Kent Hughes tells the story of John G. Paton, a Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific, a heroic figure in recent missionary history.

One night hostile tribesman surrounded his mission headquarters, intent on burning it and killing Paton and his wife. The two of them prayed all through that terror-filled night, asking God to deliver them. When daylight came, they were surprised to see the attackers leave.
A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton had an opportunity to ask him what kept them from burning the house and killing them. The chief replied, "Who were all those men who were with you?" Paton said, "There were no men there, only my wife and I." But the chief said that they had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station, so the tribesmen were afraid to attack. Paton realized that God had sent angels to protect them.

The power of prayer has not decreased from Paton's time to ours. He may answer our prayers for deliverance, for he has all power to do so. But while he always listens, he may at times choose another way than what we desire, even as evidenced in the life of Paton. Hughes again:

John Paton did not always experience God's provision that way. His first wife died as a result of problems during childbirth. Seventeen days later the child also died. That happened early in his missionary career, and he had no one to comfort him. He even had to dig the graves for his wife and child. But he writes about that difficult time:
"I was never altogether forsaken. The ever-merciful God sustained me to lay the precious dust of my loved ones in the same quiet grave. But for Jesus, and the fellowship he vouchsafed me there, I must have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave!"
Jesus was there, and he gave sufficient grace - grace enough for him to stay on working among those people and reap a great harvest for the kingdom.

I am sure that Paton prayed just as fervently for his wife and child as he did that night surrounded by attackers. It is hard sometimes to understand God's ways, why the outcomes are so different, when to us, they don't have to (or shouldn't) be. But we can learn from the example of this Godly man: He never felt forsaken, he always felt sustained, and he found solace in the arms of Jesus.

The King provided sufficient grace. Grace enough for rescue, grace enough for heartache, grace enough for harvest.

And he will do the same for you, and for me.

Posted
AuthorMatthew Molesky
CategoriesPrayer

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, 

        “Yet a little while, 

and the coming one will come and will not delay; 

    38     but my righteous one shall live by faith, 

and if he shrinks back, 

        my soul has no pleasure in him.” 

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:32-39, English Standard Version)

Today was Day 25 of praying for the persecuted church in particularly dangerous areas of the world. It is something that I encouraged as I preached on this over the course of two weeks earlier this month, and I am including this guide in the hopes that you will not grow weary in praying for our brothers and sisters suffering for the sake of Jesus.

By way of encouragement, Tish Harrison Warren recently wrote on cultivating a life of prayer:

Even my small donation to an organization will only aid victims. I cannot stop evil men from hurting strangers I love on the other side of an ocean. My ordinary day feels ridiculous and futile.

In this world where news of torture and death runs like a ticker through my day, I’m realizing in a new way that I must learn to pray. I must learn to sit in silence with a God who is all-powerful and all-loving in the mystery of horrendous suffering. I must learn to lift up my sisters and brothers without ceasing. I must learn to pray ordinary prayers for them in my small way and believe that God makes those prayers matter. I have to stretch toward the belief that prayer is more powerful than death, that God can change evil men or stop them more certainly than violence can, that there is a Rescuer for those who suffer.

When I was just out of college and working among the poor, a friend, an older and wiser chain-smoking Franciscan friar, commented on the intensity of my life and work at that time and said, “You don’t have the kind of prayer life and rhythms of contemplation to sustain the work you are doing.” He warned that I was going to burn out. I was surrounded by too much suffering to be able to subsist without more rest, more prayer, more quiet days, more solitude, more silence, more listening. He was right. Within a few years, I was spent.

It’s getting to the point that I can’t even read the news or go on Facebook without needing a sustaining life of prayer, the kind of robust contemplative life that allows me to remain vulnerable and hopeful in a world of suffering.

Prayer is not merely a pious consolation prize, something we do when we don’t know what else to do. It is not the property of hermetic saints and propriety. It is earthy and gritty and groaning and vulnerable and fierce. And it is sustenance. I want to learn to cultivate a life of prayer in the midst of a suffering world.

I may never get to tell an Iraqi mother that I am so sorry for her loss, I may not be able to hold her hand or pray with her, I may not be able to stop this kind of evil. But in my daily life, I need to learn to cling to prayer and lean into silence even as I read news.

Brothers and sisters, let us pray.

Posted
AuthorMatthew Molesky

 

God has spoken by his Son, and this Son is superior to all persons, heavenly beings, institutions, rituals, and previous means of revelation and redemption....The Son is our Great Superlative, surpassing all others because in him we have the fullness and finality of God's redemption and revelation.
(Kevin DeYoung)

 

Read that over and over again, because the reality and impact of this statement is world-altering.

 

Posted
AuthorMatthew Molesky
CategoriesJesus