Day 1: Praying For A Heart With An Outward Focus - Pray & Go
Day 1: Praying for a Heart with an Outward Focus
The first church that I served as pastor was on the cusp of closing. One of the seven remaining members clearly communicated to me that the church was at a critical juncture. Would they call the new, young pastor, or would they admit that it was time to close down the church? After she heard me preach, she had all but decided that the doors needed to close.
“We have had some bad preachers,” she said bluntly, “but you’re probably the worst I’ve ever heard. It’s a toss-up to me whether we close the doors or have to listen to you every week.”
So much for encouragement from your membership.
The church had been around since the late 1700s, coming together just a few years after our nation was founded. It had served a rural farming community well for two centuries. But most of the farmers were gone now. The community had no businesses to speak of. It didn’t even have a traffic light. The situation was bleak.
Within a few weeks, I learned that the church had called me as pastor because they had no other candidates. Again, not very encouraging.
I am not the hero of this story, but it is a good story. God gave me the opportunity to share the gospel with someone. That one person became God’s instrument to reach others. One by one, our few church members decided they did not want to close the doors after all. One by one, they started reaching outward instead of being inwardly focused.
We had no musicians in the church except our piano player. She hit the right note about half the time. When the congregation sang along, we barely made a joyful noise. The facilities were in disrepair. There were no restrooms, only an abandoned outhouse that reportedly was home to several snakes. I never checked it out.
We had only a few hundred dollars in the bank, enough to pay my weekly salary of fifty dollars, but with not much left for ministry. Our members were understandably discouraged.
But God had a plan for our church . . .
Instead of dying, it began to thrive. Instead of giving in to discouragement, our members became bearers of encouragement. Instead of bemoaning our paucity of resources, they grew in faith that God would provide us and the church everything we needed.
It didn’t happen overnight, but our members started talking to other people in the rural community. They expanded their conversations to people in two adjacent communities. They developed an amazing commitment to prayer. Simply stated, they prayed for hearts with an outward focus. They prayed that God would use them to reach people. They prayed they would be God’s instruments to fulfill the Great Commission.
God heard. God answered.
Over the next several years, the church reached many people with the gospel, growing in both numbers and depth of discipleship. They were still reaching and discipling people years after I left.
PRAYING FOR YOURSELF
I would guess that you have prayed for your own needs many times. My own prayer life has included prayers to be a better dad and husband. I have three incredible sons and a wife who is a gift from God. Though I know I don’t deserve them, I love them dearly. I have messed up in both my roles—as dad and husband. I have prayed prayers of repentance for my bouts of selfishness, anger, inattentiveness, and indifference. I have needed to ask God to help me get my act together.
Now in the autumn of my life, I pray also for my eleven grandchildren. I pray that I would be a godly granddad (or “Rad Rad,” as they call me), that God would make me a good example and a joy to my family.
I know you have prayed for yourself as well. Perhaps you identify with some of my prayers. Perhaps you have prayed for spiritual healing, physical healing, or emotional healing. One of the greatest prayers you can pray for yourself is to become a Great Commission Christian—outwardly focused on advancing the gospel.
PRAYING FOR YOURSELF TO BECOME A GREAT COMMISSION CHRISTIAN
I will use the phrase Great Commission Christian from time to time in this book. There are several passages of Scripture where Jesus commands us to share the Good News and go and make disciples. Perhaps the best-known passage is Matthew 28:18-20: “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
We will study that passage more closely on Day 19. For now, we will use the basic understanding that the Great Commission is all about sharing the gospel of Christ with unbelievers and then helping those who commit their lives to Christ to grow as his disciples. Simply stated, a Great Commission Christian is someone who seeks to communicate the Good News of Christ to a world that does not know him.
On this first day of the thirty-day challenge, please pray for yourself. Pray specifically that God will use you in supernatural ways over the next month. Here are some suggestions on areas for prayer:
- For a heart that prioritizes reaching others with the gospel.
- For open opportunities to share the gospel and invite people to church.
- For good time management—to not be so busy that you can’t do the work God has called you to do.
- To be an encourager for others in your church to become Great Commission Christians as well.
- To have the right words to say, or not to say, when you have the opportunity to share the gospel or invite someone to church.
- To be the type of servant to others that causes them to be drawn to the Savior who works through you.
You are praying that God will make you a consistent Great Commission Christian. You want your heart to be receptive and your eyes to be open to the world as Christ sees the world.
TIME TO PRAY
Day 1 is a day of prayer. Day 1 is a day of commitment. Day 1 is the beginning of your great adventure.
On fourteen of the next thirty days, you will be asked to do nothing other than pray. That’s because prayer is essential to your becoming a Great Commission Christian. If you try to accomplish this goal in your own power, you will not succeed. If you seek God’s direction and power, you will see victories in your life, in the lives of others, and in your church.
So it’s time to pray. You will have other days to pray about other important matters, but this day is a time for you to pray for yourself. You can use the guide above, and of course you can pray any way you feel led.
Would you pray now for a Great Commission heart with an outward focus?