I can hear the Enemy’s whisper. “What are you thinking in trying to apply ‘the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’ to yourself? You’re neither righteous, powerful, nor effective. And forget trying to compare yourself to Elijah.” (James 5:16-17).
I think the biggest challenge to strong prayers of faith is doubt. Not a very profound thought perhaps, but I had never thought about it deeply, until I saw it right next door to the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28. Most people quote verses 19 and 20 as the key passage for discipleship and mission. Many have also recognized that without the authority of Jesus mentioned in verse 18, this command is simply human effort. A few have even seen worship in verse 17 as a key ingredient. But fewer still consider the impact of doubt. “They worshipped him, but some doubted.” My conviction is that the disciples were not doubting the risen Lord. At this point, they all had seen him. I think they were doubting themselves.
Which brings us back to prayer. “You’re neither righteous, powerful, nor effective.” Yes, we’re all acquainted with doubt. We know the actual truth at least in our heads. We ARE righteous and we lean strongly on the power and effectiveness of the Spirit of God. But we also have been dinged by fervent prayers that go unanswered. Or worse yet, praying our hearts out and God doesn’t even speak, although that shouldn’t surprise us if the most righteous Man to ever live prayed his heart out in a garden a couple of thousand years ago and got only silence. The scripture is clear; Jesus was heard!
So will doubt deter your prayer?
It didn’t deter Nicole, one of WorldVenture’s appointees. “Through social media, I prayed for a friendship I made online,” she said. “As I discipled him, I prayed for God to help this person find their way. God sent the right people in his local area and now he is a believer.”
Andy, a WorldVenture missionary in Japan, is undaunted:
I thought, why don’t I specifically ask for something very improbable? Hmm…how about asking for people to just, out of the blue, show interest in God? And so I prayed it, and then kind of forgot it…A couple weeks passed and things started to happen. First, June was printing an article I wrote at a business supply store. The owner, knowing we are missionaries, asked if he could have a copy to read. Okay, not such a big deal, but a start. However, some days later a high school boy in our neighborhood came to our house with his mother because both are “quite interested” in the Bible, so I shared my testimony with them at our first meeting. Okay, things seemed to be heating up. And then days after that a middle age man with serious depression came to us for counseling, traveling two hours on a train ride no less. Although I had plans to specifically address his needs more therapeutically, it was clear he was at a spiritual crossroads. In a previous session I had assigned him to read some positive Bible verses every day. Now, however, he was clearly plagued with a sense of guilt over personal sin. I had no choice but to set the therapy aside and share the gospel. Immediately he received Christ right there in our counseling room!
One by one God brought them. I didn’t go out seeking or doing anything special, but just asked—not even with a lot of faith.”
Bill, another WorldVenture missionary in Senegal, derailed doubt with his dramatic story:
My most memorable answered prayer request came during a Dakar Academy outreach in the spring of 2015. The evening evangelistic campaign was hopping with about 1,000 locals enjoying the puppets, skits and the music in different languages. Sometime during the evening, the wind kicked up and was whipping dust all around. To say it was miserable would be an understatement. A few weeks prior to this outreach, my devotionals had been on John 14, and verse 12 really stuck out to me. Jesus told His disciples that whoever believes in Him will do the works He had been doing and “even do greater things than these.”
I had been pondering these things in my heart and that night, with the wind whipping around, I sensed the Lord say to me: “Go ahead.” I questioned that in my spirit and again heard, “Go ahead.” So, I looked up to the sky and said aloud, “Wind, in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to stop!” In that instant, the wind stopped!
I felt very small, but was extremely grateful to the Lord for answering that prayer.”
Jim, WorldVenture’s International Americas Ministry Director, encourages my faith when he writes:
I have been praying for a number of regions for God to either open the field, or increase the number of workers on the team. For many years, Leo and Lulu Calva have been working in Loja, Ecuador as the only WorldVenture couple. I began praying God would build up that team to help reach Loja and the surrounding areas. I had no idea where the workers would come from. The Messicks had to leave Guatemala, and after much discussion, they decided to go to Loja to help the Calvas. They have been there a couple years now with their five children. Then the Fergusons had to leave Rwanda and asked if there might be places in South America. They checked out Loja and decided to go there as well. They just finished language school and moved to Loja, where they just had their fourth child. Then Carlos and Sarah Labriel came to us with an interest in serving in Ecuador. They are appointees and will begin in Loja, and then may move to another city nearby. They have two children. Another couple who showed an interest years ago but then put it on hold is Keith and Joelle Hocutte who were just appointed to go to Loja with their five children. Not only do we have a growing field but with all those children we already have a megachurch!”
Becky, Brent, Rodger, Cindy and Joel have similar stories. Doubt-busters, every one of them!
No wonder WorldVenture has a ministry opportunity of Global Prayer Mobilizer to address the daunting task of world evangelization through intercession. Imagine missionaries making intercessory and mobilizing prayer their full-time work in a WorldVenture field, region, or potential area of mission ministry. Imagine building relationships and trust with missionaries and nationals in order to develop a prayer strategy for a field or region of the world. Imagine leading short-term prayer teams to take on the Enemy together. Imagine helping existing national churches develop strategies for spiritual formation and prayer in their own settings. Imagine being the one who opens some part of the world to the love of Jesus through intercession. Imagine seeing prayer work—every day!
Whether you’re a potential Global Prayer Mobilizer or simply someone like me who wants to put serious dents in the kingdom of darkness, forget doubt. Let’s pray!
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(Photo credit: Aleteia Image Partners)