Editor’s note: In recent years, China Partnership has dedicated itself to intentional prayer for the church in China. As CP increasingly emphasizes prayer as part of our calling, we have worked with John Smed of Prayer Current to hone our prayer muscles. He shared this urgent call to prayer with Chinese leaders and pastors at a recent gathering. The following has been edited from transcriptions of the original talk.
We must begin any discussion of prayer in light of the ascension of Jesus. I have worked in church planting extensively for many years, and now work with a ministry called Prayer Current. We are a training ministry, and we believe training people in prayer is every bit as important as training them in the Bible. Apart from prayer, leadership is mere management. Prayer enacts the gospel and positions us with the ascended Christ.
Something happened to prayer between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament we see miracles, but only occasionally. When they happen, it is usually through some great person like Moses or Elijah, Elisha or Daniel. After Pentecost, miracles burst forth like flowers in springtime. Winter is gone, the thaw is over, streams have turned into rivers. There is an explosive multiplication of convergence. Timid people become courageous as lions, and the long-kept secrets of heaven are shouted from the housetops.
In the Old Testament, only a few great leaders experienced the infilling of God’s glory. Abraham saw God, in fire, pass through the sacrifice. Moses spoke to God face to face, and his face shone with glory. In Solomon’s day, the temple was filled with the glory of God so no one could enter. But after Pentecost, we see every ordinary believer caught up in the storm of the Spirit’s coming. Each and every believer is filled with the Spirit of fire and able to speak the language of heaven. Now, not just Moses, but each and every one of us, beholds the glory of God with unveiled faces.
What happened between the Old and the New Testaments? One central thing: Jesus ascended. Jesus has not only resurrected; he has ascended to a throne in heaven and is now king of kings. Jesus promised us that prayer would change forever after he ascended. He said: “Until now, you’ve asked nothing in my name. Now ask in my name, and whatever you wish will be done for you.” Now, everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who knocks will have it opened. Everyone who comes to God in prayer will receive the answers for which they ask. Jesus says this six times in John 14-16. There are no restrictions, only guidelines. If you abide in me, ask whatever you will. If you forgive your neighbor, ask whatever you will. If you ask for God’s will and glory, whatever you ask for will be answered.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
The key to effective prayer is that Jesus has ascended; we are to fix our faith in the ascended Christ. As you pray, how do you, by faith, picture Christ? We remember Jesus in the cradle in Bethlehem, but he is not there anymore. We study and remember Jesus walking among us, teaching and healing, but he is not there anymore. We picture and remember Jesus on a cross or in a grave, we even see him outside the grave and risen. But none of these are the pictures of Jesus as he is now, the Jesus to whom we pray.
Let me share three pictures from the Bible of where Jesus is now.
Behold, by faith, he is the ascended King of kings. Revelation 1:13-16 says he is one, “Like a son of man… the hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire… and his voice like the roar of many waters…his face is like the sun shining in full strength.” Jesus was crucified in weakness but raised in power. This day, today, Jesus is ruling the nations with a rod of iron. By his might and power, he is taking captives and building a people for himself. And in his presence and person, he is reigning over each of us and over the church.
Ascension prayer also bears in mind that at this moment Jesus is standing between you and the throne, praying for you. Here is another picture from Revelation 5: “Between the throne and four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are prayers of the saints.” He is the exalted king; he is the eternal high priest.
Jesus is also preparing and making battle plans for his soon return. In our darkest hour, when lawlessness, blasphemy, persecution, and false religion fill the world and attack the church, Jesus stands ready. He stands prepared to come, and he will slay the lawless one by the breath of his coming. What happened between the Old and the New Testament when it comes to prayer? Jesus ascended to his throne! Now, prayer is the key that opens the treasury of heaven’s grace and mercy. Prayer is the key that opens the armory to God’s might and power. Prayer is how we prepare for his return.
Meditate and fix your eyes on this king. By faith, behold him and his royal glory! In your heart, fall down before him! Take off your crown and throw it on the ground before him. Amen!