prayer

125 Years

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As you’ll see in this month’s Intermission, NZCMS deeply values prayer. In fact, we’ve been praying together for 125 years!

That’s right: on October 25 we’ll be celebrating our 125th birthday. Back in 1892 God’s Spirit was stirring something in our land. There was a restlessness, a sense that there was more for the people of God to step into, a sense that mission is much bigger than what we’d seen.

It was out of that space that NZCMS was born. Within 8 months of our founding we accepted our first missionary, Miss M L Pasley, for service in Japan. Della Hunter-Brown followed only two months later. Then in October, at the age of 66, Bishop Edward Stuart of Waiapu retired from his position and headed to Persia to serve for 16 years! By the end of the century, we’d sent seven missionaries overseas, and were supporting three working in NZ.

This rapid growth was birthed out of a movement of ‘ordinary believers’ who were committed to seeing the Gospel spread to all corners of the world. And no doubt, early on they recognised that prayer was the key to seeing this happen. It wasn’t long before 55 NZCMS branches were regularly meeting across the country to not only hear about mission, but to pray for God to be moving among the nations.

So as we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us over the past 125 years, let’s pause to remember that “We’re all called to pray.”

15 days of prayer for the Hindu world

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Over the past several decades, a movement of Christian pray-ers focused on the Muslim world has grown significantly. Especially during Ramadan, Christians around the world pray that God will move among Muslims, who make up about 24% of the world’s population. However Hindus, who make up 15% of the world, simply don’t receive the same level of attention, despite the fact that Hindus are often quite receptive to Jesus and the Gospel!

This year, the 15 days between October 8 – 22 is set aside to learn about and pray for our world’s over one billion Hindu neighbours. That time period also encompasses the significant Hindu Festival of Light (Diwali). A new annual Hindu World Prayer Guide is being produced to help Christians know how to pray for the people(s) growing up within this major and very diverse world religion.

Please pray that there will be a growing enthusiasm for prayer for the Hindu world! Also pray for this new Prayer Guide initiative: there is a need for further funding and promotion in order for this to take off.

For more information visit www.pray15days.org

30 Days of Prayer

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If you receive our mailings you will have received a flier about the ‘30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.’ For over two decades Christians around the world have been praying for Muslims throughout Ramadan – their special month of focused prayer and fasting. It’s a time Muslims are seeking an encounter with Allah, and since the 30 Days of Prayer movement started, many Muslims have encountered the living Christ during this season. Prayer really does change things.

During my time with an Australian mission training centre, Ramadan was set aside to pray for the Muslim world. Once a day a call to prayer in Arabic was blasted through the sound system across our centre. Up to 100 of us would drop whatever we were doing to gather in the courtyard so that we could pray for a specific location or people group. I’m sure it confused our neighbours to no end, hearing a Muslim-sounding call to prayer coming from a Christian centre during Ramadan. But in those moments we took our attention off ourselves and paused long enough to get a glimpse into God’s heart for this group which makes up almost a quarter of the world’s inhabitants.

The question is: what will you be doing this Ramadan (27 May – 25 June)? Copies of the prayer booklet can be purchased from marn.org.nz

Thy Kingdom Come

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Archbishop Justin Welby is calling the global church to a season of prayer for more people to come to know Jesus. This season of prayer, happening over the 10 days between Ascension day (May 25) and Pentecost (June 4), is aptly called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.

Archbishop Justin has said this about Thy Kingdom Come: “After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples went to Jerusalem and prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The vision behind Thy Kingdom Come is to do just what these first Christians did – to pray, in faith, that the Holy Spirit would come and lead the way in witness and evangelism.”

Few things are more important to followers of Jesus than prayer. It’s been a core principle of CMS since our very beginning in 1799, and we’ve recently re-emphasised it as one of the five missional postures we as the NZCMS family share. 

We encourage people to #Pledge2Pray through the Thy Kingdom Come website to show that you’re joining in the global wave of prayer and to inspire others to join in! Over the next few weeks the Thy Kingdom Come team will keep in touch, and send you videos and resources to encourage and inspire you. The Thy Kingdom Come website has a wealth of prayer resources for churches, individuals, families and children. There are all sorts of creative ideas to help you pray in new ways.

If you want to know more about Thy Kingdom Come, to get prayer resources or to commit to participating in the event, visit thykingdomcome.global

CMS UK has interviewed Archbishop Justin about this event, offering more insights into his take on mission, prayer and the world church. You can read the interview by clicking here.

Prayer during Ramadan

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The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is a prayer focus which coincides yearly with Ramadan (27 May – 25 June), an important month of fasting and religious observance for Muslims. Christians worldwide are called upon to make an intentional but respectful effort during that period to learn about, pray for and reach out to Muslim neighbours.

While Media sound bites about Islamic extremism can too easily incite anger, fear and even hatred towards Muslims, we seek to resist this temptation to generalise, and instead, resolve to respond and pray with the mind and heart of Christ.

Join the millions of Christians around the world who regularly participate in this largest ongoing international prayer focus on the Muslim world. A new full-colour prayer guide booklet—available in both adult and kids versions—is produced each year, and is a proven tool helping Christians to understand and to persistently pray for Muslim neighbours and nations.

Find out more and order copies of the prayer booklet at marn.org.nz

We’re All Called to Pray (Issue 29)

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We’re all called to pray. This statement appears in the middle of the five missional postures discussed in this Intermission. But I wonder if it should be in the middle. I wonder if praying is where we ought to begin. Or is the middle exactly where it should be – central to everything else?

In John 15:5 Jesus states “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” I wonder if we sometimes become so fixated on working for ‘fruit ’ that we forget that the fruit is ultimately born of relationship – a natural outcome of the ‘remaining.’

For me ‘remaining’ is always the initiative of God; God’s Spirit touches our spirits and we respond. In this way our relationship was born and in this way it is sustained – Spirit to spirit and spirit to Spirit. When we remain in this relationship with God who comes to us as Love, we find ourselves knowing more of who God is, what delights God and how God works. Our love and appreciation for God grows. This is prayer.

EXPANDING OUR VISION

In the nature of love, those things that matter to God increasingly matter to us. Stirred by Love, we see God all around and seek to become more aware. Our vision is stretched by God’s limitless vision that reaches far beyond our own small world until it includes places we haven’t visited, people we don’t know. The burdens of others, our brothers and sisters who share the same Father, are now our burden. Their poverty and oppression and struggles affect us and we cry out to our Father on their behalf.

Sometimes we need words as we struggle to find God in the situation. At other times our prayers may be only a silent ‘Amen’ to God’s ever-loving intention. Our prayers may result in a call to action: a call to fasting, a call to go. Always our prayers will result in a call to share with others the wonder of how much God cares so that their eyes too may be opened, their faith grown and their hearts also turned to praise and glorify God. These are fruits of ‘remaining.’

REMAINING BUT LOOKING EVER OUTWARD

As Christians we’re all called to be members of the vast ‘community of mission service.’ As members of this community we’re all called to pray. The fruit of this prayer is always an expanding love and compassion for others which reaches far beyond our own small corner of creation. In the cycle of God’s never-ending economy of grace, our joy in seeing the fruits of prayer in the lives of people brought into the light grows our faith, and turns us in joy back to the One who began it all, our God of Love.

Thus from remaining to fruits and from fruits to remaining – remaining in a God whom we follow out into a world beyond ourselves.

We’re all called to pray for God’s whole world.

Along with her husband Gerald, Maureen was a missionary in Nepal and then a NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia. They have now settled in Dunedin where, among other things, they help run the local NZCMS branch.

 

For discussion How has your ‘remaining’ – your personal time with God – grown your heart for God’s whole world?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to praying?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Easter between the times

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We’re now well into Easter season, standing between Palm Sunday and Easter Friday. That is, we’re standing between Jesus’ victorious entry into Jerusalem as King, as Messiah, as the one who was going to deliver Israel (and all humanity!) and restore all things, and the day that so-called Messiah died a shameful, criminal’s death on a cross – certainly not the sort of thing you’d expect of a mighty, powerful, sent-by-God King.

When Jesus entered the city the people were no doubt asking the all important question: who is this man? They would have heard about how he’d restored people’s sight, healed cripples, challenged the religious authorities, spoken of freedom for the downtrodden, welcomed the outcast. In fact, just before Palm Sunday, in Bethany, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Here was the Messiah they were waiting for, the one who would stand with them in their pain and misery and fight for them. The one who had power over death!

Many in the crowd on Palm Sunday were there because of Lazarus. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was so powerful that many were coming, not just to see the so-called Messiah, but to see the man the Messiah had raised. So many people were coming to Jesus because of Lazarus that the chief priests decided he needed to be killed as well (John 12:10-11).

So what happened between Palm Sunday and Easter Friday? How could the excitement, passion and hope of the Sunday so quickly dissolve to disillusionment, frustration, doubt, anger? How could the people who yelled “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” turn to yelling “Crucify him” in just a few days?! And how could the Lord of glory be crucified as a common criminal? No doubt you’ll hear a sermon or two this weekend exploring some of these issues, so we won’t explore them now…

The remarkable thing is, we still live between Sunday and Friday – between the victory of Jesus the King and the reality of suffering & death. Or better yet, we live between the tension of Easter Friday and Easter Sunday. Friday represents pain, suffering, sickness, sin – and how God steps into the midst of it. It’s God coming alongside us in our mess, standing with us and taking upon himself everything that keeps us tied down, broken, distant to God. It’s the ultimate expression of God’s justice, where he says “The world isn’t how it’s supposed to be, and I’m not going to stand at a distance – I’m going to do something about it.” But Friday’s the day God’s Messiah dies, when hope seems lost, when sin and death seems to have won. Sunday represents the victory, the defeat of death, the putting-back-together of everything broken and disjointed in the world. It’s God’s ultimate declaration that death isn’t the final word, that God’s justice will prevail, that the whole creation really will be liberated from it’s groaning.

We live between Friday and Sunday.

We live in what is famously called “between the times” – between God’s ultimate act of reconciling the world to himself through Jesus, and God actually putting all things back together. Jesus’ death and resurrection – and the coming of the Spirit – was the down-payment, the guarantee, the foretaste of what God will do for all creation. And we get to experience it already – we experience forgiveness of sins, healing of sickness, God’s peace, God’s very presence. Yet we only experience it in part – we’re forgiven and being transformed, but sin is not yet overcome. We witness radical cases of God’s healing… but not everyone is healed. We know God’s presence, but he often seems distant. We are stuck between the ‘already’ and the ‘not-yet.’

Our Mission Partners, in many ways on the ‘front-line’ of what God is doing around the world, certainly experience this ‘already/not-yet.’ Many of them witness people coming to faith, people drawing nearer to God, people healed and set free. But they also experience unique sicknesses due to where they live, heightened stress, distance from family, sometimes fear of troubles or even disaster. In fact, at present there are a good number of our Mission Partners who are experiencing this ‘not-yet’ of our faith. We’ve recently told you about a cholera outbreak and drought where the Akesters are based. Dianne Bayley has been suffering due to a slipped disc in her back. Margaret Poynton fractured her tail bone and was diagnosed with malaria and dengue fever. Todd, the medical director of the hospital Miriam Tillman works, recently died from Lassa fever, a contagious illness that could potentially spread. And there are others who for various reasons we can’t mention here.

During this Easter season we’re encouraging the NZCMS family across the country to set aside some time for focused prayer for the physical, spiritual and emotional health of all our Mission Partners. Would you consider taking some time over this Easter to pray for our partners in all corners of the earth as they continue working with God ‘between the times,’ between the tragedy of Easter Friday and the victory of Easter Sunday?