What is ministry?
God's salvation makes us candidates for divine service, besides dealing with sin in our lives and making us eligible for heaven. To be engaged in the service of Almighty God is a privilege that must not be taken lightly.
Some people believe that ministry is gathering people into a meeting venue. Others think that ministry is a call to serve a minister. No! The work of ministry is to raise men and women who will serve God wholeheartedly and grow in faith before God (Ephesians 4:11-13).
I once had two separate conversations with two ministry friends at different times in the same week. Both are in ministry in two different countries, and they each spoke to me, oblivious of the other's encounter with God, about how God warned them not to engage in the craze of wanting people to fill their meetings.
Ministry involves being sent by God
how shall they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:15, NKJV)
You cannot just strike out on your own and go into ministry—God must send you! Isaiah documented how God sent him to Israel (Isaiah 6:1-8). Paul also narrated how Jesus sent him to the Gentiles (Acts 26:12-18). In both cases, they heard God speak to them.
Prayer is how we communicate with God. Even if you never spoke to God before He calls and sends you out, you would have to communicate regularly with Him afterwards, making praying vital in ministry.
Ministry is doing what God asks you to do in the manner He wants it done, when He wants it done, using the resources He has provided to do the job! To engage in ministry, therefore, requires that the Holy Spirit is in you and working through you, for which praying is crucial.
The critical nature of praying in ministry
Doing the work of God without praying is like laying building blocks on one another without mortar. When the storms of ministry challenges and Satan's onslaught come, the ministry without sustained prayer crashes. Prayer is, thus, the mortar that binds together the various building blocks of the work of God.
Jesus always prayed before and after ministering to people (Mark 1:35; 3:13). Thus, praying is extremely critical in ministry.
In Acts 6:1-4, amid the challenge brought about by the early church's rapid growth, the apostles noted that the problem that arose, as a result, was not a strong enough reason to make them leave off preaching God's word. More importantly, they noted that praying was crucial to their preaching, implying that their preaching, and therefore, ministry, would be meaningless without prayer.
Paul, the apostle, did not take his knowledge of God's word for granted. Rather, he requested that prayer be made to God on his behalf so that he would have utterance to present the gospel and make it receptible to his listeners (Colossians 4:2-4; Ephesians 6:19-20). You may know everything about the Bible, but your ministry will lack divine inspiration and power without utterance through the Holy Spirit. Although Paul was in prison at this time, he did not even pray to be released. Rather he asked for utterance. Why? He saw the opportunity of ministry in prison!
Onesimus, the runaway slave of Philemon, got saved through Paul's ministry in prison (Philemon 1:10). Also, when Paul and Silas were imprisoned for casting out a demon from a girl enslaved by her masters, the Jailor and his entire household received God's salvation through their ministry (Acts 16:25-34). Roman soldiers were guarding Paul in prison, and his request for utterance was so that he could present the gospel to them meaningfully.
Paul was God's ambassador, whether as a free man or in prison! Unfortunately, not many people see things that way. Why not? They are not in one accord with God because they are not praying. You cannot pray constantly and not agree with God! And when you agree with God, you will go wherever, and to whomever, He sends you, regardless of how unappealing or uncomfortable it may be.
Paul once wrote of a great and effectual door open to him (1 Corinthians 16:9). The problem? There were many adversaries. The implication? Paul wanted prayers to be made on his behalf to God for unimpeded access despite the adversaries.
When we speak of the vital nature of prayer in ministry, we are not speaking of some selfish and sensual prayer. Rather, we are speaking of selfless and godly prayers/intercession for the souls of men and ministry. We are also speaking of praying the will of God, not our desires! Paul prayed for utterance rather than for a car, money, or some other mundane thing. We need to dig deep into the soil of ministry and lay a firm foundation for God's work through prayer.
True ministry happens when you and God are in communion
True ministry takes place when God sends you to do something on His behalf in the world, and His Spirit is in you to ensure perfect implementation. In Old Testament times, God sent prophets to speak to people; today, God speaks directly to the New Testament believer (Hebrews 1:1-2). Those sent, in turn, communicate with God by praying. This communication process makes ministry stress-free as we have the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, with us!
Today, we see some individuals in ministry operating without divine authorisation. They have neither been with God nor heard from Him, yet they perform activities that mimic ministry. They prophesy falsely and perform lying wonders. Yet, they have not stood in the counsel of God—that is, they have not communed with God in prayer!
When we do God's work without praying, everything will be in disarray. But when we pray and engage in ministry, we have the mortar putting everything together, and such a work endures the storms of Satan's opposition.
Ministry without praying
When one engages in ministry without praying, energy is expended on what God has not asked to be done. It is like operating in the dark!
Some people jump into ministry without hearing from God. They never communed with God in prayer. They were merely moved by the razzmatazz of what they thought to be ministry. God was not in any way involved.
A person who prophesies speaks for God (1 Corinthians 14:2-3). How can a person who has not heard from God speak for Him? The absence of prayer has given rise to gimmickry in ministry. If a person has been in touch with God, the message they declare is inspired, builds up and encourages the listener and succours the hearer—even when it is a chastisement!
Ministry dead works
When we engage in ministry without praying, we are engaging in dead works. Dead works are activities that are neither initiated nor inspired by God, and as a result, God is not involved in such works. Through prayer, we receive divine instruction, which is God's initiating a work, and the Holy Spirit being involved in its implementation.
Jesus explicitly states that only those who do what God has initiated will enter heaven. All others will not get into heaven because their activities are dead and unlawful works (Matthew 7:21-23)! It is, therefore, impossible to claim to be engaged in ministry without having had any communication with God. And how do you get to hear from God when you are not in constant prayer?
God spoke of purveyors of messages that He did not authorise (Jeremiah 23:16-32), noting that they had not stood in His counsel—they had not been in communion or communication with Him. If these false prophets had communed with Him, God said they would have turned the people back to Him. Instead, the people were unrestrained in their conduct.
Telling sinners that it will be well with them is encouraging them to keep on sinning! Some even say they do not want the people to feel bad, but they are being sent to hell! Anyone who can encourage another to sin cannot have communed with God and is, therefore, engaging in dead works.
Sadly, not speaking the truth is how churches, like modern parenting, have raised congregants without morals; congregants who have no care or thought for others and are selfish and self-seeking.
We are now in a time when people do not want to hear about God because many so-called pastors or ministers have lied about God's word. And since they have not prepared people for tribulations and persecution, when the challenges of life come upon them, they fall away from the faith! Sadly, many supposed Christians are already cursing God. They listened to false prophets, who never communed with God, and could therefore not have been speaking for God.
We ought to tell people the truth about the nature of God. We should tell people that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), who consumes sin and the sinner who refuses to repent. We should let people know that selfishness, greed, avarice, promiscuity, lewdness, etc., are contrary to God's word, as are homosexuality and lesbianism. Many are creating their unscriptural and secular interpretation of the Bible and telling people that they can live as they choose. But this is false! (2 Corinthians 5:16)
Prayerlessness and ministry
Prayerlessness and ministry are two words that should not be mentioned together in the same sentence and expect positive results. Many people claiming to be engaged in ministry are doing so on whims. They use psychology, philosophy, intellect, gimmicks, etc., to engage in ministry, which is not how ministry is done.
For emphasis, ministry is God working through us to do His work. That being the case, it is expected that there will be a link between the minister and the Holy Spirit. Prayerlessness in ministry is like working in an office without directly or indirectly connecting with the Managing Director! Thus, God said through Jeremiah,
The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. (Jeremiah 23:28, NKJV)
If you have had a dream, say you have had a dream, but do not claim that God spoke to you! And if God has given you a message for people, then deliver it faithfully—neither add to nor subtract from His message; just say it as it is, albeit, in love. Why people feel the need to twist God's word to make people feel good beats me!
When people in ministry do not pray, they steal messages from others; messages that have no relevance to their local assembly. Such ministers even compare notes with one another and circulate their messages among themselves. They give people messages that lack the power and authority of God. Any message lacking the power and authority of God cannot turn anyone's life around.
A prayerless minister cannot know what God is doing nor reprimand sinful living. If only ministers would pray, they would have heard God's message and would have caused people to turn from their iniquities.
If you must know, when God chastises you, it means that you are His child (Hebrews 12:5-6). But if all you want to hear are messages of encouragement, even when you are living in sin, you are not a child of God, for God has no spoilt children!
If ministers of the gospel spent time communing with God, He would reveal the state of the church to them. And when they speak God's word, those who want to repent will turn to God, but those who do not intend to repent will leave the church!
The worst thing that can happen to anyone in ministry is to be disconnected from God by not praying constantly.
In our next instalment, we shall discuss the vitality of praying before embarking on any new venture.