Happenings around Antioch

Three Prayer Requests

On January 5 of 2023, I wrote some thoughts about the elders’ prayer service we had the night before. This is where the elders pray over families or singles who ask for it as we enter the new year, and we will do the same at the beginning of 2024. I was struck last year by three recurring prayer requests from the 30 or so households we prayed for that evening and on subsequent Sundays.

One request that many repeated was, “I want to be able to really read the Bible and not just check the box. I want to better understand what I am reading and grow in my knowledge of God and his word.”  I love the heart behind that prayer request and agree with it myself. I don’t want to just read the Bible in the morning because that is part of my routine. I want to be changed by it. Good news on this. First, God said in Isaiah that the fact that his word will change us is as reliable as the fact that rain and snow from heaven water the earth and bring forth fruit. “…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God is at work as you read the Word, as you share it with your family, as you sit under it on Sundays or at the women’s Bible Study or at home group. And remember, he delights in giving us what we ask for when what we ask for is his will. His will is for us to know him and follow him by living in and walking out his word!

A second recurring prayer request was for sons and daughters who once professed faith but are no longer walking with the Lord. I have never lost a child and cannot imagine the pain and grief that some have suffered. But there are many in churches everywhere who have living sons and daughters who are in the far country. Jesus knew about that, didn’t he? I think our best hope for our sons and daughters who are estranged from the faith is to do what the prodigal’s father did. Though it is not stated, we must believe that he prayed his son would return. And I believe he prayed with hope, with expectation, because when his son did come back, remember what happened? “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him.” Sounds like he was looking for him every day! You know the rest of the story. The father ran to his son to welcome him home. One of the encouragements for me is the knowledge that God holds the heart of kings in his hand, and “he turns it wherever he will.” It is a reminder that there is no way we can force any of our children to follow the Lord. But the Lord holds their hearts in his hand, whether young or old, and he turns them wherever he will. Our job is to pray and to love and to keep looking down that road for them to return.

A third recurring prayer was for boldness in witness. I remember one young man in his teens who asked the elders to pray for him about this. That thrilled my soul. It reminded me of Acts 4 when Peter and John had been arrested and spent a night in prison because they had been preaching Jesus after healing the lame beggar in Jesus’ name. They were brought before the high priest and the rulers and elders and scribes the next morning to give an account of the healing. Peter told them it was Jesus who healed the lame man. Then he added, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” You might be thinking, yeah, but this was Peter and John. They were apostles! Read what Luke wrote next in Acts 4: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” That’s the source of our boldness as well. We know Jesus. We spend time with Jesus. We know He changes people’s lives because he has changed ours. We know he is the only one who can change a life. That gives us boldness.