Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Don't Just Pray!

Time to Change

by Dennis Pollock

Having been in some form of ministry most of my adult life, I have received numerous prayer requests from men and women, eager to see some kind of blessing and breakthrough in their lives. In most cases these folks are wanting to see God’s mighty hand come through for them and grant them the desires of their hearts without any particular actions on their part. It sometimes happens exactly that way, but in my own life I have come to see that more often than not, when I pray for a particular blessing, God responds by giving me instructions about something I need to do, or in some cases, stop doing. Frequently the Lord shows me that changes will have to be made, and until those changes are made, no amount of praying, pleading, begging, and loud, forceful times of calling on God are going to get the job done. I have become firmly convinced that in many cases, not every case, but in many cases prayer must be accompanied not only by faith, but also by change.

One of the most well-known Old Testament Scriptures plainly reveals this principle. In Second Chronicles God makes a promise to Israel that is loved and quoted by millions of believers: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This is a promise God gives Solomon concerning Israel. He tells the king that when there is drought, famine, or plague, there is a particular protocol for appealing to their Creator for relief. They must begin by humbling themselves and praying. Prayer is an act of humility. It is hard to be too proud when you are on your knees, desperately beseeching God for deliverance. But there must be more than prayer. There must also be a turning from their wicked ways; there must be definite change in the way the people of God are behaving and living. The implication here is that if Israel merely resorts to prayer, but refuses to turn and change their ways, they could pray all day long, every day, for weeks and months and years, and still there would be no divine blessing. Yes, they must pray, but they must also turn. There must be change.

Waiting for a Zap!

Sometimes Christians have a sort of “zap” theology. Their idea is: “I will pray and God will zap things into alignment. There is never any need for me to do anything or change anything or start anything or stop anything. It is all very simple: I will pray and God will zap.” And I will admit: I believe in divine zaps. I have seen them in my life and certainly we find them in the Bible. Sometimes God hears prayer and sends His answer suddenly and without any need of human action whatsoever. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace there was nothing they could do but pray. They couldn’t fight their captors; they were too strong and numerous for that. They couldn’t reason with the king; he was too wicked and headstrong, and was beyond all reason. There was no time to develop a plan of escape. All they could do was pray and commit themselves unto God. And God came through in a marvelous fashion and by a mighty hand. They were miraculously delivered from the heat of the flames by a fourth man who joined them, whom Nebuchadnezzar called “the son of God.”

So yes, if there is absolutely nothing you can do about your situation, and there are no changes to be made, by all means call on God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and trust Him for divine deliverance. But that sort of situation is probably more the exception than the rule. In most cases, God has corresponding actions for us, to accompany our prayers and our faith declarations. Sometimes couples pray for God to “heal” their sorry financial state, while they are essentially clueless about sound financial practices. They spend too much money on things that they don’t need, they charge items that should never have been purchased, they buy name brands when they should be buying the generic stuff, and they shop at Neiman Marcus when they would be far better off browsing the aisles of their nearest Wal Mart. They should definitely pray for God to help them, but they also have a great need to read some good books about budgeting and financial freedom, and attend a Christian financial seminar or two, and then make some definite changes in the way they handle their money. If they continue on their present path of praying while remaining financially irresponsible, they just might pray for the next forty years, and find things getting worse instead of better.

My “Tent-Making”

60 Ways to Lower Blood SugarSeveral years ago a financial downturn hit our nation and had a negative effect upon most churches and ministries. Our ministry felt the pinch and it soon became clear that we would have to cut back in a number of places, including my own salary. By God’s grace we made it through that storm, but it left my wife and me in a place of financial difficulty. We were barely receiving enough money to cover our monthly bills. I couldn’t do much about the recession, and I wasn’t about to stop doing overseas missions, so I did the only thing I knew of to bring in some extra money. In my spare time I started working on a book about blood sugar. I had written a similar book some years ago, detailing some of the insights the Lord had given me to help me avoid the terrible specter of diabetes. The book had sold pretty well, but I never intended to write a second book. I saw myself as a minister of the gospel, not a health advocate, and I wanted all my writing to be about theological topics.

But when we found ourselves in such a tough financial situation I had a change of mind. Sure, I had prayed a lot over my finances, but sometimes, as my dad used to say, you have to put legs to your prayers. So I began a second book. I constantly prayed that the Lord would bless the book, use it to bless others, and provide us some financial relief. In time the book was published and my prayers were answered beyond my expectations. It sold better than the first book, and became a means of much needed income. I am convinced that this book was an answer to my prayers over our finances. But had I simply sat around waiting for money to fall out of heaven, and refusing to do anything beyond what I was already doing, this would never have happened. God wonderfully answered my prayers, but there was clearly a part I had to play in the process.

One of God’s promises to His people Israel was that He would “bless the work of their hands.” But in order for God to bless the work of their hands, there must be work that the hands are doing. God never promised to bless the closing of their eyes, or their idleness. In Psalm One God declares that the man who meditates on the law of God day and night will be blessed. But it goes on to say that “whatever he does shall prosper.” This man is not to content himself only to sit around and delight in the ways of God. At some point he must also get up out of his chair and do something – and “whatever he does shall prosper.”

Pray and Preach

When we do missions in Africa there is much prayer beforehand. We pray from here in America, my African team prays, the local pastors pray and their congregations pray. We know that to fail to pray would be a terrible display of arrogance and presumption. But as powerful as prayer is, it was never meant to stand alone. Imagine us going over to Africa to have a prayer crusade. We would not preach; no one would share the gospel. We would simply go over there and pray all day every day for a week, and then return home. Some might suppose this to be a highly spiritual activity but in truth it would be most foolish. Sometime, somewhere, someone must open his mouth and share the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross, rose again the third day, and offers the gift of eternal life to all who will receive Him by faith. The Holy Spirit will empower our sharing and our preaching, but He will not do our preaching for us. Posters must be printed, sound systems must be rented, fields must be reserved, churches must be organized and involved, sermons must be prepared, and someone is going to have to get up on a platform, open his or her mouth, and start talking about Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God. Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel; not just to go throughout the world praying that people would get saved!

James tells us that faith without works is dead. Similarly, prayer without works will often be lifeless and useless. One of the old-time evangelists used to say that “prayer strikes the winning blow; service is gathering up the results.” I believe he properly gives prayer the first place. Without an emphasis on prayer, we are wasting our time and failing to recognize our total dependence upon God. But the results will remain scattered and rotting on the ground if there is not some service involved, some works to go along with our praying, so that we can “gather up” the fruit we have been given as a result of our praying.

Turn and Be Blessed

One of the major concepts of the Bible that goes along with prayer and the release of the blessings of God upon us is the idea of turning. We are told that we must turn if we are to see the favor of God. In Ezekiel, God asks: “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). Peter writes that the man who would love life and see good days must “turn away from evil and do good” (1 Peter 3:11). Great things happen, blessings fall, favor is granted, peace comes, joy is given when ungodly men turn and change their ways. The Bible calls this repentance, and it is an indispensable element of faith. Where there is no turning, there is no genuine faith.

We normally think of turning only in terms of the extremely wicked folks. But even we born-again Christians who are sincerely trying to live upright lives will find occasions when we need to turn. It may not be turning from our wicked ways so much as turning from our unproductive ways, or turning from our inefficient ways, or from our foolish ways, or it may involve making a U-turn when we are moving full-speed in a direction our Heavenly Father does not want us to go. The willingness to turn on a dime and move a different direction at the Spirit’s reproof is the mark of an obedient and mature child of God.

Understanding that the need for change is likely to accompany God’s answer to our petitions is critical for those who desire a lifetime of answered prayer. When we approach the throne of grace, we should be looking for a word of wisdom as a part of God’s gracious answer to our requests. Whether you are a disappointed wife seeking the Lord for a more loving husband, a frustrated pastor praying for your stagnant church to finally grow, a disillusioned businessman calling on God for the reviving of your failing business, or a lonely lady praying fervently for a husband, you must recognize that embedded within His answer to your prayer, the Lord will probably have some insight for you that will involve change. There may be things you are doing that you need to stop doing, or things you have never even considered that you need to start. It is amazing to see just how powerful a simple word of wisdom from God can be, and just how quickly He can and will move heaven and earth to answer your prayer once you start following the counsel of the Most High. Isaiah writes, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19).

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