“You do not have because
You do not ask God.”
It’s Monday. What was yesterday morning like for you? When you went to church, did you walk away thinking about the cleverness of the sermon, or about the things you needed to get done during the rest of the day or did you walk away thinking about God Himself? Unfortunately, in America today, I think a lot of us walk away with one of the first two thoughts. If so, we are missing the mark.
God has so much power that He wants to give to His Church but we don’t have it because we don’t ask for it. We are content with a sermon that makes us feel good or gets us to agree with the pastor about some point. We go home and maybe discuss a few points of the sermon.
We are content with a few moments of feeling close to Him as we sing the worship songs. We agree with others that the praise and worship was great today, but that’s all.
God is standing with arms open wide and so desires to fill us with His presence. He has power to give, mercy to bestow, His own special presence to be felt, but we don’t ask.
“When we get serious about drawing upon God’s power, remarkable things will happen. Even if we grow listless and lukewarm, still Christ says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with him, and he with Me…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 3:20-22).
Those gentle words, quoted often by evangelists to those who do not know Christ, were addressed to the Laodicean Christians whom Jesus had just scolded. Although He was grieved by their lethargy, He nevertheless offered His renewing love and power to any who would open the door. Will we?” (Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala).
“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” James 4:8
“Over the last 30 years, more books have been written about marriage than all the preceding 2,000 years of church history. But ask any pastor in America if there aren’t proportionally more troubled marriages today than in any other era. We have all the how-to’s, but homes are still falling apart.
The couple that prays together stays together. I don’t mean to be simplistic; there will be difficult moments in any union. But God’s Word is true when it says, ‘Call upon Me, and I will help you. Just give me a chance.’
The same holds true for parenting. We may own stacks of good books on child rearing and spending ‘quality time’ with our children. Yet we have more problems per 100 young people in the church today than at any previous time. This is not because we lack knowledge or how-to; it is because we have not cried out for the power and grace of God.
What if, in the last 25 years, we had invested only half the time and energy in writing, publishing, reading and discussing books on the Christian family…and put the other half into praying for our marriages and our children? I am certain we would be in far better shape today.
That is why the writer of Hebrews nails down the most central activity of all for Christians: ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Heb. 4:16). It doesn’t say, ‘Let us come to the sermon.’ We in America have made the sermon the centerpiece of the church, something God never intended. Preachers who are really doing their job get people to come to the throne of grace. That’s the true source of grace and mercy.
To every preacher and every singer, God will someday ask, ‘Did you bring people to where the action could be found…at the throne of grace? If you just entertained them, if you just tickled their ears and gave them a warm, fuzzy moment, woe unto you. At the throne of grace, I could have changed their lives. Jim Cymbala, did you just dazzle people with your cleverness, or did you make them hungry to come to me?’
If a meeting doesn’t end with people touching God, what kind of a meeting is it? We haven’t really encountered God. We haven’t met with the only One powerful and loving enough to change our lives.
God has chosen prayer as His channel of blessing. He has spread a table for us with every kind of wisdom, grace, and strength because He knows exactly what we need. But the only way we can get it is to pull up to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good.
God says to us, ‘Pray because I have all kinds of things for you; and when you ask, you will receive. I have all this grace, and you live with scarcity. Come unto Me, all you who labor. Why are you so rushed? Where are you running now? Everything you need, I have.’
If the times are indeed as bad as we say they are…if the darkness in our world is growing heavier by the moment…if we are facing spiritual battles right in our own homes and churches…then we are foolish not to turn to the One who supplies unlimited grace and power. He is our only source. We are crazy to ignore Him.” (Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala)
Korea – following the Korean War it was devastated. According to reports, there was not one tree standing in the entire country. Yet today, 60 years later, it is a thriving nation with influence felt internationally and with one of the strongest missionary-sending mentalities of any country. How did this happen?
Early America – Plymouth and Salem faced huge loss of life (over half in each settlement died the first couple of years). Yet from austerity were forged the beginnings of the most prosperous nation in the world. How did this happen?
“Prayer Mountain is a Christian retreat in South Korea, operated by the Yoido Full Gospel Church, Korea’s largest church. It is located in Jori-myeon, Paju, in northern Gyeonggi province near the Demilitarized Zone. It has facilities for 10,000 people.
The Prayer Mountain Movement in Korea sprang from a practice of the pioneering Christians during the latter days of the Korean church in the 1800s. Faced by strong opposition from the home religions and philosophies, i.e. Buddhism and Confucianism, as well as the mandatory practice of Shinto imposed by the invading forces from Japan, many Christians who resisted the imposition on their freedom of worship were persecuted and even killed.
In desperation, the Christians who could not practice their faith openly adopted the practice of waking up as early as four in the morning to ascend the nearby mountains where they could freely pray until the first ray of sunrise. At the end of the day, before going home, the Christians would again ascend the mountains to pray and fast and ask God to intervene on their behalf.
It is said that anyone who passed by those mountains would hear the cries and weeping of the men and women who were storming heaven with their sad plight and asking God to change their situation. From then on, prayer and fasting have been the hallmarks of the strong South Korean Church.” (Prayer Mountain)
Of their landing, Governor William Bradford wrote:
“Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they
fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought
them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils
and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.”
In Plymouth and in Salem, following death and near starvation, the people didn’t turn to their pastors for wonderful sermons or to their choirs for beautiful songs. No, they fell on their faces before God and with prayer and fasting, asked Him what to do, asked Him for His help, for His protection, asked Him for conviction of sin. And they did this time and time again.
Our churches used to be houses of prayer, first and foremost. But are they today? Think about it…how much time in a typical service is spent in prayer? How many people attend your church’s weekly prayer service…if your church even has one? Is prayer the priority, you communicating with God, coming to His throne of grace or are the pastor’s words, the eloquence of his speech, the priority? Do you feel closer to God when you walk out of your church or are your thoughts focused on your pastor, for good or bad?
Prayer is missing in our church and thus in our nation.
Following 9/11, President Bush said:
“America was targeted…because we’re the brightest beacon for
freedom and opportunity in the world…I ask for your prayers for all
those who grieve…I pray they will be comforted by a power greater
than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23:
‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear
no evil for you are with me.'”
On September 13, 2001, President Bush stated:
“Scripture says: ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be
comforted.’ I call on every American…to observe a National Day of
Prayer and Remembrance…In the face of all this evil,
we remain strong and united, ‘One Nation Under God.'”
But what happened after that? Did 9/11 bring us back to the Lord? Yes, but only for a short time. There must be sustained prayer once again, the way the church in America used to pray, the way the church in Korea still prays today, at places like Prayer Mountain, and it must begin in our lives, our homes and our churches.