The grade-school boys packed inside the church van were squirming with excitement. For many, this was their first real campout. The truck that followed was packed with all the food, bedding, tents, and other assorted gear the boys and their sponsors thought necessary for the three-day wilderness adventure. One of the men had even thrown in some dry wood just in case the continuing drizzle made it difficult to find the crucial commodity.
This would be the trip of a lifetime, a memory-maker — except that in the busyness of all the preparations, someone forgot the matches. Years later, all that most of those campers recall is that no one remembered to bring the matches.
Rarely have we been as prepared for the experiences we will face during our annual meeting of the SBC. Each agency has done its part in planning for those days together. My heart is filled with gratitude and excitement as I look forward to days of witnessing, fellowship, and challenge. We anticipate reports confirming that these are some of our greatest days as Southern Baptists.
But in our preparations, it is imperative that we not forget the "matches" of prayers. Without prayer, our meeting will be simply that … a cold, dry, sterile gathering that will be remembered for the absence of the Lord's blazing presence. I am convinced that now more than ever Southern Baptists must give themselves to fervent, passionate prayers — for our meetings in June, but also as a way of life.
Consider the fact that the brief earthly life of our Lord was permeated with prayer. The greater the task, the greater the intensity with which He prayed. On some occasions, He quietly slipped away to a place of communion with the Father. At other times the tremendous burdens of His ministry required that He send His followers away so He could gain precious moments for intercession.
Our Lord prayed before the cross, on the cross, and after His resurrection. And even now a significant aspect of our eternal salvation rests upon the fact that "He always lives to make intercession" (Heb. 7:25). Little wonder that His followers begged Him, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).
The results of prayer can easily be seen in the life of our Lord. The practice of prayer enabled Him to recognize those demands and ministry opportunities that were truly important. Jesus wasted no words or motions; the priorities of His life were established through prayers.
What a contrast to the believer who struggles with the nagging awareness that he is accomplishing little that is truly worthwhile. Pushed around by pressing circumstances, he feels like he is winning some battles but losing the war. Minutes, hours, days, and years seem to be wasted on matters that have little, if any, eternal significance.
Is there persevering prayer in our lives, any passion for conversation with God? The command to pray is not in question. God's Word abounds with commands, examples, promises, and encouragements to pray. What is missing is the obedient, heaven-bending, hell-binding practice of prayer.
We need to cultivate a praying habit. How many of us could be called "Camel-knees" as was James, our Lord's half-brother, and the pastor of the Jerusalem church? He earned the nickname because of the calluses on his knees from endless hours of prayer.
We need the praying confidence of George Muller who sought God alone for the needs of thousands of orphans. He refused to ask any man for anything. Yet, his carefully kept diary chronicles God's daily, sometimes hourly, never-failing provisions.
We need the praying consistency of Hudson Taylor, founder of the great China Inland Mission. Those who traveled with him recorded that no matter how grueling the day, they would hear the rustle behind his curtain and see the flickering candle as he rose a few hours past midnight to have his time with God.
We need the praying effectiveness of "Praying" John Hyde, missionary to India. Though his ministry spanned only a few years, thousands were born into the kingdom in answer to the prayers of this man who trusted God for one, then two, then three, and before his death, four souls each day.
We need the praying passion of David Brainerd. Sickly, weak, destined to live only a few years, he determined to share the Gospel light with the Indians on America's eastern seaboard. Faithful in witness and intercession, sometimes praying for hours in knee-deep snow, he was privileged to see one of God's greatest movings in North America history.
Whether you are currently making a habit of prayer or are neglecting this essential spiritual discipline, you can today, and tomorrow, and the next day be faithful to your Savior in your prayer life.
As we approach the Convention, we have the privilege and responsibility to pray for success in evangelism, for protection from Satan's attacks, and for God's hand to guide the meetings. But, we have the same privilege and responsibility to go to God daily. What a glorious calling is ours — to pray, to keep praying, and to pray passionately — to persevere in communication with God until we have the assurance that God is answering and is working in the things about which we have prayed.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16
In the midst of our preparations for our gathering in Salt Lake City, as well as in our daily lives, "DON'T FORGET THE MATCHES."