We Salute You!

 

CC0 image - Anne Ekland (Pixabay.com)
CC0 image – Anne Ekland (Pixabay.com)

 

Many of you, I am sure, will be aware that today is Remembrance Day. A day to commemorate the lives of men and women who’ve lost their lives defending our freedom. These men and women, whether willingly or from a sense of duty, or forcibly conscripted, found themselves on the battlefield engaging with the enemy.

Remembrance Day is a time not only to remember the fallen dead but also celebrate our war veterans and heroes and consider the members of our armed forces, who are currently away from their home and their loved ones, fighting for the cause of justice.

We salute these courageous men and women (both dead and alive, young and old).

But let us not stop there.

Let us turn our attention to a group of unsung heroes.

Allow me to highlight the contribution of certain Christian women (mothers and grandmothers), who  throughout the history of the Church assumed positions on the spiritual frontline, to pray for their loved ones.

These mighty prayer warriors, these sanctified soldiers, voluntarily enrolled within the ‘Intercessors’ Infantry’ and fought for the spiritual lives and freedom of their families. Many of these warriors have long since passed from this earth into God’s presence. However, their legacy of fervent, effective prayer and intercession should never be taken for granted and certainly never forgotten.

I refer to women such as Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Her fervent prayer for a son, whom she then dedicated to the Lord, for life, meant that this young boy who ministered to the Lord under Eli’s supervision, was described as one who “…grew in stature, and in favour both with the Lord and men” (1 Samuel 2:26). Coincidentally, we read a similar statement in Luke 2:52, made about none other than God’s only begotten son, Jesus!

I believe that because of Hannah’s prayers, this young servant of the Lord (mentored in an environment where other priests—Eli’s own sons—were corrupt, disobedient and disrespectful to God’s commands), was able to enjoy a close relationship with the Lord, in a context where the word and revelation of God, had become rare. Samuel continued to grow and flourish in the service of God and became an influential figure in the history of the Children of Israel.

Next, let us consider Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo. In his autobiography, Confessions, Saint Augustine recalls how his mother wept and wept for him, distressed over his wayward and unrepentant heart. In fact, Augustine reveals, that his mother wept more tears for him over the prospect of his spiritual death, than other mothers had wept over the physical demise of their children. I wonder, would we have been able to benefit from the writings of this early theologian and philosopher, had Monica not persisted in prayer for her son?

Again, we cannot forget Susanna Wesley, mother to John and Charles Wesley, two of our church history’s most notable evangelists. The difficulties and busyness of Susanna’s life, meant that her only means of escape to the prayer closet was to throw her apron over her head, warning her large brood of children that whenever they observed her in this state, she was praying and therefore not to be disturbed. Given this wonderful example from a woman who bore 19 children, dare we say of ourselves, that we do not have enough time to pray?

Let me take this opportunity to issue a challenge. Speaking to those amongst us called to prayer and intercession (and that is everyone in the Body of Christ), let me suggest that if we are constantly making excuses about our prayerlessness, we need to be honest before God and with ourselves. Let us admit that it is not time we lack, but the inclination!

I now turn my attention to Eliza, mother of Charles Spurgeon. He confides:

I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words and prayers of my Christian mother. It was a custom while we were children to sit around the table and read the Scripture verse by verse while Mother explained it to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading with God.

His account evokes memories of my own childhood, when my recently deceased mother gathered her children for weekly Bible study and prayer. I can also testify to my mother’s diligence in interceding for the salvation of her offspring, which resulted in five of her seven children, turning their lives over to Christ. Alas, not all five continued their walk with the Lord but, over a period of 40 plus years, my mother’s intercession for her children never flagged—until she became incapacitated with dementia.

And how can we forget Catherine Booth, a spiritual general and trailblazer of her era? Along with her husband, William Booth, this spiritual heroine co-founded the Salvation Army. Catherine’s diligent prayers meant that every one of her eight children became active in the Salvation Army, two of which became generals.

All these women, whose voluntary enrolment in the army of God, whose selfless engagement on the frontline of a spiritual battlefield, produced men and women of valour and distinction, through their fervent prayers and intercessory warfare. Their prayers secured a rich legacy of theological writings, sermons and hymns. Without these ladies and other praying women throughout the history of the Church, our Christian heritage would not be the calibre that it is today.

Women of God and women of prayer throughout the ages, we salute you!

I turn now to the matter of ourselves in this time of fear, uncertainty and perplexity. I turn now to the need for modern-day saints, for committed men and women to take their place on the battlefield of prayer. If ever there was a time where intercessory prayer and spiritual warfare is needed, it is right now.

So let me ask, did you, or do you have a praying mother or grandmother? Why not take some time out today to thank God for them… to remember and celebrate their lives?

And, let me further ask—are you a mother, or a grandmother? If so, are you regularly praying for those children within your sphere of influence? Make no mistake, their spiritual future and welfare, and the spiritual freedom and heritage of generations to come, might well depend on you!

 

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Be Thankful! (Re-visited)

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Do you remember the hymn “We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the ground”? It’s been a long time since I sang this.  I recall that this song was a firm favourite at Harvest Festival services. The days have come and gone so fast, I didn’t even realise this annual church event (which provides a prime opportunity for thanksgiving) had already passed.

Towards the end of this month, US citizens will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. And another occasion, which provides us with good reason to be thankful, is Remembrance Day, or Veterans’ Day (depending on whether you live in the UK or the USA).  After all, if it were not for these war heroes, war veterans and serving officers of the armed forces, perhaps we who currently enjoy the privilege of “free speech” and live in a democratic society, would be suffering like other unfortunate nationals who live in countries oppressed by communist rule, or unscrupulous dictators.

I find I cannot help but continue to reflect on the subject of gratitude and appreciation to God. As we saw in my previous post (Be Thankful!), the writer in Psalm 107 bemoans the fact we humans tend to forget, or choose not to be thankful to God. And so may I ask you – on average how thankful to God are you most of the time – 80%? 75%? Less than 50%? Now another question – how often do you express your gratitude?

If I spent time, effort and money on a gift for someone and they simply took it, said their thanks within their hearts but did not verbally express this to me, how would I know they appreciated it?

Now I know God is omniscient and knows us even better than we know ourselves. I realise he can read our thoughts anyway (Psalm 139:1-4). But this does not excuse a habitual failure to express gratitude and appreciation to him. As we also saw in my last post, God expects us to remember his goodness towards us and express appreciation for his provision and protection.

So again, I ask (my apologies if I seem to be labouring the point), how thankful are you and how often do you verbally express that gratitude to God?

I don’t mean the careless, formulaic, superficial, said-out-of-duty or politeness type of thanks. And I am not referring to the auto-pilot response made to a praise and worship prompt in a church setting.

I’m talking about genuine, deep-hearted gratitude. The type that stems from a sense of wonder and questions what you have done to deserve such blessings and favour. The type that makes you marvel at God’s goodness towards you and feel doubly grateful that he is – despite your failings and unfaithfulness (Psalm 8:3-4). The type that brings tears to your eyes, as you remember God’s goodness at a time you least deserved it. The type of thanks that causes your voice to break as you recall what he has done for you, particularly those miraculous answers to prayers, which you had no idea how they could possibly be answered when you sent them winging towards his heavenly throne. I’m referring to the heartfelt expression that forms a lump in your throat, as you attempt to voice your appreciation to Father God for His mercies and unconditional love.

Do you need convincing about the benefits and impact of maintaining a thankful attitude – not only to yourself but also to the lives of others?

Let’s turn to Genesis 6:5-8; Genesis 8:15-22; Genesis 9:8-17.

When Noah leaves the ark after the flood, the first thing he did was to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It so pleased God that he made a covenant to never again destroy every living thing, even though he was aware that men’s hearts will continually incline towards evil. The rainbow was God’s physical reminder of the covenant promise he made to Noah in response to this man’s expression of gratitude.

Now when you consider God wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah, when you consider that the antediluvian world was utterly destroyed and when you consider the darkness and depravity of our own world today – if it had not been for Noah’s act of appreciation, how many more times would the wrath of God have been incurred? How many more times would both man and beast have been annihilated from the face of the earth? A sobering thought.

Does  it not make you thankful?