It seems to be more difficult as I get older to take risks. There are some risks I have been accustomed to taking since I was little; for example, relying on my speed (on a bike or in a car!) to get past someone at a junction, or when I’m leading worship, to launch out into a song confident that I can carry it – not always worked, that one!
But risks are really important, and in fact, in terms of faith, it’s the only thing that really pleases God. I should not really be taking risks reliant on my own ability, but take risks that are solely depending on what He has said. And for it to count as a risk, I suggest, we must face the possibility of losing something, I don’t know, face, status, money, a promising future, as a result of what we have invested.
There’s a funny word, ‘invested’. A lot of words, I notice, are misused nowadays. For example, those new to YouTube might be forgiven for not subscribing to channels, for fear that it will cost them money. Look at the definition of subscribe: a person contributing to a fund. Actually, it doesn’t cost money to subscribe to a channel, although others might laugh at you for doing so (and a meaning further down in my Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition, is ‘a person who subscribes to an idea’). But another word I spotted flicking through an Ipad User Guide, is ‘tethering to hotspots’. That word ‘tethering’ means to tie an animal with a rope to confine it. Perhaps ‘at the end of one’s patience, resources, abilities’, when it comes to ipads, would be more appropriate. And to return to ‘invested’ – I think we lose the element of risk when we say: I have ‘invested’ time in prayer. It’s not a reciprocating arrangement. The Father doesn’t quite work like that. If he thought that we were putting ‘prayer’ in simply to get something out, he would run from that. That’s religion, not being saved by grace.
This morning, sitting quietly for a rare moment, I was acknowledging before God that faith is always something I have been bad at. And yet I want to see people saved, healed, restored. So I went to Wigglesworth, and read that during a campaign in Norway in the 1920s he arrived in Bergen and had been hoping for some downtime, but discovered:
The streets surrounding the venue where he was to preach that afternoon were crammed with vehicles of all kinds: little Model T Fords and long limousines honked their horns in unison, while drivers atop horses and carts, gesticulated wildly and stately hansom cabs inched forward, their horses whinnying. The pavement was also packed solid with wheelchairs, jammed wheel-to-wheel – all were united in their determination to get to the entrance of the building.
As Wigglesworth observed the chaotic spectacle, he noticed that many of the cars and carriages were filled with the sick and infirm. Removing his jacket and handing it to Barratt, he began clambering into the stalled vehicles and laying hands on the afflicted. Soon there were shrieks and shouts of amazement as one after another was healed.
To pause in the narrative for a moment, an evangelist on a crusade, or a missionary in the field, or for that matter a believer in their workplace: all of them are dependent on the Lord. Do we say Yes to Him? That’s the question. Jesus said that he only did what He saw the Father do. The elder leading our service last Sunday said that we can either be Lot, living in Sodom and Gomorrah and righteous, but needing to be rescued out of it: or we can be Abraham, actually interceding before Yahweh and helping to achieve the salvation. How incredible that there were humans who had the ear of the Almighty! With Jesus, and the incarnation, it is no longer incredible, but it is, in the words of Watchman Nee, the ‘normal’ Christian life to have influence and hold audience with the Father. This is why intercession is the most important and significant ministry that a Christian can exercise. But that intercession also springs out of relationship – watch this Bill Johnson clip on that topic.
Big problem with moving on with intercession? We have to believe what we ask for. Yup – we need faith. This is where the testimony of the saints is the kickstarter that we need. Listen to what happened later that night as Wigglesworth went back to minister:
‘When I got inside that Town Hall,’ recalled Wigglesworth, ‘I never saw anything so packed! I have seen sardines packed – yet these people couldn’t have fallen down if they had wanted to. The Spirit of the Lord was upon me. I began to preach. I have forgotten my subject, but I knew I was eaten up with the zeal of the Lord.’
As Wigglesworth paced back and forth on the platform preaching, he suddenly heard the voice of God: ‘If you will believe and ask me, I will give you every soul.’ He stopped abruptly in mid-sentence and then continued his sermon until he heard the inner voice again: ‘If you will believe and ask me, I will give you every soul.’ Wigglesworth hesitated. He knew it was God, but dare he ask for every soul? Unable to make up his mind, he continued preaching. Again the voice came, repeating the message. Wigglesworth stopped and, with his eyes closed, he raised his head to heaven and whispered, ‘All right, Lord do it. I ask you, please give me every soul.’ At that precise moment, cries for mercy erupted spontaneously, as a wave of supernatural power swept through the hall, convicting sinners and backsliders alike.
When we know what God has done in the past, and we know what He has promised to do, we do not need to fear to ask Him for every soul. To ask Him for what He has put in our hearts. What has He put in your heart? Ask Him for it. Wait on Him for it. If you don’t know what to pray for, ask Him what should you pray for.
It is better to pray a brief prayer in faith, than to pray for a whole day in unbelief. As a teacher, my students could ask me time and again if I could lend them some money, or if I’d give them a sweet, or arrange a holiday for them. It doesn’t matter how many times they ask me, the answer would negative – I probably wouldn’t even consider it. But if my little boy comes to me and asks for money, or a holiday – and he might only ask me once – my heart at once is open.
When we see that we have that love-relationship with the Father, just like Jesus had, it changes our prayer completely, and transforms us and has the power to transform those around us.