Praying Is Helping
Last Sunday, after a 5 week pause for Advent, we picked up on our sermon series in Acts. We covered Acts 8:1-25. Verse 4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went”. Beginning in verse 5 Luke uses Philip as a specific example of what that looked like. In Samaria Philip not only preached the gospel in the boldness of the Spirit, but also performed many miracles in the power of the Spirit. This was particularly important in Samaria because for years the people there had been amazed and under the power of Simon the sorcerer. If the gospel would have any relevance to them, they would need to see that it wasn’t just words but in fact this Christ who was being preached was even more powerful than the magic of Simon.
One of the truths of this passage, and the book of Acts as a whole, is that God spreads the gospel through displays of His power. Do you believe that God continues to do that? I do. Hopefully you’ve experienced miraculous answers to prayers in your own life, but if not, most people have heard incredible stories from overseas missionaries. It is one thing to believe in general that God still displays his power because not as much is on the line if God doesn’t come through. It is quite another thing to put yourself out there and actually pray for others in person and see what happens. What if we pray for a non-Christian and then our prayer isn’t obviously answered? Won’t that give God a bad name? Perhaps you’d rather not risk that and so in the name of “protecting” God’s reputation you don’t dare praying for others?
I recently read an interesting perspective on this that may change your mind. Choosing not to offer to pray for others in need is selfish, faithless, and unloving, rather than protective. Think of these analogies: “If an unbelieving neighbour was suddenly out of work, and you had some important connection that could get him a job, wouldn’t you make an effort to contact that person? Or, if you knew someone with a serious illness and your father happened to be a famous doctor who specialized in treating that illness, wouldn’t you ask your dad if he would be willing to see your neighbour? Or course, you would! Who wouldn’t! And who wouldn’t go to their Heavenly Father and ask Him to intervene for the same needy neighbour?”
Those are challenging words. Could my failure to pray for others be unbelief, cowardice, fearfulness, and evidence of a lack of love for my neighbour? Do you really believe that God is King? If so, we should have no problem offering to pray for others. I remember a couple years ago a pastor friend of mine shared about a transformation in his ministry. It happened because believers began to have the courage to ask non-believing acquaintances what they would most like God to do for them, and then praying that for them. And low and behold there was a substantial increase in answers to prayer and people moving towards a faith in God! James tells us that we don’t have because we don’t ask (James 4:2). I dare you to step out in faith and see if God doesn’t begin to reveal himself more often to others than you are experiencing now!