PAUL had a wonderful sense of caring for the ecclesias. He visited them, he wrote to them, he sent messages to them by the hands of faithful disciples and, constantly, he prayed for them. He prayed for those whose faces he knew well and whose love he treasured. He prayed for those whom he had never met but whose faith and welfare were dear to his heart because they too had come to believe in the truth of God.
The Power of Prayer
Prayer knows no boundaries and is never weakened by distance. Our prayers for others find ready acceptance at the throne of grace and that is near at hand. Do we make enough use of this privilege and storehouse? Those of us whose feet can never tread the mission fields and whose hands can never greet the workers and the converts in lands abroad, do we make up our lack of opportunity by speaking to God who is able to help?
Why not make it a daily practice to call to mind some place in which the work for Christ is going on, and seek the blessing of God for those who are there? Take New Amsterdam in Guyana, for instance. Two missionaries labour in that ecclesia and in nearby Kilkoy. There is much to do and so little time, and so few pairs of hands. Why not put your hands to work to release the power of prayer? Unseen blessing may flow if we co-operate in this way. Seventy or so miles away there are our brothers and sisters in the ecclesia of Georgetown, which is almost a century old. They labour with their nearest neighbours in Agricola, whose ecclesial hall was erected through the Bible Mission.
Elsewhere in South America there is an unceasing need for help in prayer. Colombia is well-known to us, and its two ecclesias, Bogata and Medellín. Few of us are ever likely to visit that distant land or to preach in its towns. But have our prayers supported the hands of the workers, cared for the wives and children of those who have gone out for Christ’s sake, or pleaded for those who are seeking to be delivered from Catholicism? Have we sat by Brother George Smith in Argentina or travelled with him to Chile in order to give him strength by our prayers? We have time to pray. He is labouring constantly.
And, what about the islands of the Caribbean—Tobago, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada? In these beautiful islands are many in sore need of support. Native brethren of these lands are trying to undertake the work of preaching and the regular activities of ecclesial life. These duties are comparatively new to them, and they stand in need of everything we are able to convey to them through our intercession. Let us undergird their efforts and empower them by our prayers.
In the same wide gulf, on the neck of land ’twixt North and South America, are the countries of Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica. Our American brethren have espoused the care of these places and we can be partakers in their joy by meeting with them at the place of prayer. We all are labourers together—with God.
The Blessings of Prayer
If Paul discovered that by this means the ecclesial world of his day was strengthened, why should not the same medium be powerful today? Moreover, the man who prays is committed, and thereby becomes a part of what he prays for. The blessings of prayer are like those of mercy, both the one who prays and those for whom he prays are blessed.
Speeding northwards on the wings of prayer we sweep over the Maritime provinces of Canada and over Newfoundland. Neither of those is strictly within the ambit of the Bible Mission, but we have helped their work over the years and feel part of the activity and hopes of our brethren and sisters there.
Crossing the Atlantic we come to Europe, that ancient home of much of western civilisation. Apart from Britain, there is no country where the truth prospers greatly. France, the land of Charlemagne, has but a little light of truth despite the long and sincere labours of various brethren. It needs our prayers. From France we pass across the north of Europe where the Truth has found uncertain lodgement in some countries and a good home in others. In Holland the Mission’s work has found a good, solid response in The Hague, among Bible-loving and Bible-instructed folk to whom the good news came as light and a welcome teaching. For a time it looked as though the Gospel would not take root elsewhere; but, with faith and prayer and determined work it has now taken hold in Amersfoort, Arnhem and Utrecht. There is great cause for rejoicing before God in thankfulness and a continued need for our prayers.
Other European countries like Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden are scarcely scratched by the Gospel plough. Response is meagre, and we must wrestle in prayer in the hope that the Word of Truth may grow in what might otherwise be self-satisfied hearts.
In Germany, now divided into two nations, the Truth still shines forth from a few ecclesias, despite the ravages of war and the almost impossible conditions through which the light was carried during the second world war. The darkness did not overcome it. God be thanked.
The Northernmost Mission Field
Norway is our northernmost mission field and it is more than 25 years since the first convert was made. Since then the work has held its own and two centres of truth have been formed, in Oslo and in Bergen, although great progress has never been recorded. Certainly the initial work was carried out in prayer and we must therefore labour on.
In the South-western tip of Europe, the Truth is taking hold in Spain where the work is aided by resident brethren and sisters from Britain. Portugal offers some promise, the more so because of the recent upheaval in its government; but our intercession before the throne of grace must work with our other labours. If we believe that it is an essential part of the Gospel, indeed in one sense the whole of it, that all nations are to be blessed in Abraham, we must seek to encourage the outflowing of the Truth to other lands.
It is one of the delights of this century that the Truth has found hold in Greece, first in one of the villages a little distance from Athens, then in other villages and now quite vigorously in Athens itself. Despite the considerable difficulties arising from the constraints placed by the government and the rooted power of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Truth is flourishing again. Brethren, pray, pray, pray.
In Malawi, one of the more struggling of the African countries, hundreds have responded to the call of the Truth. They need our prayers. Their simple but sound hold of the essential principles of Christ requires constant care and exhortation. Few of the brethren speak English and not all of them are literate, but their expressions of faith, their Bible discussion and their faithfulness in poor economic conditions are a shining example to the rest of us. Cease not to pray.
Ghana is also a land of promise. There are signs that the seed which has already borne fruit may yield a greater harvest. A brother and sister are at this time testing the ground and tending the growth in hope of fruit for Christ. Brethren, pray for them.
Kenya and its neighbours are potentially good soil. Some fruit has been garnered and much work remains for the doing. Workers and time, persistence and support are wanted. Let us pray, brethren, pray.
In Mauritius the little ecclesia receives regular visits and, by the labours of one brother particularly, the somewhat uncertain start has been maintained. As in many countries our prayers are required for the survival of the work in the midst of political changes and conditions of mixed races. God knows no barriers: our prayers should know no bounds.
Let us take our incense morning and evening to the altar of intercession and praise. There are people needing our prayers in these many lands. As their names come before our eyes, may our hearts respond; I have prayed for you.
– Harry Tennant, The Christadelphian (Vol 112, 1975)