Pray Big - Matt Penner
A few years ago one of my co-laborers, Bob Stevenson, brought a block of wood with the words "Pray Big" on it to our staff gathering. It was the start of the year and he challenged us to write down big prayers, asking God for big things for the upcoming year.
Recently I was leading prayer at our staff gathering and I remembered the phrase "Pray Big" and shared it again with our staff. We talked about Paul's words to the Ephesians, "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (3:20-21). What a Scripture and great reason to pray big prayers! We serve a God who wants us to ask and is ready to answer and respond above anything we could ever imagine.
In my experience, one thing that keeps us from praying big is our focus on our own limitations. We are so conditioned by living in the natural realm. Every prayer goes through a mental grid formed by our resources, our talents, or the limitations that we have. It's so easy to be focused on the earthly realm and to be confined in our thinking. But as I look at the Scriptures, I am moved and challenged by the prayers of Jesus and great men and women of the Bible. They prayed and God responded to their requests. God moved on their behalf and answered their bold prayers of faith.
Can you imagine the boldness and faith of Elijah as he had the wicked King Ahab and Jezebel, 850 prophets all against him and a confused Israel? (1 Kings 18) They were all watching his showdown and he was able to call down the fire of God. He knew that the Lord would respond to his prayers. It's easy to read those stories and think that was just in the Bible and that Elijah was some kind of super prophet. But we see in James 5 that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; Elijah was not altogether unlike us. He stood in the counsel of the Lord and was able to be God's voice in that time.
We may not be in the exact same situation as Elijah, but we are in a time where we need the power of God to come down. The cities of America and in our world are desperate for God to reveal himself. The Lord needs us to stand up like Elijah and pray boldly.
With this in mind, I am stirred to pray big prayers in this new year. Two things help me as I think of praying big and overcoming my current limitations:
First, I need to remind myself of the victory of God and what He has done and will accomplish. "And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1:19-23
Second, I need to know my position in Christ. "And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:6
Colossians 3 says we have to set our minds and heart on the things above. While we may currently live in the earthly realm, our true home is with Christ in eternity and we ultimately live in that kingdom as well. So it is by faith we need to imagine that we are seated in the heavenly places. This is the means by which we can pray big. We pray in faith and with authority from the heavenly places knowing that God has conquered every power that stands in opposition to him.
Is there something in your life where you need a major breakthrough? Meditate on these Scriptures and start praying and believing that God will provide in your situation. And please join us in praying for the cities. Pray that the power of God would come down and encounter the people that so desperately need him.
Matt Penner is World Impact's National Prayer Director. He serves in Wichita, KS, along with his wife Angie and their two children.
Testimony of Transformation - Jim Elam
A couple months ago 20 men from our Dallas church plant filled vans and headed to Morning Star Ranch in Florence, KS, for a men's retreat. For some of our men this trip was their first time to leave the state of Texas and for others it was their first time to attend a Men's Conference. They were excited!
During a testimony time at the retreat, one brother, Mike, shared how he came to be a part of the New Found Life (NFL) Bible Church and the victories in Christ Jesus he had been experiencing. Mike, who was once homeless, said he had often walked by the church. One night he and his friend were stopped and invited to come to church by my wife Becky. He said that attending church was the last thing on his mind—his drug addiction ruled his life. After several weeks, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Mike and convicted him.
He wanted to accept Becky's invitation, but did not feel worthy to enter the Lord's house because of his appearance. Mike and his friend both had long gray beards and straggly hair. He felt that before he could enter the house of the Lord and be around "church folk," he had to change his physical appearance. He said this was one of the things that kept him from attending church. When Mike finally came to church for the first time, he sat behind us and tapped Becky on the shoulder and said, "I haven't been in church because I needed to wait till I got paid so I could go get my beard and hair cut."
Becky did not recognize him at first. He looked so different. We, of course, reminded him that the Lord looks at the heart and not the physical appearance. Also, that God looks at our motives – whether it is to impress man or whether it is to worship the true and living God. Today, Mike attends church every time the doors are open. He is faithful in coming to our men's Bible study and is willing to help out any time we need him. When there is a church function, whether it is at our church or another, he will be on the front row ready to receive a word from the Lord. He is growing in Christ and now verbally participates in discussions in Bible studies and in church social gatherings. We are privileged to see his daily growth in the Lord.
Mike frequently thanks Becky for inviting him to church that first day because he no longer feels like an outcast. Now he has purpose and direction because of his relationship with Jesus, and what's more, he has a church body which he calls his family.
Jim Elam and his wife Becky are World Impact missionaries in Dallas, TX.
Reborn to Fight for Freedom - Adria Medlen
Today I am grateful for the unique way that the Body of Christ has fought, and continues to fight, for freedom. I am thankful for the men and women of God throughout the years who have stood on the knowledge that we are all imprisoned in our humanness until Jesus set us free, and let that knowledge embolden them to do courageous things for Christ.
Today I want to take a moment to be thankful for those who have fought against oppression and prejudice, and to be challenged by their bravery.
Because of men and women who stood with Christ in the gap of injustice, my family was made possible. Because of men and women who spoke out against mockery, slurs, and character assassination because of the color of someone's skin, my sons can be assured of their worth to one another, to our family, and to Christ.
Because of men and women who climbed on buses and endured brutal beatings to stand for equality, my family can grow in the comfort of our love for one another. Because of men and women who chose non-violence as a way to embody the sacrificial love of Christ for all people, my sons will walk through life, hand-in-hand, as brothers.
Because of men and women, like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who lived out the truth that "greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13), my family lives securely. Because of the imperfect but bold faith of men and women like Dr. King, my sons know that they don't have to be perfect in order for Jesus to use them mightily for His Kingdom.
I am grateful for the victories won over injustice, but the fight must continue. As the Body of Christ, we must continue to stand in the gap for those who still feel the sting of prejudice and the oppression of injustice and poverty. There is not a gender, race, or socio-economic class that is outside the loving reach of Christ's victory and freedom – this is why we preach the Gospel to all people (and most importantly to ourselves). This is what we must live out, even on the hard days, even when the fight asks everything of us.
As people of Christ we were reborn to fight for freedom, serving the One who has all the victory. Jesus laid down his life so that we may be reconciled to God and set free from the oppression of our sin.
Church, let us stand with the men and women who make up our rich heritage, and boldly declare through our words and actions that we are a people of liberty and of life. Run to those who are suffering and perishing with the open arms of Christ. Let us live as living sacrifices, as those who have sacrificed for us, so that all people can know the freedom and security that we know through our Savior.
Adria Medlen and her husband Andrew are World Impact missionaries and live in Wichita, KS, with their two sons Judah and Josiah.