Whatever Happened to the Prayer Meeting?

Whatever Happened to the Prayer Meeting?

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.”  Acts 4:31
During a recent mission trip to Zambia I witnessed a most extraordinary response to this challenge of: Whatever Happened to the Prayer Meeting?
It was my first meeting of our mission trip.  The venue was The Bible Gospel Church in Africa – Holy Ghost Centre – in Matero, Lusaka.  Seven years before this building had been a beer hall.  Bishop Peter Ndhlovu had brought so many people to the Lord that he was able to convert this beer hall into a Bible Church.  We had been invited to conduct a Christian Action Network Fire of God Conference in Lusaka.  The response to the challenge was quite extraordinary.  Bishop Ndhlovu informed the members of his congregation that they would be holding an all-night Prayer Meeting the very next Friday! 
On Sunday morning I found the congregation most receptive and enthusiastic for my message on Personal Revival.  Immediately following the sermon, the congregation spontaneously erupted into prayer and for a long time people were earnestly seeking the Lord with hands raised standing or on their knees, pouring out their hearts before the Lord.  It was a precious time of worship “in Spirit and in Truth”.
On Friday night the atmosphere in the church was electric.  As we began the all-night prayer vigil, the people erupted in enthusiastic intercession. It reminded me of the beginnings of our mission.  Frontline Fellowship was born in prayer.  The vision for our mission – to assist persecuted churches, evangelising in war zones and serving in restricted access areas – grew out of the daily Bible Study and Prayer Meeting, which I led during my time of military service.  For two years we met, almost every night, around the Word of God, spending extended times in prayer.  Sometimes we prayed through the night, in prayer chains.  Often our Bible Study and Prayer Meetings lasted for three, four or five hours at a time. 
For centuries the prayer meeting was a central part of church life, an indispensable part of the weekly programme.  Yet today few Western churches have a prayer meeting.
What was once a major emphasis of church activities has either been relegated to the sidelines and ignored by most members, or it has been dispensed with altogether.  Furthermore many prayer meetings today involve little prayer.  Even in meetings set aside for prayer, other activities typically crowd in and leave little time for adoration, confession, intercession and thanksgiving to the Lord.  We need to ask ourselves:  Why is that?
When I was converted, over 30 years ago, my local church had a dynamic men’s meeting, prayer meeting and outreach evening each week.  However, television had been introduced into South Africa the previous year and was beginning to encroach upon the church’s activities.  The men’s meeting was ‘temporarily suspended’ because it clashed with ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’, a popular weekly TV programme.  (Actually the men’s meeting never reconvened). 
The weekly door-to-door outreach was also suspended, because it clashed with many people’s TV viewing.  The prayer meeting became a special gathering for a few dedicated members rather than the weekly activity of most members.  It appeared that in the daily demands and time pressures, prayer and evangelism were expendable.
One would have thought that the church had few greater priorities than our relationship to God in prayer  and reaching out in evangelism to our neighbour.  But then I remember in one of the first church member meetings I attended that, while improving the church’s acoustics at the cost of R4 000 was approved, it was agreed that the monthly support of the church’s missionaries could not be increased and would stay at R100.  Evidently missions weren’t as high a priority as music.
On one of my first mission trips behind the Iron Curtain to Eastern Europe, one of our persecuted brothers, Dr. Paul Negrut, explained how they were able to recognise true believers and identify informers planted by the Communist government:  “A real Christian loves God, a real Christian loves to read the Bible.  A real Christian loves to pray.  And a real Christian hates sin.”  Then Pastor Paul  added:  “We don’t count our members by how many attend the Sunday service, but by who attends the Bible study and prayer meeting.”
By that standard –  how many real Christians and true members do we have?
A hunger for God’s Word and a desire to pray are some of the first evidences of the new birth.  I remember as a new Christian spending hours each day in Bible study and prayer.  In the army and in the early years of this mission, we spent whole nights in prayer.  It was completely natural and thoroughly enjoyable as we poured out our hearts to God in prayer.  Evangelism naturally flowed out of our times of intercession.  The more of God’s Word we studied, the more we wanted to pray.  The more we prayed, the greater our compulsion to share the Gospel with the unsaved around us.
This is what the early Church experienced.  As they laboured in intensive, heartfelt prayer, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then they went out and proclaimed God’s Word boldly (Acts 4:31).
The Church is called to be “a house of prayer for all nations”.  Intercession, evangelism and missions should be an indispensable part of every congregation. The prophet Samuel described prayerlessness as a sin (1 Sam 12:23).  The Reformer John Knox prayed:  “Give me Scotland or I die!”  No wonder Mary Queen of Scots declared that she was more afraid of the prayers of John Knox than of an army of ten thousand.
The Bible places great emphasis on prayer:
“Pray continually” 1 Thess 5:19
“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”  1 Chron 16:11
“You will seek Me and you will find Me, where you search for Me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13                              
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt 26:41
“Then Jesus told His disciples…that they should always pray and not give up.”  Luke 18:1
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matt 7:7
“All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favour of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to Your  truth.” Dan 9:13
Prayerlessness is a root sin.  To reverse this disastrous trend we need to give attention to the Word of God, study the Scriptures, pray the Psalms, turn from our sins and seek the Lord.
“If My people, who are called according to My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” 2 Chron 7:14
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests… be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Eph 6:18
“If you abide in Me and My Words abide in you then you will ask whatever you want of Me and it shall be given to you.”   John 15:7
Dr. Peter Hammond is the Missionary Director of Frontline Fellowship and the author of The Power of Prayer Handbook www.frontline.org.za

John and Stasi Eldredge: Wild at Heart

Wild at heart
John and Stasi Eldredge are world leaders in counselling and have written several books, including John’s best-selling, ‘Wild at Heart’. They met when they were in high school in the same drama class.  She was in charge of taking attendance, while he was always cutting class. He realised that he needed to charm her to get her on his side.  Charming as he was, however, they never dated in high school.  Their relationship only developed when they came to know the Lord.
John wasn’t raised in a Christian home and when he was a teenager he got involved in drug abuse and New Age and Eastern mysticism.  He was spiritually hungry and was searching for God.  When he was 19, he came to know Jesus as his Lord and Saviour without anyone even leading him to the Lord.  He was reading a New Age book that mentioned Jesus but was comparing Him to Buddha and Mohammed, implying that they were all the same.  In that moment something in him said, “No, that’s not true.  He’s different.  Jesus is different.”  One night in his bedroom he prayed, “Jesus, I really need help, and I think You are the One to help me.” That was his salvation prayer. Just six months later he was a completely different person. 
When John gave his life to the Lord, he also led Stasi to Christ.  They soon developed a romantic interest in each other and the rest is history.  They were married in 1983, have 3 sons and live in Colorado Springs in the United States.
John has a heart for men and his wife Stasi, on the other hand, is passionate about helping women.  John’s best-selling book, ‘Wild at Heart’, which launched in 2001, resounded with the hearts of men around the world.  His book proclaimed that masculinity is not only acceptable but also essential and that it is OK for men to be Christians and still be  ‘guys’.  He says that every young boy has a desire placed in his heart by God, a desire to become a hero and live life as an adventure.  As men, they need to continue living this dream. Since its release ‘Wild at Heart’ as sold 2.9 million copies and has inspired men across the world to embrace their masculinity and live as men of God.
In 2005 he co-wrote the book, ‘Captivating’, with Stasi, as the female counterpart to ‘Wild at Heart’.  She says, “I was inspired to write ‘Captivating’ with John because of a love for God’s women. I’ve seen what a glorious impact ‘Wild at Heart’ has had on men and their marriages and so I wanted women to experience that healing and the deeper intimacy with Christ which I’ve experienced. I believe that women are desperately needed to rise up and follow Jesus into their calling in ways that many have been unable to because of their broken hearts and because of the crushing version of ‘godly women’ laid on them by the church. We need women who have come alive as women.”
John and Stasi say that the desires of men and women are both similar and different.  They are distinctly masculine and distinctly feminine.  In ‘Wild at Heart’ John says that every man wants a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to rescue.  In ‘Captivating’ Stasi says that every woman wants to be romanced, to not just be useful but be irreplaceable and she longs to have a beauty that’s all her own to unveil, both an external and an internal beauty.  There are lots of similarities too.  Our hearts are both wounded and those wounds shape us into the men or women that we become.
Stasi says that deep in the heart of every little girl and every woman is the question, “Am I lovely? Do you enjoy me? Am I worth pursuing, worth fighting for? Am I captivating?” The way this question was answered for each of us as little girls and as women has shaped us into the women we are today. The healing of our feminine heart begins as we take our question to God, to let Him answer the deepest questions of a woman’s heart with a resounding YES!
Both John and Stasi enjoy telling stories because they believe that stories are the language of the heart.  That’s also how God speaks throughout Scripture and Jesus often used parables to get His message across.  Their books contain stories that illustrate the points they wish to get across to their readers and John says it is important to know what stories we like, because it tells us a lot about ourselves.  His favourite stories are movies such as ‘A river runs through it’, ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’.  He loves reading books by CS Lewis and also books on the great outdoors such as Jon Krakauer’s book on climbing Everest.
John, Stasi and their three sons love camping and having special times in the outdoors together.  John often goes mountain climbing and bow hunting with his sons.  Their favourite place to go is the Tetons in the United States and they go every summer as a family.  It has become a tradition in the Eldredge household.  They camp for a week or two, canoe in the river, swim in the lakes and do some hiking.
This love for the outdoors also holds a very painful memory, however.  When searching for spiritual guidance, John went to a man named Brent Curtis for help.  Pretty soon counsellor and client became blood brothers.  They discovered a mutual desire to combine counselling with public speaking and wilderness retreats, directed toward rescuing people’s hearts from the passivity they found common in modern Christianity.  They both dreamed of centering their work on a ranch.  Brent and John were holding their first retreat for men, a forerunner of today’s ‘Wild at Heart’ basic training courses, when Brent died tragically.  He was standing on rocks 80 feet above the ground and the rocks gave way.  His death shook John to the core.  “Brent was a soul mate, a friend of friends. It was a Jonathan and David friendship,” Eldredge says. “But for the intervention of God, I think I would have bailed. Very early after Brent’s death, God came to me and said, ‘You will not walk alone. I will not allow it.’”
John then founded Ransomed Heart Ministries which specialises in spiritual boot camps for men and women.  Since his best friend’s death, Eldredge has poured himself into friendships with the people who work with him at Ransomed Heart.  He and his colleagues are often seen riding horses, rappelling down a cliff, rafting in white water, shooting skeet and stacking hay in a barn. They whoop frequently during these adventures and they take occasional breaks during which John walks them through the main points of ‘Wild at Heart’.
Eldredge prefers wilderness to office space and risky adventures to living-room couches. He believes that men, as creatures made in God’s image, have a God-given heart for adventure—usually starting with adventures in the outdoors, but working up to the adventure of loving a woman even when she’s furious, and the ultimate adventure of trusting God on uncertain paths.   
Stasi leads the women’s ministry of ‘Ransomed Heart’ and is a highly popular speaker.  She is passionate about women and brings a softer side to John’s ministry which focuses primarily on men.  Her desire is to bring women into a romantic relationship with God.  She says, “Jesus came not only to forgive our sins but also to heal broken hearts. When He began His ministry on earth, He went into the synagogue and read the passage from Isaiah 61 that explains He came to bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free. We all have hearts that have been broken as a result of what’s been done to us and as a result of our own choices. We are captives and He wants to heal our hearts and set us free to be ourselves. Ask God to heal your broken heart. Christianity is not about duty and obedience. It’s about a romance with the living God of the universe and that’s where our healing begins – beautifully, deeply, sometimes immediately, but usually over time. The way that He heals us is in relationship. He desires relationship with us. In Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” When we ask God, ‘Am I lovely?’ He is truly the only One who can answer that question.”
John and Stasi long to see men re-discover their masculinity and live adventurous lives of faith and to see women embrace their femininity and their relationship with God.  Happily married for 25 years, they seem to know just what they are talking about.  Accepting who you are and living a life focused on God, and all He made you to be, is the best foundation for any relationship.  John and Stasi are setting a Godly example for men and women around the world, to live passionately and to love intensely.  They truly are wild at heart.

What is the Emerging Church?

What is the Emerging Church?
Have you heard of the Emerging Church? Do you know what it is and what ‘they’ stand for? If like me, you have heard the term loosely thrown around but don’t really know to what it refers, then this article will hopefully provide you a clearer understanding.
If you have never heard the term or do not wish to learn more – then this article is SPECIFCALLY for you! Whether you are a leader (pastor, elder, minister) or a member of a church or even a Christian not in church, you need to know more about the Emerging Church (E.C.) and its implications on the Christian faith in the 21st Century.
 Let’s examine what this movement is:
 What is the E.C?
The Emerging Church (also known as the emergent church movement) is a Christian movement of the early 21st century, started in America, whose participants seek to engage postmodern people, especially the un-churched and post-churched.

They believe it is necessary to deconstruct modern Christian dogma and avoid the use of jargon, called ‘Christianese’, that has become increasingly irrelevant to the prevailing culture. The movement contains a diversity in beliefs and practices (ie, not every Emergent leader or church has the same look and feel – some are more political than others, some emphasise ‘sacred’ worship with candles and incense, some are more liberal than others.)
What does the EC look like?
‘Emergents’ seem to share a post modern disillusionment with the organised, institutional Church as it has existed through the 20th century (whether fundamentalist, liberal, megachurch, or tall-steeple liturgical). Those in the movement do not engage in aggressive apologetics or confrontational evangelism in the traditional sense, preferring to allow persons the freedom to discover truth through conversation and relationships with the Christian community. Much of the E.C. movement have adopted the approach to evangelism which stresses peer-to-peer dialog rather than dogmatic proclamation and ‘witnessing’. Involvement has many forms including social activism, hospitality, and acts of kindness. This beneficent involvement in culture is part of what is called “missional living” – focussed on temporal and social issues, as opposed to a (perceived) Evangelical overemphasis on eternal salvation.
Creative, relevant, energetic, youthful, authentic, highly relational and socially minded.
Somewhat cynical, disorganised, sometimes reckless (even in the theological ideas willing to be entertained), and vague.
What does their future look like?
There are many different streams in the emerging/ emergent church/ ‘missional’ movement.  The post-modern belief system itself encourages diversity of belief which makes it difficult to track what the E.C. will look like in ten years. Different people joining the movement have mixed it in different proportions with Biblical Christianity.  Some are mostly Biblical and a little post-modern. Others are mostly post-modern and a little biblical.  Some fall within the boundaries of Orthodox Christianity, some do not. New E.C. followers have not realised where their new ‘uncertain’ Biblical interpretation method will lead them. For now most of them remain mostly biblical, but in a decade or two they will have strayed further. It has been said that future generations of E.C. followers will probably slide all the way to apostasy and rejection of Christian ethics, as many modernists have done.
Several Christian leaders and church denominations have kept abreast of the E.C. movement. From my research, it appears several South African leaders and denominations need to know more. Read on for comments by prominent voices both for and against the movement.

What My Miscarriage Has Taught Me

What My Miscarriage Has Taught Me
I have been negotiating with the Lord about writing my testimony from the moment I first knew that I was miscarrying our second baby. Excuses of “I am scared”, “There is not enough time in the day”, “I’m busy now with paying clients’ work” are now tired out. The Lord is so gracious and now I am finally sharing my story in the hope that it will bring you closer to the Lord if you already know Him, or introduce you to our gracious and loving Heavenly Father.
We had been trying to have a second baby for around eight months when my husband, Laren, went into hospital for an emergency operation in December. After days of being in pain and a little delirious, he returned to normal and remarked that I looked different.  At the crack of dawn the next day, I took the pregnency test and it was immediately positive. Elated, I jumped on the bed and woke Laren waving the positive test! We then prayed together and thanked the Lord for the incredible blessing of a second child.
After telling friends and family of the good news, life carried on as normal. Our daughter, Trinity, was thrilled to have a baby sister or brother on the way and would often walk up to me and whisper “Hi baby” to my growing tummy.
In late January this year, we were getting ready to attend the second day of a course at our church when I started to bleed. I knew this could be normal but I phoned my friend Nicole who is a nurse and we prayed over the phone and she suggested I stay at home that weekend with my feet up. I have never been good at sitting still, so I decided to go to the meeting. On my way there, Laren kept saying he was hearing “The Lord is good in all things” over and over in his head. When I had slight cramps I knew it was time to go to the hospital.
My wonderful Christian friends came with me and assisted our family as we got to the hospital and waited for results. The doctor was unable to tell me what was going on, as I had not miscarried. He sent me home with strict instructions not to move until the Monday.
We had such love and support over those two days from SMS’s, to phone calls, to dinners being delivered. By Sunday evening I knew in my heart that our baby was not going to make it and even though I had not yet miscarried, I knew that my baby had gone to be with our Heavenly Father.
Laren and I both had a good cry, yet at no stage did we feel abandoned by our Lord – in fact we kept praying to Him to be with us and most certainly felt His Presence at this time.
I woke early on that Monday morning with our Lord Jesus Christ’s loving Hand gently stroking me and saying: “Testimony”. I knew in my heart that my experience should be shared with as many people as possible. Miscarriages happen far more often that we realise, with many guilt-ridden women keeping silent about their hurt. Often if a couple chooses to share their sorrow, the men are expected to stand firmly by whilst their wives get the attention and care.
Laren and I don’t know why the Lord chose to take our baby – perhaps there was something wrong with the child, maybe it was a lesson for us to go through, or just not the right time? There are so many possibilities, but we are blessed to have endured this as Christians. I have never felt more loved by our Lord. I never knew how much love our Christian and non-Christian friends and family have for us.
I remember so clearly during the haze of those few days receiving an SMS from my unsaved brother saying: “We are praying for you”. This further cemented my belief that God was at work. Even though I don’t know the answers to why things happened the way they did, I am at peace and have been since the day of the bleeding and cramps. Having lost both my parents and knowing the devastation that I felt, I would have expected to react the same way with this miscarriage. However, the new born-again me accepted whole heartedly that this was God’s plan. At no stage did I feel angry, betrayed or let down. This surprised me a great deal and I knew it was only because I could feel God’s love, even at such a difficult time. I was reminded of the ‘footsteps analogy’ which says that when we look around and see only one set of footprints in the sand and we feel abandoned by God; it is in fact He who is carrying us.
The morning after I had a procedure to remove the stillborn foetus, I explained to our daughter that Jesus had taken the baby to live with Him in Heaven. She gave me an odd kind of look – I could almost hear her say, “Duh, mom, I know that”- and turned back to watching her TV show.
Besides the love of our gracious Heavenly Father, I got through this difficult time
with my caring, loving husband at my side and the knowledge that God
has blessed us with an incredible daughter. There are options for us – we can try again or we can look at adopting a baby that needs a family – but right now we are leaving this in the Lord’s Hands and getting on with our purpose on this earth.
If anyone wants to call me to share their pain of a miscarriage, I would love to
listen and pray with you (082 940 6976)