Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 2: "Prayer: The Heartbeat of Revival"
Have you ever prayed for something good, and gotten No for an answer, or received something disappointing in answer? I am intrigued by a promise Jesus made in Matthew 7:9: "What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" Where is the father so hard-hearted as that? He would not even be human! Yet our arch-enemy wants us to believe that when we ask our heavenly Father for something good, He either won't listen or He gives us something disappointing.
Jesus knows how we are tempted; He Himself once cried out, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Psalm 22 goes on to say that He complains because it seems God wouldn't hear or answer His prayer. And because Jesus knows how we are tempted, He assures us in our lesson's Memory Text, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them, that ask Him?" (Matt. ). And please note, He says that to everybody (see Matt. 5:1). You don't have to earn His favor by doing good works before you pray to the One that Jesus says is your heavenly Father, any more than a child must earn the piece of bread he begs from his earthly father.
But then you ask, "Isn't there a catch somewhere? Some fine print?" Yes, and here it is: "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). THAT'S what you need to do before you pray!
It was Jesus who taught us to call His Father "our Father." And it was Jesus who taught us to pray this prayer every morning: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. ). It's our daily "breakfast." It's a prayer that we are invited to pray and which we should pray. We should be hungry for it every day. We are like pets at feeding time lined up for what we hunger for. Yes, we are dependent on handouts from heaven. If we have learned a little so far in our lifetime, we know that the words of Jesus are true, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). The weaker you are of yourself, the stronger you are "in Christ."
It's comforting and assuring to realize that even Jesus Himself had to confess that without the Father's constant moment by moment sustenance, He too was helpless: "I can of Mine own self do nothing." The word "do" does not mean only performing works, physical doings; it includes perception, judgment, wisdom: "As I hear, I judge" (John ). It's a marvelous spectacle: the divine Son of God, the Commander of the heavenly hosts, has taken upon Himself our nature and has become one of us, helpless of Himself. He frankly told His enemies, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do" (vs. 19).
Two thousand years have gone by since Paul proclaimed to the Jews that their Messiah had come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Most stubbornly resisted and rejected the message, according to Luke in Acts. If Paul was anything like we are in nature, he would have expected that the Jews most likely to listen favorably would be the "devout women," the ladies of the congregation who were always helping people with works of mercy. But imagine his surprise and disappointment when he found that among the members of the congregations most bitterly opposed to the Good News about their Messiah having already come were those same "devout and honorable women" ().
There was no need any longer for those agonizing, all night prayer meetings where the people would cry out to the God of Abraham, "Please fulfill the promise made to our fathers, send us our Messiah!" Prayer for the coming of the Messiah had now become obsolete. Now it was time to thank God for already sending Him! In fact, such prayer now became a form of blasphemy because it expressed the sin of unbelief, the refusal to recognize that God had already performed what He had promised.
Today we may pray earnestly for God to send us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our latter rain. Sometimes churches have held all night prayer meetings for that blessed gift. Could it be that like the ancient Jews, we have neglected to receive the beginning of that same gift already given, and it went over our heads as the truth went over the heads of the ancient Jews?
The 1888 idea of the Sanctuary truth clarifies our prayers. If we pray for the latter rain (which is good), respect for the Lord would require that we recognize that He gave us its "beginning" over a century ago, and "we" would not have it. To keep begging a friend to give you a gift when he's already given it to you, would be rude.
We can pray that the Lord will give us the gift of repentance. We can pray that He will enable us to understand what was the initial gift of the latter rain. We are told that the corporate refusal to receive the gift constituted an "insult" to the Holy Spirit. Should not our prayers now be especially reverent and respectful? The Sanctuary message that "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us must yet "lighten the earth with glory."
When one prays for the Lord to use him to win a soul, he can never know who that person may turn out to be. We may have hoped He would use us to win some "good" person; we may discover that He wants us to win someone we think of as "bad." We think of our congregation as a comfortable, exclusive religious club when the Lord declares that it is "an house of prayer for all people," including "sinners" we haven't thought much about.
It is pathetic to try to limit love to "good" people. Any love so restricted ceases to be love. Real love is not dependent on the beauty or the goodness of an object, as is our natural human affection. That kind of love is what the New Testament calls "agape." Jesus included this in the finishing of His work when He said, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John ).
For over a hundred years we have sensed the need for that love. Local churches all over the world long to be able to reveal it, but feel hampered by inadequacy and contradictory influences that work to negate it. Obviously Satan hates the idea of such love really succeeding. Due to his "making war" against the "remnant church" from within as well as from without, after all these years we still are forced to recognize that this ultimate manifestation of love is yet future.
When God's agape permeates the church, it will become super-efficient in soul winning. Each congregation will become a duplicate of what Christ would be to each community were He there in the flesh. He inspired with hope "the roughest and most unpromising," encouraged those who were "discouraged, sick, tempted, fallen," saved those "who were fighting a hand-to-hand battle with the adversary of souls."
This will not be done by bright advertising schemes or promotion methods. The Holy Spirit will do something for the heart because the church members will receive the "mind of Christ." "The rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. ... A large number take their stand upon the Lord's side" (Ellen G. White,The Great Controversy, p. 612). What could those "rays of light" be except a clear example of the love of God seen in His people?
Lord, give me the grace from your much more abounding store, to realize
that I can claim nothing in this world as really mine! But I do have a Savior.
that I can claim nothing in this world as really mine! But I do have a Savior.
--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland
(Compiled by Carol A. Kawamoto)
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