The Centrality of the Word

by Jim Weikal

Many Christian leaders dismiss the centrality of the Word of God; instead the central focus becomes programs – lots and lots of programs. In addition, pastors are counseled by church growth experts to trim the sermon, dismiss the doctrine, fatten the illustrations, lengthen the music, and spice up the visuals.

But have you ever examined the church at Antioch in Acts? It was founded by men who were “preaching the Lord Jesus” and a large number of Gentiles believed and “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20, 21). The mother church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas there to check things out, then he went to find Saul (Paul) who is in Tarsus. He brings Paul back to Antioch and for an entire year the two men teach the Word of God (Acts 11:26). The Great Commission from Jesus is to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).

Remember, it is this church in Antioch that sent Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey to evangelize the lost, establish churches, and make disciples (Acts 13:1-3).

I fear for the body of Christ today. If leaders do not return to the centrality of the Word to equip believers for the work, we might as well remove the pews and chairs and install adult-sized highchairs. As Jesus asked, “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Jim Weikal is a Biblical instructor at Bill Rudge Ministries.

Powerful and Effective Prayer

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

James 5:16

After calling his readers to pray in times of trouble and sickness, and to confess their sins one to another, James asserts that, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). To illustrate, James refers to the prophet Elijah as a person who had a powerful and effective prayer life. Assuming that we can have an effective prayer life like the prophet Elijah, the question is, “How?” Some people would suggest we do things such as recite a verse or a word repetitiously, sit in silence to achieve an altered state of consciousness, walk a prayer circle, or employ other techniques and methods to experience God. However, prayer is not some “magical incantation” or “manipulative tool” we use to control God or conjure phenomena. As Jesus Himself taught:

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7).

Prayer is not looking inward but upward. “Looking up toward heaven, He [Jesus] blessed the food” (Matthew 14:19). Jesus often separated Himself from others to spend time in prayer with His Father. He would slip away to the wilderness and pray (Luke 5:16) or go up on a mountain (Matthew 14:23) or to a secluded place to pray (Mark 1:35). Right after Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He told them a parable illustrating the importance of persistence in prayer (Luke 11:5-10). In this parable, Jesus asks His disciples what they would do if a friend unexpectedly showed up at their house and they had no food to give them. In a culture that highly valued hospitality, this parable demonstrates how they could find the means to meet their obligation to feed and lodge their friend for the night.

For instance, despite the fact it was night and their neighbor was sleeping, the host went to the neighbor’s house and asked for food. Note the response of the neighbor: he did not want to get up to give them food because he would wake his children. This may not make sense to us today, but at this time:

the children would sleep on mats on the floor of the one-room dwelling; unbolting the heavy bar that was laid through rings attached to the door was a bother and would make noise that would awaken them (The IVP Bible Background Commentary).

So considering this, we can understand why the neighbor did not want to get up and get the food. Yet, Jesus goes on to explain that the person would eventually get up and do it, not because of his friendship, but because of his persistence.

The Greek word for persistence carries with it the idea of urgency, boldness, shamelessness, and relentlessness. Thus, just as the friend was not afraid to go to his neighbor, despite the fact it was late at night; so too, we should approach God with that same boldness and persistence. Why should we do this? Because as this parable demonstrates, “if a sleeping neighbor…will act in response to [a] persistent request, how much more God” (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels).

Any believer following the Bible can have a powerful prayer life just like Jesus and Elijah. Seven biblical principles on prayer are explained in BJ’s e-book, Powerful and Effective Prayer, which is available free of charge in the store at https://billrudgeministries.wordpress.com/e-books/.

Powerful and Effective Prayer

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

PrayerBookCoverDraftRev_1Do you desire to be a man or woman of great faith? Do you want God to use your life so as to leave a lasting legacy? I recently read a book entitled 50 People Every Christian Should Know. This book presents the biographies of 50 men and women who have left a lasting impression upon the Christian faith. As I read about their lives, I discovered several common traits which defined how they lived. One of these traits was that they were people of prayer. They all understood that their effectiveness in serving God was directly connected to the time they spent on their knees. Just like these individuals of the past, God wants to take ordinary people today and raise up another generation of spiritual giants whose lives are marked by powerful and effective prayer.

After calling his readers to pray in times of trouble and sickness, and to confess their sins one to another, James asserts that, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). To illustrate, James refers to the prophet Elijah as an example of a person who had an effective prayer life. James tells us that Elijah’s prayers both began and ended a three-and-a-half year drought on the nation of Israel (see 1 Kings 17 and 18). James also reminds us that Elijah was a man with a nature just like us (James 5:17). In other words, according to Donald W. Burdick, “He [Elijah] had no superhuman powers; he was by nature a human being and nothing more. However, when he prayed ‘that it would not rain … it did not rain’…so James assures his readers that such answers to prayer are within the reach of any believer.”

If it is true that we can have a powerful prayer life like the prophet Elijah, then the obvious question is, “How?” Many writers propose answers to this question by suggesting we do things such as recite a verse or a word repeatedly, sit in silence (an altered state of consciousness), or walk a prayer circle. Prayer, however, is not some magical incantation or manipulative tool we can use to control God. As Jesus Himself taught,

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7).

Instead, prayer is communicating with God through means by which He has revealed in His word. Recognizing that we are dependent upon the Bible to understand prayer, in upcoming newsletters I will be sharing biblical principles that can enable any believer to have a powerful and effective prayer life just like Elijah.