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Look up & out from your knees, prayer leader tells seminarians

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Christians must reach the world for Christ on their knees, heads raised and eyes looking out to the fields ready for harvest, according to the International Mission Board’s international prayer strategy office director who spoke at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Dec. 2.
Randy Sprinkle told the audience of missionary to China Jonathon Goforth, who was burdened for the Hunan province and asked his friend Hudson Taylor in a letter a century ago, “Oh brother, what shall I do to see that province come to Christ?” Taylor, the pioneer missionary of Inland China Mission, wrote back: “You must advance upon your knees.”
“Throughout the centuries, the problems, the challenges, the tasks so vast, the demands so great, the obstacles so huge, bring to us a danger that we may not see the moment correctly and therefore not walk into it and through it correctly,” Sprinkle said to a chapel audience during the week of prayer for international missions.
He said Jesus laid out in John 4:35 “what is necessary for us to see clearly and follow him so nearly.”
The context of the verse is the moment after Jesus had witnessed to the Samaritan woman at the well and before she had returned with the people from the city. Jesus was talking to his disciples who still didn’t understand why they had traveled through Samaria rather than the traditional route around the region.
The first thing Jesus said to his disciples in the verse, Sprinkle pointed out, is “you’ve got to look up.”
“I continue to hear leaders, even pastors, saying not, `Look up,’ but `Lower your eyes, congregation. Here is our mission field,'” he said.
Sprinkle recalled visiting a church that was giving its pastor “fits.” The church members kept telling the pastor that their mission was to pay for their building, but he kept saying, “But the Word of God says … ,” Sprinkle said.
At a pastors’ conference where Sprinkle spoke, he said he noted with uneasiness another agenda. Later in the day a prominent pastor stood and said, “It’s OK to send people overseas, but we’ve got a lot of needs right here and we ought to start with them first.”
“The crowd erupted in a standing ovation. The only thing wrong was those words aren’t biblical,” Sprinkle said. “It’s not just OK to send people overseas. It’s a divine mandate.
“Jesus says first we must lift up our eyes. When we pull our eyes down, our world shrinks in, and we begin to make plans for our world and our ways.”
When Christians look up, Sprinkle said, they can obey Jesus’ second command: “Look on the fields; they are white for harvest.”
Sprinkle reminded the audience of the amazing whiteness of fields worldwide: In China, young adults are more interested in Christ than in communism; in India, a Hindu man rode a train 20 hours until he couldn’t ride it any farther, then got on a dirty, crammed bus until he couldn’t ride it any more, then walked for hours because he’d heard there was a place where he could get a Bible; in Iran, the mosques are empty, and missiologists are saying that the Iranian people may be the most open of all the Muslim peoples to the gospel; and in Malawi, a chief sought out an African pastor at 4 a.m. in the middle of the dangerous African night and made the pastor lead him to Jesus.
The best vantage point from which to see white fields, however, is not on the rooftop or from the mountaintop, but from our knees, Sprinkle said. He added that Thurmon Broughton, missionary to Asia and the Pacific for more than 30 years and now in process of retiring, said at a recent meeting, “The biggest change in our lives is our understanding of the vital place of prayer in everything we do.”
“Jesus says that apart from him it is not possible to accomplish the task. To fail to pray is to fail,” Sprinkle said, noting scriptures from John 5, 6 and 15. “Prayer is that unceasing testimony of our utter dependence on God. Prayerlessness is an unceasing testimony of our dependence on the flesh.”
Jesus finally tells his disciples to “look out,” Sprinkle said. When the New Testament church began taking Jesus at his word in Acts 4:31, when they prayed, the place where they gathered was shaken, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began speaking the Word of God with boldness, Sprinkle said.
“When we look up and look on from our knees we need to look out,” he said.
He related the story of a Somalian whom he had asked the Southwestern family to pray for during a week of prayer for international missions four years ago. Fanatical Muslims in Somalia had composed a hit list to assassinate the very few Christians there. The young Somalian believer was shot point blank in the head. His assailant tried to fire again, but the gun failed. When Sprinkle told the story four years ago Southwesterners praised God for the believer’s miraculous survival.
Two years later while Sprinkle was in a prayer meeting in Africa, a refugee gave his testimony. Sprinkle said he realized the man was the Somalian believer. The believer related his discouragement that followed the shooting.
He said, “Enough. Jesus, I loved you, but I can’t love you any more. I give up,” Sprinkle recounted. He told Allah that from the next day on he would be praying in the mosque. The next day he prayed all day long.
According to Sprinkle, the man said, “I was a Muslim again. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like a Muslim. As the second day of prayer progressed, somehow Islam seemed empty and it was like Jesus was in the mosque. The third day, I prayed all day. And each day after, Islam was more of a shell and each day Jesus was more precious. By the last day, I got up from my knees and my face and I said, ‘I don’t care what they do to me, Lord Jesus, I will never forsake you.'”
The first day of the pivotal week in the Somalian’s life was the day Sprinkle and Southwestern lifted that believer in prayer.
“That day, I spoke of the God who bends the bullet. Today I speak of the servant who bends the knee,” Sprinkle said. “How clearly we see it’s not man’s way; it’s God’s way. It’s not someone else; it’s us. Today we join the Master in saying, `All the world.’ And we commit that from this day forward it will be, `All the way on our knees to your glory and the speedy joining of all the peoples of the earth in great glorious praise, worthy of your name.'”

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  • Cindy Kerr