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Pray — a simple admonition, yet ‘nothing is more important’

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A hard-charging missionary recently heard a statement at a prayer seminar. It revolutionized his life and ministry:
“There is nothing more important than nurturing your walk with God.”
Simple? Yes, but easier paid lip service than practiced under the pressures of daily life on the mission field. Nothing is more important. Not calling or commitment. Not language, cultural studies or ingenious strategies.
“What falls outside of the parameters of that word?” asks Randy Sprinkle, International Mission Board director of prayer strategy, who uttered the statement heard by the missionary.
The missionary later called Sprinkle to report he was striving anew to apply this truth to every aspect of his life — and to teach it to as many other missionaries as possible.
Another Southern Baptist missionary couple began work several years ago among a difficult-to-reach people group. They were so overwhelmed by the task that God brought them to a deep realization of their utter dependence on him. They decided to make prayer their main strategy, not a support or an afterthought.
Victories followed, first in their own lives, then in their ministry.
“If we’re about being on mission ‘for’ God, we’re not a great threat to the kingdom of darkness, because that means we’re going out there to ‘do it for God’ in our flesh, and Jesus made clear the flesh profits nothing,” Sprinkle explains. “We’re powerless to do this task, unless the Spirit inhabits and energizes it with his transforming power.”
That goes for missionaries — and for every Christian.
“Be still, and know that I am God,” whispered the Lord to the psalmist. “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10, NIV).
One follows the other: When God’s people know him and worship him in their hearts, they will exalt him among all peoples. As Augustine said long ago, “the soul obeys whom it adores.”
Sprinkle has noticed a difference in new missionaries training at the IMB Missionary Learning Center in Virginia in recent years. Rather than dozing or fidgeting through classes on prayer, they listen intently, giving up break times to ask questions. Even before experiencing the “school of hard knocks” on the mission field, they sense prayer is the key to the whole curriculum.
That, Sprinkle says, “is a fruit of the Spirit of God at work in their lives” and a manifestation of the spirit of prayer abroad in the earth. “It is a measurable, very distinct movement in the right direction over the last five years.”
If Jesus needed and hungered to start his days in prayer, we surely do, particularly in the unceasing noise pollution of America. For most of us, the only time to find silence with God is early in the morning — the earlier the better. The challenge: waking up to be with him.
“It comes back to discipline,” Sprinkle says. “I say to missionaries, ‘The key to getting up is going to bed. You’re not going to get up in the morning unless you go to bed at night.’ Isn’t that deep? It doesn’t get harder, except in the spiritual sense. It gets easier, because of our hunger. And we find that he wakes us up, because of his hunger for us.”
Therein lies the mystery of God’s fathomless love. The Lord of the universe, our Creator, hungers for us even more than we hunger for him. He initiates; we respond.
“If you are seeking after God, you may be sure of this: God is seeking you much more,” John of the Cross wrote in the 1500s to a church sorely in need of revival. “He is the lover, and you are his beloved … . The longing in your drowsing soul is actually his doing.”
Rise in the blessed silence to meet him.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges