I awoke early and went to the guest room/office in my basement, figuring there would be fewer interruptions than at the office. I was making great headway with the work I’d brought home when my eight-year-old son Isaac awoke. As soon as he realized my van was still at home, he came running downstairs. He was so excited to find me that he began to talk and talk about everything that was on his mind. He didn’t notice me beginning to shift impatiently in my chair, but when he paused to take a breath, I said, Isaac, I really need to get back to work now, okay?” He smiled and said, “Okay Dad, but I’m just so glad that you’re here this morning instead of at work because I just wanted to talk.” Then he went back upstairs to get ready for school, leaving me to feel blessed by his open expression of love and a little sorry that we couldn’t talk longer.
Isaac’s delight in speaking to me that morning made me reflect on how often I run to talk to my Heavenly Father. Conversing with Him ought to be a delight and blessing—yet often we find it a burden. We empathize with the disciples, who upon waking in the Garden of Gethsemane had to hear the Lord ask, “Could you not tarry with me for one hour?” We declare the importance of prayer with our words, but sometimes our actions say otherwise.
Our society sets goals, measures results and evaluates success based on visible accomplishment. Christian organizations do likewise—and have accomplished much good for God as a result. Yet there is a tendency to neglect prayer. Prayer sometimes defies our expectations. We cannot always measure the results of time spent talking to God, listening to God—nor should we! What does that mean for an organization like Jews for Jesus?
Over the years, we have reminded our missionaries of their personal responsibility to maintain a close relationship with God. We want to encourage and nurture spiritual growth, but each missionary must cultivate his or her own walk with God, his or her own prayer life. True, we occasionally take time out to pray together but for the most part, we expect our staff to plan their prayer time over and above the normal work week. Those of you who give to Jews for Jesus did not sign on to sponsor great prayer meetings. No, you stand with us and support us in our work because you know that we are out there doing the work, handing out gospel tracts, meeting with the unsaved and preaching the gospel. Yet, I am certain that if we did all this without committing time to prayer, without seeking the Lord’s guidance, without waiting upon Him, you would (and should) be disinclined to support our ministry. There is a balance that you expect and that we seek in following the Lord in Jews for Jesus.
I get excited about the letters you’ve sent thanking us for including Prayer Prompters in our newsletter, knowing that you use them to pray for us and for many people whose lives we touch. I am persuaded that prayer is at the foundation of all that we do. For example, one of the main reasons our campaigns have been so successful is the prayers that God’s people consistently offer for this endeavor. During campaigns we see the greatest responsiveness to the gospel, more intense opposition than at other times of the year, and the most fruit for our labor. Last month, you received a day-by-day prayer calendar for the New York Campaign and I know that many of you are using this faithfully.
Recently, a number of us have been discussing how wonderful it would be to have friends praying for us throughout the whole year, using a Jews for Jesus prayer calendar. So here’s what we decided to do. In September, you will receive a 48-page Journal from Jews for Jesus. It will provide a good overview of Jews for Jesus as well as pictures of our staff from around the world. Inside this Journal, you’ll find a prayer calendar to take you with us through the whole year. Why September? We are using Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as the starting point. If you are one of our prayer warriors, this will be a valuable tool to help you pray more specifically for Jews for Jesus. If you don’t pray regularly for us, we hope the Journal and prayer calendar will get you excited about praying for us.
I’d like to get a “jump start” on those prayers by sharing with you one of the greatest needs we Jews for Jesus have right now. In fact, it’s always been one of our greatest needs. When I was Director of Recruitment, a passage of Scripture became very dear to me and I’m sure it is equally near to the heart of Stephen Katz, our current Director of Recruitment: “Then He said to His disciples, îThe harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest'” (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus points out the problem that is so apparent to us in Jews for Jesus, “The laborers are few.” He also points out the solution: Pray. Why? The harvest is the Lord’s and it’s up to Him to send the laborers.
Our natural inclination is to say, “The workers are few so let’s get out there and work double time,” or, “The workers are few, so let’s go out and recruit people.” Jesus does not tell us to follow our natural inclination. He tells us to pray. Prayer is the first and real business, not just of recruitment, but of any kind of ministry. Too often we treat prayer as a formality, a prelude to our own decisions or actions. Or we treat prayer as a fitting conclusion to the “real” business of ministry. Let’s remember, prayer is neither the appetizer nor the dessert—it’s the main course! While we need goals sments, our goals exist merely to keep us accountable. Goals do not change lives. Prayer does.
Our standard in this race should be, “On your mark, get set, PRAY.” Prayer requires commitment, but it also takes a great load off our shoulders. True ministry does not depend on our abilities, but on God’s resources. By establishing prayer as the foundation of all we do, we take our burdens and lay them at the feet of our Lord.
God delights to take our burdens when we come to Him in prayer. When we seek the Lord, He “gives to all liberally and without reproach”
Nevertheless, petition is merely one aspect of prayer. When my son Isaac came running to find me, he didn’t ask for anything. He just wanted to talk, to share his thoughts—to be with his dad. I want my life and the ministry of Jews for Jesus to be characterized by our delight in seeking out our Heavenly Father. We don’t always need to be asking—sometimes it’s just good to tell God how we feel about Him and about everything else. He already knows what’s on our minds, but as we consciously share our thoughts with Him, I believe He speaks to us and guides our thinking.
When we delight in God’s presence, He is blessed by our joy in being with Him. I’m an imperfect dad, but even though I shifted a bit impatiently in my chair, Isaac’s delight in just talking to me gave me real joy. Imagine the blessing we bring to our omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Father when we come running to talk to Him. We never break His concentration and we never interrupt what He is doing…and no matter how much we have to say, He never shifts impatiently upon His heavenly throne!