Praise God for fellowship, sound teaching, and heartfelt prayer among the women of our Presbyterian churches here in Belize! This one day gathering took place recently and was an encouragement for our ladies.
Sometimes faithful followers of the Lord Jesus can’t always get out to church or to prayer meetings. In this case, these women brought the prayer meeting to the sick. Visitation is such an important ministry because it allows those who can’t always be at church to have fellowship in the Lord and it can be very encouraging. These women from Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel in San Pablo are part of a weekly group of Mamas Unidas para Orar (MUPO) and regularly pray for their children, grandchildren, and the children in the schools and community. Praise God that He listens to the prayers of His people!
“Pray without ceasing”
1 Thessalonians 5:17
A church’s weekly prayer meeting is critical. If we really believe that we are nothing apart from Christ, that only our sovereign God can grant fruit, and that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective, then we will be driven to our knees to plead with God. The Lord delights to hear the prayers of His people which rise like incense before His great and exalted throne.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV).
Everyone has an opinion about why any given church may not be growing. You may hear that they need to get a worship band that plays modern choruses. Or you may hear that they need a pastor that can preach dynamic sermons. But what about prayer? What if the reality is that the church is in decline because of the faithless, prayerless hearts of the people?
I remember when I was in high school the church I grew up in began meeting for daily early morning prayer meetings. They didn’t always have high attendance but there was always a faithful few. It continued a few years later when I was church secretary and I could attend very conveniently before beginning work. That church even all these years later is a growing, thriving church. Sadly, sometimes people look at the churches that are growing and try to copy what they do well, but without really understanding what was happening behind the scenes. It is our prayer for the Presbyterian Church in Belize is that it would be a praying church. We would love to see our prayer meetings full of people. But I believe that God will answer the regular, committed and passionate prayer even of a small group. Our churches here are in need of a revival. There is often low attendance at Sunday worship and so many of the adult children of believers are no longer in the church. A group of just 5 pastors minister among the 15 churches. Would you be willing to pray for the small country of Belize, that God would do a great work here? That He would call more pastors, and that our members would be passionate and comitted to Sunday worship? We long to see lives transformed by the Good News and know we need a supernatural work of God’s Spirit.
Does God answer prayer? Absolutely, yes, as both the Bible and our experience tells us. We know from history that serious prayer often or possibly always precedes great revivals. In the Old Testament Daniel was even led to pray and fast as he saw the date approaching for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy–God had promised to bring the people of Israel back to their land after 70 years, and even this promised event was carried out on the prayers of faithful Daniel.
We are longing to see a great work of the Holy Spirit in our ministry and to that end, we believe that prayer is the vital ingredient. Ray and I first committed to praying together each morning back in 2011, when we came to the end of ourselves in the ministry. We saw experientially that we can accomplish nothing apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until 2018 that we actually developed a system for our intercessory prayer. Although we prayed with passion each morning, the reality was that some important matters slipped our minds, and other prayers became repetitive. Not only that, many answers to prayer that we received went unnoticed because we had forgotten what we had prayed for and in the process we lost the opportunity to thank God and strengthen our faith.
So we began using a system, and as we’ve used it these past two years, we would not want to go back. Our prayers are more focused and deeper and we love getting to write down the answers to many of them. I am going to describe what we do in this blog post, in hopes that it might inspire you, our reader, in your own prayer life.Continue reading Organizing Intercessory Prayer
A little over a dozen of us gathered in the front yard of one of the church members on a Wednesday night to bring our praise, thanksgiving and supplication together before our mighty God. We had the chance to hear the prayers of young and old alike. We had the opportunity to agree together. As some of the older members prayed, you could hear their many years of walking with God instructing the younger ones among us what it is like to walk with God intimately. It is hard to think of a greater blessing than uniting with God’s people and praying for the salvation of souls and for the needs of the saints. This memory is from a church meeting we had this past summer, in between shut downs. The cases have started rising again here in Belize, and so the church prayer meetings have been temporarily put on hold.
Like many of you, I do not like to hear about Covid 19 rearing its ugly head again. I am sad for the families who are or will be facing serious illness, knowing it may be hitting close to home at any time. As a Christian it also grieves my heart when the meetings of the church have to be altered or in some cases cancelled, making it hard to have the kind of fellowship with God and with one another that is so vital to our walk with God. And yet, Covid 19 did in no way take our all powerful God by surprise. He is sovereign over all things. As Hannah prays in I Samuel 2:6-8:
“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.”
It is wise to focus on doing our part to curb the virus. I am thankful for our governments and international health communities taking their God-given role seriously, trying to figure out how to protect lives and economies from the threat of Covid. But it is the fool indeed that doesn’t acknowledge the God who is control of this virus, seeking to repent and turn from our blindness, from our arrogance in believing that we were in control of our lives in 2020. I heard someone this week compare the Covid crisis in the churches to the exile that the Jews experienced in the Old Testament. God punished His people for their idolatry by sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them into captivity, away from the promised Land. Likewise we as Christians have had our God given means of grace, in the worship service, the Lord’s supper, the church prayer meeting, significantly altered. God’s people in the Old Testament never again worshiped idols. What will our response be to this trial that God has allowed? Will we turn in repentance? Will we seek His face with all our heart? Or will we fritter away hours of our time on social media, getting angry at whoever disagrees with our position on face masks?
When we first faced shut down, my husband and I committed to spending some of our extra time making sure our morning prayer time got a solid block of time. But some mornings we discovered that we had dug into that time by talking about the latest controversy we had seen on Facebook the night before. Some mornings we didn’t end up praying at all. In the moment, it seemed like we really needed to talk it over. But as we saw a pattern emerging, we realized that for us, we needed to take a step back from so much social media. In fact, we were getting side tracked from God’s mission. There is a real spiritual battle and we as Chrstians are in the middle. Satan would love us to be a distracted church.
All manner of trials, including this pandemic, provide a merciful opportunity for human beings to hit the pause button and consider our spiritual state. We will all stand before a holy God to face judgement one day. The pandemic reminds us that that day may come sooner than we imagined. Are we ready? Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can face that day by the covering of His blood. Are we living like we have been redeemed, excited at God’s grace that has been poured out upon us? Or are we living just like the world, trying to distract ourselves with banal pleasures? Make no mistake, it takes work to keep our focus on eternal things, as the world, the flesh and the devil are conspiring against it.
As I close, I want to loop back to the story of the prayer meeting that I started with. We may or may not have the opportunity to attend the church prayer meeting during this pandemic. But one thing that is certain–we all have the opportunity to pray. Intercessory prayer is hard work, and make no mistake, it takes faith and it takes discipline. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to make an impact in the kingdom. We arrived here in Belize in February ready to get to work. The setbacks from Covid have at times been frustrating. But the reality is, we can still pray. We know the pandemic is in God’s hands, and we also know that faithfulness to God requires that we develop a strong prayer life. So, on the one hand Covid is a genuine setback, but on the other hand, it has the potential to be the beginnings of a great revival that God can use to extend His kingdom to all parts of the world. It is easy to grow weary during this difficult time, as I can attest. But let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
There has been a lot of controversy in our church circles during the past few years about the role of women in the Church. We hear it said that women’s gifts have not been valued, and that we need to usher in a new era where the church finally frees women to do valuable and worthwhile ministry. When I first started hearing the rumbling of these complaints I’ll admit I was confused, since in most the churches I have been in, women were already playing such a vital role, particularly in the hidden roles of service, helps and working with children – roles that Jesus assures us are among the most important in His kingdom.Continue reading The Influence of a Godly Mother
We leave to start our new life and ministry in Belize in just 5 days. How do we feel? Excited, nervous, hopeful, scared. Mostly, we just can’t wait to get going! We have been busy packing and preparing. January was full with Ray going to a training on church revitalization and all of us going to an MTW ReConnect conference, as well as presenting our ministry and preaching and of course, packing!
In all of this preparation, the most important part is prayer. There is a spiritual battle raging in this world, for the hearts and minds of the 7.7 billion souls on this planet many of whom do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Who are on the front lines? Not primarily the missionaries who are spreading the good news about Jesus, but those who are on their knees in prayer!
We can tell you from experience that we will be feeling this spiritual battle. Please pray for our protection as we enter into our new ministry. Also we would like to encourage you to pray daily for Belize. Our team has a prayer calendar for the month of February that contains one short prayer request for the ministry of MTW in Belize for each day. It is a great way to help you pray specifically and regularly for the ministry. It is a great way to be on the front lines of extending God’s kingdom in the nation of Belize. Would you be willing to print it out and pray through it each day?
Many of us know the powerful story of Monica, a Godly woman from the third century who was grieved that her son was living a wild life of rebellion against God and part of religious sect. She prayed day and night for her son, Augustine. Only after many years were her prayers answered, and her son not only converted to Christianity, but indeed became one of the most influential fathers of the Christian church.
Mothers like Monica inspire modern mothers, as we witness the rise of secularism and the struggles of life in this evil world, and are often brought to our knees as well for the souls of our children. Christian mothers all around the world share the same hopes and fears, and indeed, we seek the face of our Savior to protect our little ones. It can be challenging, however, to remain consistent, motivated and disciplined, or even at times it can be a challenge to know what to pray!
As such, one of the highlights for me of our trip to Uruguay in July was the opportunity to pray with a small group of women for our children and their schools. These women are a part of the Uruguay chapter of the organization Moms In Prayer, an interdenominational ministry based in San Diego California, whose mission is to impact children and schools worldwide by gathering mothers to pray.
The national director of Uruguay, Lourdes, organized this prayer group with leaders of some local groups in Montevideo. We were inspired by some teaching on leading prayer, and then spent time ourselves praying together. These women are burdened with many of the same things that burden mothers in the US–children who have walked away from the faith, anti-biblical teachings on sexuality being promoted in schools and the rise of secularism. The difference in Uruguay is that the church is much smaller and Christian children often grow up feeling isolated in their faith. Lourdes is a teacher in a public high school and mentioned that she is the only Christian teacher in her school. Moms In Prayer chapters in the US are often based around a school–Christian mothers in the school band together to pray for their children and the school. In Uruguay, it would be hard indeed to find a group of Christian mothers to pray together in a school. For this reason, most Moms In Prayer groups in Uruguay are based in the church, rather than the school.
It was so encouraging for me to pray with this tiny group of mothers because I believe the only hope for the future of the church in Uruguay will come through prayer. One of the women mentioned to me that she and a friend have been fasting and praying for Uruguay. This brings me real hope and joy. Prayer is what is needed to prepare the soil for a Gospel harvest. Please pray with me that the Moms In Prayer ministry would grow and expand, that many mothers would delight to meet weekly to pray for their children and schools, both in Uruguay and all over the world.
What does it take to see success in missions? Is it mostly a matter of learning the right techniques for stimulating a church planting network? Or maybe it is a matter of learning the language and culture like a native? Should we focus on servant leadership and loving our neighbor or should we just faithfully preach God’s Word? Continue reading Spiritual Warfare in Missions