“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you….” [1 Jn 1:5]
When Christ’s Apostles proclaimed His Word, they did not do so until they had immersed themselves in prayer and received power from on high. All throughout the New Testament, we can see that prayer and fasting were a big part of the Apostles’ ministry. There was a reason for this. These holy men recognized that if they wanted to be used mightily by God in the power of the Holy Spirit, it was necessary for them to tap into the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit on a daily basis. They wanted to declare God’s message, and not their own.
Many people (including church leaders) spend very little time in prayer with God. Then, when they attempt to preach, teach, write, or speak in His name, their words fall flat and do not have the desired effect upon their listeners or readers. You show me a priest or minister who puts people to sleep with their homilies, and I’ll show you an individual who is not devoting himself to prayer as he ought.
Any bishop, priest, deacon, or catechist who attempts to proclaim the truths of God’s Word without a deep, rich, and intimate prayer life with the Lord Jesus Christ is attempting to carry out the work of God in the power of their own flesh instead of the power of the Spirit. When they speak or write, their words fall flat. Their message does not have God’s anointing upon it because it is being launched in the flesh instead of delivered in the power of the Spirit.
These individuals deliberately forget that “it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Living God” that any work of God can be carried out. They deliberately forget the words of our Lord and Master who said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
When someone attempts to teach the Word of God, I am able to discern whether or not they are spending the time with God in prayer that they ought to be spending. When they speak, their words, no matter how quietly spoken, have invisible power to penetrate the heart and burn within it. Because they have immersed themselves in prayer, they are filled with the Spirit of God. When they speak, I discern that it is the Spirit who is speaking to the people, and not the man. But if they have spent little time with God in prayer because they have given themselves over to church “busyness” and the distractions of this world, their message will fall flat. It will fall flat and make no impact whatsoever on their listeners because it is the man’s flesh that is reaching out to the crowds and not God’s Spirit. The message is of the man’s flesh. It was conjured up in the flesh, outlined in the flesh, assembled in the flesh, and delivered in the flesh, and that which is of the flesh will go absolutely nowhere.
Peter and the others disciples were instructed by Jesus to remain in the upper room until they received the Holy Spirit. They gave themselves completely over to prayer. Then, the Spirit fell upon them like a mighty rushing wind! After they were filled with power from on high, then they were in a proper position to be used by the Spirit to proclaim the message of the Spirit. Because it was the message of the Spirit, launched in the power of the Spirit, the people were cut to the heart and repented. Three thousand souls were added to the Church of Jesus Christ in one day!
People who have lousy prayer lives make lousy preachers and teachers in the Church. It’s as simple as that. When I am subjected to a boring homily or teaching, I see an individual who spent most of his time doing administrative works and attending committee meetings instead of sitting at the Master’s feet getting filled with power from on high. When it’s of God, you will know it. When it is of the flesh, you will know this as well.
Because so few are willing to center their entire lives on prayer, their work for God lacks what I call “umph!” When I have the privilege of listening to a person who is truly anointed and filled with the power of God, I find myself weeping in the pew because God’s message burns so powerfully in my heart. When I read the writings of those who dared not write a word without first immersing themselves in prayer, I weep. My spirit is affected in a supernatural way. Like the disciples who walked with Jesus as He spoke to them on the road to Emmaus, I find my heart burning within me through the words that are written.
Truth be told, I’m sick to death of “prayerless”/powerless teaching and preaching in the Church of Jesus Christ. A man or woman who spends no time with God in prayer getting filled with the Spirit on a daily basis has absolutely nothing to say to me. It is God’s message that I desire to hear, not man’s! It is the voice of the Spirit that I long to hear, not the voice of the flesh, the voice of the stranger!
If God has called you to minister to people in His Church, and you give but five minutes a day of yourself in prayer, do you know what you’re saying to God? You’re saying, “Don’t worry…I can handle it from here, Lord. I’ve got everything covered.” And then when your ministry falls flat and goes nowhere, you can’t understand why. You don’t understand why God isn’t blessing the work you are carrying out for Him.
I want to flip the coin over and address the second group of people to which this message pertains. Up until now, I have been addressing those who are called by God to teach and preach His Word. Now, I turn my attention to those who are called to listen to that Word when it is proclaimed.
Do you know that it is just as necessary for those who receive God’s message to be immersed in a strong prayer life as it is for those who are called to deliver that message? If you are not being filled with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis in your life, you are not going to be open to God’s message when it comes. When you hear it, you will receive it and react to it in your flesh. You will reject it, disbelieve it, and even take offense at it. Many are confronted with the truth week after week, but because they do not give themselves over to a life of prayer, they do not receive the message as coming from God, but from men. Because they walk in the flesh, they receive everything through the filter of their flesh. They are not able to discern that God’s Spirit is speaking to them through a homily, an article, a book, or even another church member because their lack of an intimate prayer life with the Son of God has rendered them insensitive to the things of God.
As a religious instructor in Christ’s Church, this is the hardest cross for me to bear. I spend many hours a day in prayer before my Lord. He has called to me a life of prayer, and I take this calling seriously. I sit at the feet of my Beloved for many hours on end until I have received His power and His message. Filled with the Holy Spirit, I then attempt to proclaim that message to those to whom He sends me. Sometimes I will write articles; other times the Holy Spirit will instruct me to confront an individual with a truth that they desperately need to be reminded of or to hear. I never do anything until I have been filled with the Spirit of God and directed by Him to proclaim a certain message. The most painful cross that I have to endure in this teaching ministry is the reaction of men and women who walk in the flesh and not in the power of the Spirit. When I bring to them the message of God’s Spirit, because they do not immerse themselves in prayer all week long, they are not open to the message of the Spirit, and they respond to it in their flesh. When this happens, they reject me, persecute me, and write me off. Perhaps you’re thinking, “If what you were proclaiming was really of God, then the reaction would be the right one and the people would respond accordingly.” Those who think this show themselves to be ignorant of the Sacred Scriptures. For when God sent His holy prophets to people who had no room in their hearts for the truth, the prophets were persecuted and some were even put to death. Christ proclaimed what He received from His Father, and they attempted to throw Him off a cliff. Eventually, they had Him crucified.
Many years ago, when I was still in my twenties, I received a dream which I am convinced came to me from the Lord. In that dream, I saw myself being driven out of church after church by angry mobs of people who were offended at the things which I proclaimed. At the time, I did not understand the meaning of the dream, for Christ had not yet called me to teach His Word. As I saw myself being chased by the angry mobs, I said, “Lord, what do these things mean?” But now, almost 30 years later, I’ve come to understand the meaning of this dream because of different things that I’ve experienced over and over again as I’ve gone from church to church in the United States. I have suffered much at the hands of those in Christ’s Church who are not open to the things of God because they walk in the power of the flesh all week long. These are the same individuals who get angry at holy priests and bishops if they proclaim a message that pricks their heart, exposes their love for this world, and shines a glaring light on their religious pride. I have lost numerous friends over these past 30 years because they took offense at what the Spirit was saying through me instead of receiving it and yielding to it in the manner desired by God.
In the book of Proverbs, we read as follows: “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man, and he will add to his learning.” [Pr. 9:8-9]. Solomon is making it pretty clear that you will be able to discern those who are truly righteous from those who only pretend to be by the way they respond and react to the truth of God’s Word when confronted with it. All of us, no matter how hard we may strive to live a holy life before God, struggle with pride. It’s a part of our sinful nature that we will have to struggle to overcome until the day we die. When we are rebuked, corrected, or chastised, it stings. It slaps our pride right in the face, and we don’t like it. But if we are truly walking in the humility of Christ, we will receive that rebuke, correction, or chastisement as being from God, and we will yield to it, even though we may still be feeling the sting.
I just lost a friend this week who was very dear to me. Death did not take him from me; his inability to handle what the Spirit of God spoke to him through me dragged him away. This man is studying to become a Deacon in the Church. With a Master’s Degree in Theology, he was spending almost all of his time reading theological books and articles on the Internet and very little time in prayer. He was becoming more and more critical of everything and everyone. When he would teach or write, his work lacked the anointing of God upon it because he was spending so little time with God in prayer. Half of the things that he wrote didn’t even make sense. Although this man is only a few months older than me, he used to affectionately call me his “little sister.” One morning, after spending several hours with God in prayer, I confronted my “older brother” and said to him, “Books make scholars, my beloved brother, but only the Spirit of God can make a man a deacon. If you want the Lord’s anointing upon your ministry as a Deacon, you must spend less time with your nose in theology books and more time on your knees before Christ. Let Him fill you with His Spirit, and then watch how He will both transform you and use you in the lives of His people.”
Outwardly, the man professed “humility,” saying, “I cherish those who have the courage to be used by God and to confront me with the truth. You have listened to the Spirit, and I thank you.” But I learned a long time ago to look beyond a man’s words and to see his actions. My friend’s words proclaimed one thing, but his actions, proclaimed another. He now keeps his distance from me. I am no longer his “little sister.” He avoids me like the plague. If I send him an email, I receive a brief, clipped response. We used to send long emails to each other, sharing our hearts and all of the wonderful things we were discovering in our journey toward God. All of that has been changed because this man could not handle God raising me up to confront him about a wrong path he was taking. And yet, several months before this incident, when I was in error about something, I responded to his correction without any problem. When God raised him up to correct me about an attitude that I was holding on to, I listened to him, considered what he said, and realized that he was right. I loved him more than I had ever loved him because he cared enough about me to confront me with the truth. When I confronted him with the truth, this man should have loved me even more. My willingness to do such a thing should have made me dearer to him in Christ than I had been previously. His brotherly affection for me should have overflowed and spilled out of his heart. Instead he hardened his heart toward me and whatever “love” he had for me simply went cold. Solomon said, “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you,” but this man now avoids me and feels the need to keep his distance from me. He’s the one with the Master’s Degree in Theology. He’s the one who feels called to ordination as a Deacon in Christ’s Church. Who in the world do I think I am approaching him in order to correct him? Don’t I know my place? I’m not his “little sister;” I’m his enemy. This is what his actions have spoken, in spite of the “humble” words that he professed. Losing this man’s friendship has caused me considerable pain and much shedding of tears. But I remember the dream Christ showed me concerning my teaching ministry, and realize that sometimes, this is the price one must pay when called to proclaim the truth. My loyalty and allegiance lie with the One who calls me; it is before Him that I will one day stand and give an account for what I did with the truth of His Word.
Brothers and sisters, whether we are called to proclaim God’s message or to receive God’s message, we will not be able to accomplish this unless we are daily being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer. If you want the Spirit of God to minister to other people through you, you must devote your life to prayer. If you want the Spirit of God to speak to you through other people, this, too, will require a life that is devoted to prayer. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we will neither be able to speak in His Name or listen in His Name. We will proclaim the message of our flesh, and we will receive God’s message in our flesh.
When the Apostle John wrote his letter to the Church, he wrote as follows: “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you…” [1 Jn 1:5]. If we wish to follow in their footsteps, we must devote our lives to prayer, as they did, so that we, too, will “hear God’s message” when it comes. To live a life that is centered on anything but intimate prayer with the Lord Jesus Christ is to live a life devoid of the Spirit. Only eternity will reveal how many times the Spirit spoke to us, but because we were not walking in the power of the Spirit, we were not sensitive to it and did not recognize it when it came.
He who has a listening ear…
… let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church!
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