Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place to pray. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons (Mark 1:35-39).
Near the beginning of my association with The Navigators, I (as well as many of you, I am sure) heard messages based on this passage stated something like: “Opportunity does not constitute the will of God.” For 35 years or so I’ve tried hard to remember and live by that—looking to God for His will regardless of the situation at hand.
Just a few days ago, however, I saw something else in this passage. Jesus seemed always to be looking beyond, often way beyond, at bigger opportunities than the one just before Him. Of course, we remember His challenge to the disciples in John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” My old King James said, “Lift up your eyes. . . . ”
We seem to have a tendency to exclusively look at the situation too close to ourselves–and we must focus our work or lose our effectiveness. Perhaps you got Terry Taylor’s poster some years ago on “Three ways to live a wasted life:
Do the wrong thing
Do so many things that everything you do counts for nothing.”
His passage was Philippians 3:13-14. We believe in focusing and planting deep in good soil.
But, one place we can safely throw caution to the wind and stretch out is prayer. All of us can only be one place at one time in the flesh—but we can travel the world into every nook, cranny, street, city or cave in prayer. No place is hidden from the Spirit of God. We can lift up our spiritual eyes far beyond our focused ministries and have a part in the establishment of the Kingdom with greater or lesser energy according to our interests and the leading of God.
Sometime in the fall of 1989, I read a newspaper report that the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, had initiated a policy to force resettlement of the inhabitants of thousands of villages into crowded Soviet-era apartment complexes. For some reason it struck me as particularly cruel and inhuman, and almost involuntarily I responded, “Lord, bring that government down!” I’m not claiming I think it was a particularly godly prayer, but it was honest! As far as I know, although I prayed regularly for the then Soviet Union, I never repeated that prayer!
Imagine my astonishment when, mere weeks later on December 22, news rushed around the world that the Ceausescu regime had indeed been overthrown (largely the result of reaction to the persecution of an evangelical pastor in Timisoara) and replaced by a democratic-leaning government! Thus Romania became a key domino in the reform that brought an end to the Soviet Union in 1991 and opened that vast and resistant empire to the spread of the Gospel that continues to this day.
I have no illusions that my prayer was any more significant than the thousands of prayers of millions of people over the previous 70 years of suffering under communism. But, prayer enabled me to go where I never had been and have a potential impact in a way I never could have had otherwise. That’s part of the mystery of prayer.
Where would you like to go? Down the main street of Pyongyang, North Korea? The teeming bazaars of Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam? The caves of Afghanistan? Or . . . ?
What would you like to do? Preach to thousands, or help organize the follow-up from the presentation of the Gospel to a million Hindu outcasts in Delhi, India? (Such an event will take place November 4, and there will be other such events.) Establish multiplying disciples in Turkmenistan or Mexico or Columbia or . . . ?
There are many ways to get information on many places you can go to in the Spirit and impact the Kingdom of God. Ask God for direction–and dream holy dreams before the God who hears our prayers and hurls fire on the earth (Revelation 8:5)!