Prayer is vital and good for the Body of Christ but it can also be a hindrance to the advancement of the Kingdom, shared Pastor Mantofa two weeks ago at SIB Kuala Lumpur. This is not something we usually hear in churches, but as Pr Mantofa shared his message a powerfully lucid vision for the Church of Christ came into full view.
‘We do not want to walk any more in circles,’ he conveyed, ‘we want to walk into our Promised Land. Malaysia is indeed a chosen nation in the Kingdom of God. God’s ways are not mysterious. It has never been and will never be. Eventhough we cannot understand everything, His will is pretty clear for us to know. We must find out, and united, we must walk into the vision of the Church that God wants. Malaysia should not be behind; it should be in the forefront of God’s chosen nation’
The passage that was used to illustrate Pr Philip’s message was taken from Acts 12. This was the passage about Peter’s miraculous escape from the prison but it came within a challenging set of circumstances.
Just before the events of this passage, the evil king Herod had arrested leaders of the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, one of the top leaders of the church, put to the death with the sword. James was a great apostle of Christ, very outspoken, in fact more courageous than even Peter. This made him very dangerous to Herod and the system of the day. It was the reason why Herod laid his hands on James first and now he was intending to do the same with Peter.
Pr Mantofa put this into context; the church needed James’ leadership and anointing so badly and now he was gone. The church had faced a huge loss and the worse thing was that before they could even mourn for James, Peter, their second best leader was arrested, and he was now next in line. And the people prayed desperately.
‘Can you imagine that? Would we even pray in that situation? When our first prayers seem to be unanswered? The church at that time seem to be in a situation of defeat. Would we pray hardly or would we hardly pray? More likely the latter right? See what God is telling us.’
‘Looking at this passage of Acts 12, I believe that if I were there I would have been discouraged. I am convinced that they prayed to the depths of their souls for their leaders to be released and yet God seem to be silent. Do you know that if we want to grasp our miracle in a tangible way we have to go beyond praying? Praying alone is not enough.’
Pr Mantofa shared that this does not mean he does not believe in prayer. For most of his 24 years in the Christian faith, he had made prayer a vital part of his life. The first two months of his life in the faith was spent in deep fasting and prayer. But the problem comes when Christians made prayer into their hiding caves.
‘We all have our setbacks in life but what happens in the past should not stop, dictate, or weaken us to believe in what God can do in the future. God is not done. If we have unanswered prayers in our life, we are going to have questions. I have questions but we should put aside those questions for the moment and believe in what God has in store for us.’ Never let the questions hold us back from believing in God. A defeat only truly becomes a defeat when we acknowledge that we’re defeated.
Pr Philip shared that in his healing rallies not everyone who comes for healing gets healed. ‘I don’t know why some people, when I pray for them, they do not get healed but I thank God that does not stop me. And as a result the next person gets healed you see? You see, a person can easily give up or become half-hearted when they have faced failure. I have questions and I will ask Jesus personally when I get to Heaven but now I am on Earth, let God’s Heaven come!’
He imparted; ‘When we look at the Scriptures and read about the people praying earnestly, this seem good on the surface but actually if you look deeper it is not. The word earnest here smacks of desperation and not faith. We can see this from the way they reacted to Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. And even Peter himself throughout the time the angel led him out of prison thought he was dreaming.’ Prayer can become the hiding cave of Christians in desperate situations.
What this also means is that prayer can be an excuse for us not to move. Prayer can give us a false sense of piety. ‘Do you know that prayer is supposed to be vice versa and two-directional? Prayer is a form of communication. So as much as we need to pray we also need to learn to listen in our prayer. The church has been in the closet for too long. It’s time for us to get out.
‘Prayer should have a time limit. A prayer that does not have an expiry date, no action-packed goal, is a meaningless prayer. You and I should not pray unless we are prepared to complete our own prayers. When we pray for blessings on our families without ourselves making a commitment to be a blessing to our families, it is meaningless. Prayer should hit the one who is making the prayer first.
‘Prayer is like a detonation in reversed principle. When we pray we become our prayer and our prayer becomes us. If not, then that prayer is superficial. So in order for prayer to be real, we need to act upon our prayer.’
Pr Mantofa expressed from this that he has always found God’s math to be weird. 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes is not 5 and 2 to God but 5000 and 12. When we take the first step of obedience the rest will follow. God will take us to places we would never expect in our wildest dreams. All we need to do is to obey and God will open nations to us with His glory.
We need to move with God. We need to make a commitment that on this certain day we are going to act on our prayers. And we should never be taken by surprise by God, praying from the present and looking at the future, but from the future and pulling it to the present. When God answers our prayers, we should be already preparing ourselves to move with Him into the greater things.
When Peter knocked on the door of Mary’s house in Acts 12:12-17, the people in the house who had been praying did not believe it. They were trained to pray but they had not believed in God’s answer to their prayers. Many of us are like that today. We are trained to pray but we’re not so well-trained in receiving. We’re good at spirituality but when the answer comes we’re ill-equipped.
Pr Mantofa shared that the outcome of prayer is certain. God always listens to our prayer but very often God is also interested in moving from His promises to fulfilment of those promises. Sometimes God needs us to stop praying and start moving.
In Acts 12:17, we find that Peter got it. He realized the miraculous nature of what he had just went through and after describing everything to the people in Mary’s house, told them to share the news with Jesus’ siblings, and then he left for another place.
In 1998, when Indonesia went through one of the worse crisis in its history, when the Chinese women there were raped in the streets and the churches destroyed and pastors burned alive, Pr Philip made the decision to sell everything he had and return to Indonesia after 8 years in Canada.
His friends protested that it was a crazy thing to do, but Pr Philip reasoned, “The people are all praying in Canada. Who then is going to meet the actual needs of the people back in Indonesia?” If everyone is praying but no one is going, all of the anointing would be with him as he returned to Indonesia. ‘It was not because there was something special about me,’ he shared, ‘but God did not have many channels.’
He shared that the first few days in Indonesia he prayed for 6 hours daily and he cried and cried before the Lord. But one day the Lord told him to stop praying. At first he couldn’t believe the voice. He thought it was the devil because it never occurred to him that God would ask him to stop praying. Finally the Lord had to reprimand him before he finally recognized the voice as the Lord’s.
The Lord told him; ‘If you stay here in your closet praying, how are you going to answer the needs of the people out there?’ The very moment Pr Philip stepped out of his closet, God took him through his first miraculous salvation and healing of a person. That was the start of his ministry and God would sometimes bring salvation to even the staunchest enemies of the church through this ministry.
Through all his experiences, Pr Philip learned one thing; ‘Obedience matters more to God than sacrifices. We will never know the power of God until we give it to those who need it most. We must catch this promise. Don’t just pray for the sake of praying.’
‘God loves the people of Malaysia,’ he conveyed. ‘We should not keep the best and most important message in all existence to ourselves. People out there need to hear of this best message. The church needs to step up to its roles as receivers and bringers of God’s promise for the nation.’ As Malaysian Christians, this is our responsibility.
NOTE: All pictures of SIB KL credited to SIB KL. This article has not been vetted by Pr Philip Mantofa or SIB KL.
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