, perhaps a child, friend or other love one, whom you want to see thrive and flourish? How might you feel if they seldom if ever spoke to you or asked your advice? What might God want to say to you at this time – and have you asked him?
6. Regarding EBC, what would you really love to see happening in the life of the church? Are you praying about this?
7. If you believe that the things you’d like to see line up with God’s will, are you playing your part in terms of serving and giving as well as praying? If not now… when? If not you… who?