July 14, 2008

Focusing on Prayer

PrayerWhenever people catch the vision for the Africa Center for Apologetics Research and ask what they can do to help our ministry in East Africa, I always begin with the same answer: Prayer.

But let's be honest, sometimes my response is simply seen as a required answer. Of course Christians are supposed to pray. What I find is that my answer regularly doesn't seem like it is enough for believers. They want to know what else they can do to help. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can minimize the importance of prayer. It seems as if some Christians see prayer as the bottom rung on a ladder of importance for ministry. It is obviously needed, but there are more important ways to be involved.

The Apostle Paul has the opposite understanding of prayer. Prayer lies at the very center of all our service to God. After he lays out the need for followers of Christ to put on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6, he concludes that we must be "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints" (v. 18).

Why is prayer for the saints so important? Because we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Earlier in this chapter, Paul explains, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (vv. 12-13). I know that there are a lot of crazy beliefs and practices out there regarding spiritual warfare today, but this does not change the biblical truth that we are in a very real spiritual battle.

Our enemies are not cultists. Our enemies are not false teachers. Our enemy is Satan and his demons. We fight against the spiritual forces of evil. And they are a fierce and powerful enemy.

The first time I visited Uganda, I was able to speak with a young African missionary working in northern Uganda. He is serving Christ in one of the most difficult areas in the region, with open political rebellion and violence. When he heard about our plans for developing a center to defend our faith, he quickly recognized the importance of our ministry. But then he looked at me and said, "You are about to enter one of the most difficult tasks I could ever imagine. The devil will be striving to stop you at every turn. He won't want to give up one inch of his territory, and you will have a long and difficult fight ahead."

I will never forget how serious he was. His eyes burned with fervency in light of our vision. It is almost as if he was making sure that I really knew what I was getting myself into. He caused me to pause and remember afresh the spiritual battle that I will be involved in through our ministry.

I don't take his warning lightly. But I also have hope, because Jesus Christ has triumphed over our enemy. In this spiritual war, He provides the power that I need to overcome. But this is accomplished through the faithful prayers of His people.

So when I say that the most important thing you can do for our ministry is to pray, I am not simply giving a required answer. I really believe that what ACFAR needs most is the faithful prayer of fellow Christians. Yes, we have additional ways that you can help, but I desire above all for many Christians to come together bringing our East African ministry before the throne of God.

Please pray for us! And if you haven't already, consider keeping up-to-date by joining our e-mail prayer list. Together, we will defend Christ and His gospel by His grace and for His glory.