Items For Prayer And Praise
By Lois J. Stucky
Jesus so clearly says that if we would come after Him, we must "deny" ourselves, "take up our cross" and "follow" Him.
Christians in some places of the world are modeling this type of Christianity in a remarkable way. I sensed this as I read prayer requests from an indigenous mission in the Philippines. The requests tell that there are Christians who have gone, because they were following Jesus, to make their homes in places where the people live in fear of attack from communist or Moslem rebels; where animism is strong; in villages that are poor, remote and rebel-infested; in places where religious persecution greatly hinders the Gospel; in places limited by poor economic conditions and drought.
Wouldn't it be easier to forget about going to live in such difficult places and facing life-threatening people and conditions? Of course, it would be easier. But here are Christians who have followed Jesus and have heard His commission to "Go!" whether they live or die when they get there.
This story is no doubt repeated with somewhat different conditions in other places of the world – places in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Moslem world, South America, India, etc. Perhaps it is true in very scattered places here in America also.
But in large part, we Americans have left the denying of self and the taking up of the cross to those in other times and places. We consider ourselves not called to that kind of life. Geographically speaking, it is true that most of us are not so called. But Christ called the crowd of people to Himself when He spoke the words, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). The call is to whomever would follow Him, where we live, in our daily living.
We each have a self to deny, whether we live in America's comparatively affluent society, or whether in some far less privileged society as far as the economic, spiritual and cultural is concerned.
For God or For Self?
What is it that challenges you and me here in America to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus? To enumerate only a few of the myriads of things we face that disclose whom we are actually living for, it may be the snare of frittering hours away before a TV set – hours that could be invested in prayer or other spiritual ministry. For men in particular, it may be the snare of becoming such an avid follower of sports that conversations and enthusiasms center around sports rather than souls. Women may become overly meticulous about housekeeping, entertaining or dress, crowding out time for "the better part" of reaching out to the sick and needy and unsaved.
Maybe it is the snare of working long hours in order to have more finances for more of life's luxuries, perhaps for expensive recreational vehicles or elaborate vacations, taking money that could go to send the Gospel or Gospel messengers to ones who sit in spiritual darkness.
Perhaps we can excuse ourselves as being not guilty of the above. Our outward walk may indicate we are making a good showing, at least by today's standards, in denying ourselves for Christ's sake. But oh, the many challenges to the inner life! Here is the heart of the matter.
A. B. Simpson once listed a number of manifestations of the self-life that spring from the "old man" of the sinful nature within, and this is not an exhaustive list. But let us examine ourselves by some of the traits he has listed:
Self-will; self-indulgence; self-seeking; self-complacency; self-glorifying; self-confidence; self-consciousness; self-importance; self-depreciation; self-vindication; sensitiveness; self-seeing (seeing only your own viewpoint); excessive introspection; self-love; selfish affections (me and my family and friends); selfish desires, choices, pleasures, possessions, fears, cares and sorrows; self-righteousness; selfish prayers and hopes.
Here is the heart of denying ourselves and taking up the cross. Taking up the cross, the Galileans knew, meant going to the place of crucifixion and death. But praise God, after the death for the Christian comes resurrection! There is new life. If we die physically for Christ, as the missionaries in the Philippines may do, there is resurrection to life immortal in the better land. If we die spiritually to the sinful man, there is resurrection to the life of Christ within, a day-by-day death to selfishness, and a manifestation of the Christ life in our lives in its place.
The life of prayer such as John Hyde lived is possible only to the one who has denied himself in the inner sense and taken up his cross and followed Jesus. Ah, how many times have we regretted our ineffectiveness in prayer? Selfish thoughts and interests and prayers have hindered and thwarted us. Of course, there are personal needs to be taken to the Lord in prayer. God wants that, but He wants us to go beyond also, far beyond.
One of the former Herald workers, Florence Meek, used to say with thoughtful insight, "We are asking for toys when we should be asking for nations." "Pleasant platitudes" someone has called our prayers, instead of earnest petitions, deep heart cries, and authoritative conquests over the evil powers of darkness.
We know from Mark 16:15 how wide our Lord's interests are: "Go ye into all the world," He tells us. We must give up our "me and mine" horizon, and look to the ends of the earth.
It takes time to grow into a world intercessor – prime time and serious effort. It takes a giving up of the selfish life and entering into the Christ life.
Revival intercession is more than time set aside. It is denying our selfish interests, crucifying all our selfishness, and following Jesus to the place of prayer – perhaps "a long while before day," perhaps alone or in retreat with a handful of like heart to "the desert place," even to the garden of "strong crying and tears," "sweat and blood."
Who is able for such a thing? Our Saviour is! God has made provision for us through Christ. Our part is to reckon ourselves dead to sin and selfishness with Christ (Rom. 6:11). Put the flesh life off. Present ourselves to God to be filled with Christ's life.
God help us one and all to have a more effective prayer life! The battle between righteousness and unrighteousness is raging in this land and every land. The climax is nearing. So many souls hang in the balance. Our prayers, our totally living for God can make a difference. Will we give ourselves to it?