#028 BUILDING THE INNER LIFE
by Gavin Williams, Coordinator of the Australian Pastors¹ Prayer Network
Without doubt, this is one of the most challenging times to be in Christian ministry. As we draw ever nearer to the end of all things, it seems that there is an increase in spiritual activity equal to any period in history. People are being drawn into the Kingdom of God in unprecedented numbers. We are in the midst of the greatest prayer movement ever experienced. Cries of revival and renewal abound throughout the Christian Church. At the same time, opposition forces are active in ways we might not have recognized previously. The rise of the New Age Movement and the strident cries of militant Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism openly challenge the Christian Gospel even here in our own land. Rampant secularism thrusts itself upon our society as a viable alternative to personal faith. The enemy is at work.
Religion or Relationship
In the midst of this, many pastors continue to minister as if little has changed, still searching for the latest program with which to build their church. Conversation at clergy gatherings all too often focuses on "How big is your church?" or the latest salary package recommended by the denomination. Sadly many of us are more wrapped up in the outward trappings of religion than the realities of a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Harsh words, perhaps, but sadly true in many cases. Permit me to propose a few questions that we all do well to ponder from time to time:
*When was the last time you spent a whole hour alone before the Lord? *What is the major spiritual issue you and God are dealing with in your life right now?
*Is there a ‘growing edge’ in your spiritual journey? *What is the state of your personal devotional life: your private prayer and personal reading of God’s Word?
*What is the ‘spiritual temperature’ of your relationship with your spouse and children?
I have the feeling that God is more interested in the answers to some of these questions than in some of the things we consider to be the outward signs of ministry effectiveness.
Although spoken in a different context, God’s word to Samuel has relevance. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). It seems to me to be a principle of Scripture that when the matters of the heart before God are right, He deals with other things in His time.
Some years ago I was pondering this principle when the Lord spoke a powerful
word into my life. I keep it before me constantly and share it with you. He
said this: It is the disciplined life in the secret place which sets the
foundation for effective ministry in the public place. For me, effectiveness
in public ministry seems to be powerfully linked to that which transacts
between God and myself in the secret place
Jesus and the Secret Places
When we look at the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels, there is clearly a very private side to His walk with God. Much of our focus is on the public things he said and did, His miracles and teaching. But sadly we miss the fact that there was a very deep and powerful life in the secret places before God. For the Lord Jesus, His time in prayer and being alone with God was a top priority.
Consider this: Jesus was a man of the heart before God before ever He was a man of God before the people. If this were true for Him, how much more so for you and me. I say with confidence that if we would be pastors whose ministry changes lives, we must be those whose own lives are being daily changed by the inner work of the Holy Spirit. This work must be transacted in the inner, secret places before it will ever be seen in the public arena.
Jesus and the Place of Personal Prayer
Asked about the prayer life of Jesus, most of us would probably mention His great public prayers: The Lord’s Prayer, His Great High Priestly Prayer (John17), His prayer in the Garden (Matthew 26).
But there is another side to the prayer life of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a far more private and personal side. Consider these references:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed. (Mark 1:35 NIV) After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray (Mark 6:46 NIV) Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples where with Him, He asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" (Luke 9:18 NIV) Luke, the historian, was clearly so impacted by this private side of Jesus’ prayer life that he wrote, But Jesus often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16 NIV)
If private prayer was so important to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, how much more important for we who are called to minister on His behalf.
Recently I read the following from E.M.Bounds: The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. Prayer makes our preaching strong, gives unction and makes it stick.
There is simply no substitute in the life of a pastor for the place of quiet prayer. Time spent alone with God in regular, disciplined personal communion is the powerhouse of our ministry. Remember, It is the disciplined life in the secret place which sets the foundation for effective ministry in the public place.
Gavin Williams is the Pastor of Regents Park Community Church in Sydney. He has experience in parish, missionary and parachurch ministries. He is married to Glenda and has three children, Kelvin, Libby and Andrew. He may be contacted by email.
This article is copyright 1998 by Gavin Williams. Permission to use will be freely given on request.
Copyright 1999, NPPN - Permission granted for duplication or distribution among facilitators and intercessors who are committed to gathering pastors for prayer.
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