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What is a Light-House of Prayer? It¬ís a cluster of two or more believers who are banded together to pray for, care about, and share the blessings of Christ with their neighbors. Let¬ís unpack that definition phrase by phrase.
It¬ís a cluster of two or more believers. The cluster may simply be the members of a single household who live under the same roof. Or it may be a network of two or more Christians who agree to pray regularly for those who live or work near them but who do not actually meet for prayer. A third type is a multiple-household cell made up of believers from several households, possibly even from different churches, who meet together regularly to pray. Each of these types can be effective in its own way.
The cluster of believers is banded together. They have decided to share a ministry of praying, caring, and sharing. They agree to focus their prayers on a specific neighborhood or workplace. Their commitment to each other helps to keep them faithful.
Believers in Light-Houses pray for, care about, and share Christ¬ís blessings with their neighbors. By means of prayer God¬ís power and grace are released into neighbors¬í lives. Through acts of kindness neighbors are loved and lifted. Through sharing the gospel the lives of neighbors are transformed.
The prayer focus in Light-Houses is on neighbors, those who live or work nearby. The nearness of neighbors makes this a natural way to pray.
Jesus, in His parable of the friend who came at midnight, gives us a word picture of how intercession works (Luke 11:5-8). In His story there are three friends: the friend who comes at midnight is a friend-in-need. The friend to whom the concerned host goes to receive help is a friend-with-bread, and the host is the friend-in-the-middle.
The friend-in-the-middle is a type of intercessor. Concerned to place something before his friend-in-need, he goes to his friend-with-bread to ask for three loaves. The friend-with-bread initially declines but then relents and gives him the bread because of his persistence in asking. The friend-in-the-middle, in turn, brings the bread back to his friend-in-need.
Jesus is teaching us here that our neighbors are like the man who came at midnight. They have needs--needs that we cannot meet with our own resources. God, like the friend-with-bread, has infinite resources to meet the needs of those around us. We, like the friend-in-the-middle, go to God and ask him to supply the needs of our neighbors. And God, in response to our asking, gives what is needed.
I don¬ít know of any form of ministry that is simpler than this. It doesn¬ít require a lot of planning. It doesn¬ít demand new structures or lots of material. It doesn¬ít even cost anything. It just takes a believer who is willing to take a few minutes a day to talk to the Father in heaven about his or her neighbor and who is willing to reach out to share Christ¬ís blessings.
Not only is this ministry simple enough for anyone to do; it is also culturally correct for today. People, even unbelieving people, welcome prayer. Twenty-five years ago if you offered to pray for someone, they would likely have thought you were just copping out and failing to do something concrete. Not so today. Most people are receptive to the offer of a Christian to pray for them and willing even to give prayer requests. A church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that intentionally prayed for and visited the people in a 12-block area for two years had only one household reject their offer to pray.
The door is wide open. God has set the stage for effective prayer evangelism ministry. W. Stanley Mooneyham admonished, "Let us stop complaining that we don¬ít have enough people, enough money, enough tools. That is simply not true. There is no shortage of anything we need--except vision, prayer, and will. Prayer is the one resource immediately available to each of us."
Believers who band together to pray for others in Light-Houses find that prayer powerfully changes their own lives and the lives of the people for whom they pray.
Light-Houses Make A Lot of Sense
There are seven sound reasons why individuals and churches should think seriously about Light-Houses of Prayer.
First, God gives us our neighbors. You and I could have been born in any place, at any time in history, with any set of neighbors. But we are born here and now with the very set of neighbors God has chosen for us. The apostle Paul, speaking to the people of Athens, declared that God "determined the times set for [the nations] and the exact places where they should live" (Acts 17:26). Surely the God who established "the exact places" for the nations has also established the exact place for each person within each nation.
That includes you and me--and our neighbors. And since the church is made up of people, our neighbors are really our church¬ís neighbors. Think for a moment how many people live near the members of your church. Consider what God intended in giving your congregation so many neighbors.
Second, our neighbors matter to God. Most Americans don¬ít know the names of their three closest neighbors, but God does. Most of us are not very aware of our neighbors or of their needs, but God is. God bears our neighbors and their needs on his heart, because they matter to him.
Only one time in Jesus¬í life, according to the biblical record, did our Lord tell three parables one after the other on the same theme--the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15). Their common theme is that lost people matter to God. Jesus must have wanted to make sure we would get the message. If lost people matter so much to God, shouldn¬ít they matter to us too?
Third, neighbors welcome prayer. Twenty-five years ago people were much more skeptical of the value of prayer, and they preferred to have Christians offer something more concrete and practical. But today it is rare for a person to turn down the offer of prayer. For example, a couple was placed in a 200-unit apartment complex in Modesto, California, expressly to pray for the tenants there. After laying a foundation of prayer, the couple personally contacted the people living in the other 199 units and offered to pray for them. In all but one of those units, the neighbors responded favorably, and most of them made prayer requests on the spot. That¬ís typical of the way people throughout North America are responding as Christians offer to pray for them.
God has opened wide a door of opportunity for us today. When people open themselves up for prayer, they are opening themselves up to God who, again and again, takes the opportunity to demonstrate His power and love in response to prayer. These people also open themselves up to a relationship with the persons who have offered to pray for them. It¬ís very important that we grasp this opportunity. Now is the time! God is working in people¬ís hearts in miraculous ways today.
Fourth, prayer releases God¬ís grace and power in the lives of our neighbors. "Prayer," said C. Samuel Storms, "is powerful because God is powerful, and prayer is the means through which that divine power is released and channeled into our lives" (Reaching God¬ís Ear, p. 223). Prayer is also the means by which God¬ís power is channeled into the lives of our neighbors.
Think of God as having an infinite reservoir of blessings. A pipeline connects every home in your neighborhood with that reservoir. There¬ís a valve on that pipeline to your neighbors, and that valve is opened only by prayer. Each time you pray for a neighbor, you open the valve and allow the blessings of God¬ís grace to flow. Before long, your neighborhood can be like a well-watered garden.
Prayer is the instrument by which God has chosen to have His power directed in the universe. Olan Hallesby offers something of a mental picture of how this works: "This power is so rich and so mobile that all we have to do when we pray is to point to the persons or things to which we desire to have this prayer applied, and He, the Lord of this power, will direct the necessary power to the desired place" (Prayer, p. 63). Light-House "prayers direct God¬ís power to those who live or work near them.
Prayer can move mountains. It can change human hearts, families, neighborhoods, cities, and nations. It¬ís the ultimate source of power, because it¬ís the power of Almighty God. Just imagine the impact of God¬ís power as your church members "point to" their neighbors and God directs "the necessary power" to their neighborhoods.
One church in a small New York town decided to canvass its community by means of prayer. There were no brochures, newsletters, or tracts. No one pressed a doorbell. All that the church members did was pray that God would touch the lives of the people who lived on each of the town¬ís forty streets.
What happened? People started visiting the church "out of the blue." One Sunday four families showed up just a few days after the people on their street had been prayed for. Prayer reached into neighbors¬í hearts and homes.
Fifth, "prayers" tend to become "carers," and "carers" tend to become "sharers." This progression from praying to caring to sharing has been the experience of almost every Light-House member I know, and it has been my own experience too. Before I started praying for neighbors, I was barely conscious of them and their needs. Once I started praying for them, I quickly moved from being interested in them, to being concerned about them, to wanting to get to know them, to looking for opportunities to show that I cared. Beyond that I now feel a deep concern for their spiritual well-being and am praying and watching for opportunities to share the gospel with them.
What¬ís even more remarkable is that those who begin to pray for neighbors as part of a Light-House soon develop a "prayer-care-share lifestyle." They find themselves watching for opportunities to pray for, care about, and share the blessings of Christ with all kinds of people they meet. Imagine a whole church full of prayer-care-share Christians!
Sixth, God uses praying, caring, sharing Christians to reclaim His world. When Satan promised Jesus that he would give Him "all the kingdoms of the world" if He only bowed down to him, Jesus didn¬ít dispute Satan¬ís claim to those kingdoms (Luke 4:5-8). Instead, he rejected Satan¬ís offer and went on to reclaim this world for the kingdom of God, which in time would embrace all the kingdoms of the world. Through His finished work of salvation, Jesus gained authority over every square inch on earth (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:18-23).
According to His own plan God is reclaiming His world and wresting it from Satan¬ís hand by means of His church in this world (Matthew 16:18-19); Ephesians 3:10-21). Praying, caring, and sharing all fit into God¬ís plan for reclaiming what the devil now claims. He who "wants all [people] to be saved" calls for prayer to make it happen (1 Timothy 2:1-4). He who, on earth, welcomed sinners and ate with them (Luke 15:2), challenges us, in similar ways, to "invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" and anyone who is lost into our lives (Luke 14:13).
In addition, Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can "be [His] witnesses...to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Praying, caring, sharing Christians are impacting their world in all of these ways. Wherever God has placed them, each believer in Christ is involved in God¬ís plan to reclaim His world.
Seventh, God urges believers to make "requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving...for everyone" (1 Timothy 2:1). "Everyone" includes all our neighbors. From the following verses it¬ís plain to see why God urges us to pray for others: God wants "all [people] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2:4), and God wants society to be transformed so that "we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (2:2). When we are faithful in prayer for the people around us, the God-intended result is salvation of the lost, spiritual growth for the found, and transformation of His world. As Paul puts it, "This is good, and pleases God our Savior" (2:3).
Do you believe these seven reasons are valid? Do they compel you to give serious thought to starting your own Light-House and leading your church into this ministry? For the sake of God and your neighbors, I hope so!