Archive: A Methodist Prayer Crusade

By James P. Rush, Pastor, Wesley Methodist Church, Woodland Hills, California

The increasingly vocal “new theology of man come of age,” as I understand it, states that my selfhood, and my situation in the world in the midst of society, is more real to me than any reality outside of myself. If I am to find meaning in life, I must begin with myself. Here’s where I discover what has meaning to me personally – irrespective of whether it has meaning to anyone else at any other time in history.

This is a contradiction of New Testament Christianity, which states that life’s meaning is only realized as Christ indwells the individual, bringing faith-union with the living God.

Nowhere is the destructive effect of this “new theology” more evident than in the current decline in prayer life, both in clergy and laity. This decline is accelerating on an alarming and ever-growing scale.

Closely linked with our dying prayer life is the declining of personal confrontation with our living Lord. Apart from communication with the risen Christ, who alone can interpret our human needs to God, prayer be­ comes either: (1) recollection of a dead historical figure or (2) psychological auto-suggestion. Neither appeals to the frustrated person, who desperately needs help from outside of himself.

As I understand it, prayer involves several decisive acts:

(1)  We must personally accept that there has always been a plan developed by God for the administration of all Creation.

(2)  We must consciously acknowledge that God has expressed this plan in many ways, the most dramatic and specific being the creation of a covenant relationship with Israel and, subsequently, the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

(3)  We must believe that God continues to implement this plan through the agency of Christ the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul states, according to J. B. Phillips, Romans 8:26-28a, “The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations … but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonizing longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart’s secrets understands, of course, the Spirit’s intention … Moreover we know that to those who love God … everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.”

Prayer, as demonstrated by our Lord, is the act of temporarily retiring from the involvements of this world and becoming receptive to God in an intimate, personal relationship – as a child communicates with his father. We do this by expressing our dependence on Him. We acknowledge our thanksgiving for the gift-experience of life. Finally, prayer means having our desires reshaped to conform to God’s purpose of active mercy, justice, obedience, and righteousness. This happens only when, like the young prophet Isaiah, we are confronted by the holiness of God. Then He reveals to believers yet another segment of His great plan and our place in it.

I do not believe that Jesus came to earth with a built-in knowledge of God’s plan. New Testament evidence indicates that it was unfolded to Jesus through prayer, and then He carried out the will of God in His relationship with the world, which received Him not. The mystery of our divine Lord’s true humanity is revealed in His widening comprehension of God’s will in human terms through prayer.

Matthew 14 tells us that Jesus went into “a mountain to pray.” Mark 1 reveals “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Even before His crucifixion, Jesus urged His disciples to wait while He prayed for more specific guidance in that situation.

We are all familiar with the format of the model for prayer He taught His disciples. But one ignored point is that prayer, as urged by our Lord, is never the expression of some vague, general interest in goodness. In­ stead, prayer is the active seeking of the continuing design or plan of God regarding specific human situations in which we personally are involved.

Peter stood outside the Upper Room after Pentecost and boldly delivered his great sermon, climaxed by the specific challenge, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter was stating the promises of God as they ought to be stated – “Try it and see if something doesn’t happen.” It takes courage to respond to God’s offer to communicate with us on these terms.

I can never forget the scoffing of the press (and an embarrassing number of ministers) before the last night of Billy Graham’s Los Angeles Crusade. He boldly announced that prayers had been offered that God would fill the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Its seats had never been completely filled, even at the most spirited sporting events. But that last evening of the Graham crusade, 134,000 people came! Not only the seats were filled, but the whole playing field was covered with chairs.

I’ll never forget Bishop Kennedy’s remarks to some amazed preachers, “Brethren, when about 100,000 people pray for one year for such an event, something is bound to happen.”

There are too many good, honest, Biblical, evangelical Christians who spend too much time informing God of the sorry state of human affairs – about which He is painfully aware. Also, there is too much time spent hoping and, I imagine, praying that God will act alone, thus excusing us from the spiritual disciplines through which God has always communicated His plan.

Many people are deeply and sincerely concerned and disturbed with the kind of religion fashionable among “new theology” advocates. Too often critics of this popular, new heresy resort to unsuccessful, highly emotional name-calling.

Jesus calls us to a better way – an alternative which has conquered apostasies worse than the current variety. In Matthew 18:19, 20 He says, “And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father. For wherever two or three people come together in my name, I am there, right among them!”

Has there ever been a more auspicious time to claim this astonishing promise? For over 1900 years, Christians have emerged victorious as they have opened their lives to receive God’s power through prayer. A prayer-answering God has given believers power to serve Him with new loves, new concerns, new aims and new determination to see things happen.

Are you serious about contending against the cancerous and Biblically-inadequate “new theology”? Then you must MAKE time to pray! Let us do it on a national scale. Consider the following method for a national prayer crusade. It is not original. I discovered its power from a brother minister, J. R. Grisham, presently pastor of the Methodist Church of Kosiuske, Mississippi. This crusade will last initially for one year. Here is how it will work:

(1)  Send a short description of the special needs of your church to Rev. James Rush, 24341 Friar St., Woodland Hills, Calif. 91364.

(2)  Send four mailing lists of the member families and their addresses typed on thin paper and cut into individual pieces. There should be four complete sets of members, each separated.

(3)  These lists will be mailed quarterly to different participating churches all over the nation, with a letter explaining the special needs of the church requesting prayer.

(4)  The pastor should arrange a special quarterly “Prayer Sunday” to explain the Prayer Crusade. At the close of this service, the pastor can invite members to come to the altar and receive the name of their quarterly prayer partner in the distant church. (Every name and address should be taken by someone.)

(5)  The person receiving the name should agree to pray daily for the person whose name he has received. Then the person praying should write to that per­ son, telling him in a short note that he is being remembered in prayer. It is important that each person receiving a name should write at least once a quarter for the crusade to be effective. For details write to National Pray-Without-Ceasing Crusade, Wesley Methodist Church, 24341 Friar St., Woodland Hills, Calif. 91364.

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