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The Place of Prayer in Accomplishing the Great Commission
Jesus said, “…apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Do we really believe this?

When we look at the mighty St. Lawrence River on a map, sailing between Gaspé and Montreal appears rather simple.  Yet, because of numerous shipwrecks, a group of trained river pilots was formed in the 18th century to help navigate these treacherous waters.

Neglecting prayer would be like refusing to take on a trained river pilot.

The same holds true for our mission as Evangelicals. On the surface, our mission seems straightforward: be a witness that makes disciples. Fulfilling this mission might appear quite simple. Yet, just as the St. Lawrence River hides many hindrances, our mission puts us at the very heart of a spiritual battle. Neglecting prayer would be like refusing to take on a trained river pilot. Already too many have shipwrecked their faith (see 1 Timothy 1:19).

We need our Pilot with us; without Him we can do nothing. Do we really believe this?

1. Refining the vision

John the Baptist said of Jesus, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). At Jesus' baptism, God Himself confirmed John's declaration, "As he was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:21-22).

Jesus' mission was clear and validated by divine signs. What happened next? In Luke 4:1-2, we read, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for 40 days He was tempted by the devil." We can praise God that Christ was victorious in His trials and that He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (v. 14).

When God gives us a clear mission, we can be sure that we will also face obstacles. If Jesus, who was without a sin nature, was tempted by the devil in an attempt to ruin His ministry, can weak sinners like we are expect anything less?

Before taking action, we need to spend time in prayer. Our Pilot will use this time to probe our motives and to purify them. To help us avoid the seduction of wide shortcuts, He will mark out a small and narrow channel.  While our vision is being refined, God may permit a time of temptation. However, He promises temptations will never surpass what we can bear (see I Corinthians 10:13). The purpose of afflictions, as for Christ, is that we become empowered by the Holy Spirit.

2.  Choosing the crew

"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated apostles" (Luke 6:12-13).

Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing the men who would share His ministry. The choosing of our leaders and those of the next generation is vital to the success of our mission. Too often, without much prayer, we hurriedly select someone to fill a need. Then, instead of praying for them, we tend to criticize them. Let it not be this way among us. Let's follow our Master's example by taking time to pray before choosing leaders.

Prayer must go beyond the choosing of leaders. Jesus prayed that Peter's faith would not fail (see Luke 22:32). He also prayed for us that we might be one, like Jesus and the Father are one. His goal was clear: unity among us and with God—that the world might believe.

3.  The crossing

To help the captain and his crew keep their eyes on the goal, Jesus graciously gave us a model prayer in Matthew 6. Its content helps us to maintain fitting priorities.

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10). Let's admit; we easily succumb to pride. God created us with many abilities, and we can travel many nautical miles without too much difficulty. The prayer Christ provided has the beneficial effect of keeping us humble and dependent by reminding us that we are sinners and fallible—prone to lose sight of our purpose on this earth.

"Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (v. 11-13). If necessary, in His grace, God will send us a storm to remind us of our limits and make our ear attentive to His wisdom (see Matthew 6; Psalm 8; John 15; 1 Corinthians 12:11, Proverb 2).

Sometimes in the midst of a storm we cry out to Him and His Word becomes a great comfort. "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). Since His Word is a lamp unto our feet, let's read it in a spirit of prayer, allowing God to speak to us. Let's be receptive to the instructions of our Pilot. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

But we must be careful. God uses His Word to speak to us. Let's not reverse this order by using His Word to support our ideas or to convince other people. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring comfort. When we sail these waters, being humble and praying with an honest heart are more than necessary.

4. Ports of call

What happens on a stopover? Both good and bad things can happen. First, consider the good. Our evangelism efforts cannot be effective without God's intervention. When Paul stopped in Corinth, a port well known for its riches and lusts, he wrote to the Thessalonians, "Brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Even though God had told Paul that many people in this seaport belonged to Him (see Acts 18:10), Paul recognized his need of prayer.

Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). Paul asked, "Pray for me also, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel" (Ephesians 6:19).

As a missionary at home or in a foreign land, do you find it difficult to preach the Gospel to your neighbours? To the friends of your children? To new arrivals? Making a stopover in the lives of others with the Gospel message has never been easy. Like Paul, let's ask our brothers to pray for us. Apart from God we can do nothing. With Him, we will do great things.

Paul, a giant of the faith, frequently asked others to pray for him.

Now consider the bad. We have lost many captains and crew-members in various seaports, and, at this point, more than ever, we need prayer. Jesus said, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field" (Matthew 9:38). We must pray that God would protect us from the tempter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

Today, at ports of call, temptations of all kinds are at our fingertips. Nothing is sadder and more damaging for the cause of the Gospel than a sexual scandal. Other dangers lead to a loss of spiritual power and intimacy with God that are equally harmful. Jesus warns, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and anxieties of life... Be always on the watch, and pray..." (Luke 21: 34, 36). Paul writes, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (I Corinthians 10:12). Peter exhorts, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

Accountability is one of the tools our Pilot provides for us. Do you have confidants? A coach that watches over you? People who cover you with prayer? Let's follow the example of Paul, a giant of the faith, who frequently asked others to pray for him.

"If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life" (1 John 5:16). Let's develop the reflex of praying before judging.

Let's pray with faith. Our Pilot has "disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15). We must dare to ask for help and prayer support. Let's have the humility to recognize our need. Also, support your leaders in prayer, and pray for one another. Every believer is important in the advancement of God's Kingdom (see 1 Corinthians 12:22-26).

While our Fellowship is in this transition period and considering the future, as we see the need to renew, refocus and retool to accomplish the Great Commission in the next generation, I pray that this article will give rise to people like Epaphras (see Colossians 4:12), who wrestled in prayer to bring God's mission to a safe harbour.

"The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray" (1 Peter 4:7). "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Gilles Paquin is the pastor of Eglise Evangelique Baptiste du Lac Saint-Louis in Chateauguay, Quebec, and he is a member of the Fellowship's National Council. He wrote this article in French with the collaboration of his precious wife Michelle.

Originally published in The Evangelical Baptist, Fall 2007.




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