” The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray.” – S. D. Gordon ‘

“Prayer is where the action is.” – John Wesley

“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying.”
– Paul E.Billheimer

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.”
– William Cowper

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
– Charles Spurgeon

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”
– Andrew Murray

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
– Oswald Chambers

“There is no other activity in life so important as that of prayer. Every other activity depends upon prayer for its best efficiency.”
– M.E. Andross

“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” – John Bunyan

“I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.”
– James Hudson Taylor

“Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet.” – E. M. Bounds

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring it’s power down to earth.”
– Andrew Murray

● “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
Mother Theresa

● “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”

– C. S. Lewis
“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.”
– Rick Warren

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
– Martin Luther

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”
– Oswald Chambers

“He who kneels the most, stands the best.”
– D.L. Moody

“I’ll always say my prayers. And if God doesn’t answer them at once I shall know it’s because He’s planning something better for me.”
– Johanna Spyri / Heidi

Are You Suffering From The Jonah Syndrome?
We all know that Jonah was the prophet who tried to run from God’s call. But do you know the reason he tried to run?

Jonah was afraid that if he preached repentance to the people of Nineveh, who were Israel’s arch enemies, God would forgive them.

In other words, Jonah had a problem with the goodness of God.

He would have been much happier if God simply wiped out the people of Nineveh rather than had mercy on them, and he actually complained about this at the end of the book.

But as shocking as it is to see the wickedness of Jonah’s heart, many of us are just like him. I call it the Jonah Syndrome, and in times past, it has affected me too.

Let me explain exactly what I mean.

We see from 2 Kings 14:25 that Jonah had no problem prophesying that the Lord would expand the borders of Israel, but when it came to going to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to warn the people that destruction was coming, he looked for a way out, knowing that the Lord was a merciful God and that if the Ninevites repented, God would forgive them.

Did Jonah care about his personal reputation, not wanting to look bad if the prophesied judgement didn’t come to pass?

That could definitely be part of it. But what we do know is that he had a real problem with the mercy of God.

The Scriptures state that after the people repented in sackcloth and ashes, “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

And how did Jonah react?

This was the greatest response to any message preached in human history, the greatest altar call ever given (to put it in contemporary terms).

Did Jonah rejoice?

Not one bit. In fact, the Word says, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1).

How remarkable! Jonah was terribly upset that God had mercy on more than 120,000 people.

And he prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the LORD said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’” (Jonah 4:2-4)

But it gets worse. God caused a plant to shelter Jonah from the heat, but then it died quickly, and the prophet got even angrier.

The Lord said to him, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

You might say, “Well, Jonah’s attitude was miserable, but certainly none of us have attitudes that bad.

Are you sure?

Have you ever gone through a church split and found yourself upset because God still blessed the people on the “other side” (of course, the “wrong side” from your perspective)?

Have you ever been hurt by a ministry and grumbled when the Lord continued to bless them and even work miracles for them?

Have you ever been glad (rather than grieved) to see a colleague fall, as if this vindicated you? (If a brother or sister’s failure is your success, you do not have the heart of the Lord.)

These are all symptoms of the Jonah Syndrome, and the sooner we recognize them, the sooner we can repent and ask the Lord for a transformation of heart.

A number of years ago, I was involved in a very difficult split, one which brought pain and confusion to many people, as much as we all tried to avoid it. Yet God sustained both of the entities involved, to our mutual surprise.

Lord, how can you bless those people when they treated us so poorly?” we thought to ourselves.

God, surely you won’t sustain them when they are so wrong in this matter!” those on the other side thought to themselves.

Yet the Lord blessed and sustained us both while we struggled to find common ground in order to reconcile.

The key that unlocked the door for reconciliation was the recognition that God was for both entities involved in the split, since He cared for both equally, loved the sheep involved in both groups equally, and wanted to bless all of us equally. (It’s also important to realize that none of us are ever perfectly righteous, whichever “side” we are on.)

I remember well the night of reconciliation and the hugs and tears and laughs and renewed fellowship, and I remember well how we smiled at one another and said, “I bet you were surprised to see how the Lord came through for us and sustained us!”

Yes, both “sides” were surprised to see that the Lord was for both of us….

Let’s remember the Lord’s words in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where he rebukes those who had a problem with the owner’s goodness, asking, “Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

And let’s remember the words of Jacob (James), that “judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!” (James 2:13)

As we have received mercy, let us show mercy, never forgetting there are not different “camps” or “sides” in the Body of Christ–even if we use those terms descriptively–but just one family with one Father, and He desires to do good to all his children.

Can we share his heart?

April 17, 2015 at 9:19am
The Setting:

A storey-building on the street adjacent mine has been occupied for the last four or so years by a church, or as I found out last night, two different churches. Noise has always been an issue; but this week has topped them all. Since Monday, we have been besieged by music, shouting, tongues; you name it (I wonder if my love for the worship song ‘Wrap me in Your arms’ can ever be restored; having been serenaded an off-key rendition for at least 10 mins straight- all this in the midst of dumsor. Lawd!). I had, each day, sent our housekeeper over to ask them to turn it down; which they ‘graciously’ did; until last night, when they simply did not.

I. WAS. ALL. KINDS. OF. FURIOUS

and

I decided to go over there myself.

Bad combination.

So I get there and meet, among other people, the sound director; whose demeanour was a study in apathy, more or less telling me he doesn’t think his church is noisy (note: we were standing in the street and every syllable of the music was clearly distinguishable). You see, I was already ticked off, to put it mildly; but this last bit of straw severed my only surviving nerve. Somewhere in my mind, an edict was issued: “Release the Kraken!” Boy, did I give the brethren hell.

I yelled at them; threatened them with police, a court injunction; stormed up the stairs and threatened to address the congregation. In hindsight, it is almost comical how about 4 young men formed a human wall to talk, argue, reason this one small girl out of entering the church hall- to do what koraa? Really, what was I going to do? #Occupythechurch. Hmm. The only good thing I can report from this episode is that it never got physical.

Realisation Dawns:

So in the aftermath of my display, I am here dealing with conflicting emotions: elation, self-justification, mortification, guilt, shame. Even after my ‘visit’, they only turned the sound down a notch or two, but I still felt much, much better. I am now realising it was not about making them bring the noise down. I wanted an outlet for the frustration that had been building up within me disturbance after disturbance- and last night was my opportunity to make some noise of my own. But just when I start to feel smug, two thoughts dawn on me:

1. I am a hypocrite.
2. I am a Christian- and supposed to act like one.

The hypocrisy first. For almost all my undergrad years, I was a staunch member of a Christian fellowship group. A very, very charismatic fellowship group. Our meetings were usually held in the evenings (Sundays and sometimes, weeknights as well) in a building just behind the residential blocks of our hostel… and noise was second nature to us. I repeat, we used to meet at night just behind students’ rooms- students, whose primary occupation is studying- and we were not shy about using microphones and speakers; whether or not everyone else was interested in our activities. Oh, I almost forgot- dawn prayer meetings. Each weekday at 5am (or was it 4:30am?), we would meet in the car park; in front of said residential block to pray. Not a bad idea- except that we would sing and pray out loud. Can anyone say ‘irony’?

I deserve every off-key wail my neighbours produce in the name of worship.

Having been on the receiving end of the noise, believe you me, I would do it so differently if I could do it over. Now, I am sorry. Too late, I empathise with the hundreds of students who endured the noise all those years. But the question I keep asking myself is: did I not notice, or did I just not care back then? I don’t recall any student responding to our noise the way I did last night; but I do remember my roommates commenting once or twice about being woken up by the dawn prayers. I respect them so much more now, for their graciousness. In my immature mind, I must have thought we were doing everyone else a favour- drawing them into prayer and fellowship with us- never mind that God had given them free will to worship Him at other hours of the day. Never mind verses like Philippians 4:5 (NLT: “Let others see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon”).

To all sound directors of all churches who read this (if you know one, please share this note with him/her): as much as you want the surround sound effect in the church hall, please spare a thought for the people who live close to your church:
Some have hectic careers and need the peace and quiet at home;
Some have babies and children who can’t sleep in noisy environments;
Some get migraines that are triggered when you suddenly start yelling and singing in the early morning;
Some have exams to study for;
Some pay incredibly high rent for the places they live and deserve the quiet just for that reason
Please take my word for it – or knock on a few doors and ask – the last thing people ever feel like doing, when your music invades the privacy of their bedrooms, is joining you in worship. In fact, I distinctly remember moments last night when I looked into those young men’s faces and felt hatred because of their hardheartedness; God forgive me.

***

Now, the second part of the realisation: I’m a Christian- or more specifically, I am supposed to behave as Christ did (unrepentant me replays last night next to the scene of Jesus storming the temple; but I know it’s not the same thing :). What results did my anger yield? Really. Did they stop making so much noise? No (the service went on well past 10pm). The only realisation they must have drawn from their encounter is that they had one crazy neighbour- and even that didn’t daunt them (brings to mind the Whatsapp proverb: “No matter how hot your temper is, it cannot boil yam”). And no matter what they did wrong:

James 1:19-20 (NLT) ” … You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires”.

Is James dialling my number or what? I could give you the history of my lifelong battle with my temper- but that’s another note. All I have to say, especially to my fellow hot-tempered Christians is: BEWARE. Rage is not a convenient little weapon for getting your way. It is a wily, potent force that will knock you off your feet and turn situations upside down before you know what hit you. Today, I am very reserved about asking the question, “How could those South Africans do that to fellow Africans?” because then I see myself storming up those stairs all over again. What was I thinking? But then again, throwing a temper tantrum is probably like being drunk – you never admit to yourself you’re out of control- or that your actions are just plain wrong.

I could so have handled last night’s episode better, I could have had a win-win situation, probably made a friend or two or even obtained a phone number I could call whenever they were being noisy. All I got out of it is the grudging admission that I acted the fool- that and a healthy respect for The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).