“Praying for People of Every Tribe, Tongue and Nation”, from Precept Austin (Redemption, Pray without Ceasing)

Your Prayers are Stored Safely in a Bowl

Revelation 5:8+ describes “golden bowls full of INCENSE, which are the PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS” “on the golden altar which is before the Throne.” (Rev 8:3+) Now observe carefully that in the Rev 5:9+ John describes “men from EVERY TRIBE and TONGUE and PEOPLE and NATION.” From this context we can discern a relationship between SUPPLICATION in Rev 5:8+ and SAVED SOULS in Rev 5:9. Clearly, our prayers for the salvation of the souls of others are safely “stored in a bowl” in Heaven! Our prayers like incense have ascended to the very Throne Room of Heaven! This indeed is amazing grace!

Herbert Lockyer wrote that

“The true odors (fragrant incense in bowls in heaven) are the heart-prayers of God’s children…Every prayer which broke out in a sob from an agonizing heart, every sigh of the solitary and struggling Christian, every groan of those groping Godward, mingles here with the songs of the happy and triumphant.” 

In the golden bowls (Rev 5:8+) are the fragrant prayers of saints awaiting answers.

Paul wrote

“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even YOU, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For YOU are our glory and joy.” (1 Thes 2:19-20+

Of whom is Paul speaking? The Thessalonian believers! In God’s glorious plan of redemption He allowed Paul (and allows us) to play a role in their salvation. Did you note the word Paul repeated? Joy which reminds me of Jesus’ words “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance….In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:710+) Could it be that we will have a greater capacity for celestial joy because of the souls that we have prayed for? Just wondering. And when we share the Gospel and pray in the Spirit for others to be born again by the glorious Gospel, we too are storing up for ourselves “treasures (note this is plural) in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:20-21+) Where is your heart?

J Vernon McGee sums up 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 by asking “is anyone going to be in heaven who will come up to you and thank you for having a part in giving out the Word of God? Have you given your support to missions? If you have, someone you have never known, someone from the other side of the earth, may come up to you and thank you for your support of missions. He will thank you for being interested in getting out the Word of God because the Word reached him and enabled him to be saved. That, my friend, is going to be part of the reward that we will get in heaven. We need to recognize that. It is a wonderful hope to look forward to the time when Christ Jesus takes the church out of this world. It is even more joyous to know that someone who trusted Christ because of your witness will go along with you to meet the Lord! (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

In Luke 16:1-9+ there is a related teaching by Jesus in a parable which at first read seems confusing, but when one focuses on His main point in Lk 16:9+ the purpose of the parable becomes easier to comprehend.

“And I say to you, make (JUST DO IT! – poieo – aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that (purpose clause – What purpose?) when (NB: not “if” but “when!”) it fails (ekleipo), they will (prophetic promise from Jesus) receive (dechomai – “put the welcome mat out for”) you into the eternal dwellings.  (Lk 16:9+)

In the NLT paraphrase we read “I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.” The NET reads “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.” The NAS has the “mammon of unrighteousness” which is somewhat confusing and might lead you to believe money is inherently evil, which is clearly not the case, for money is “neutral.” Jesus’ point is that unfortunately money is often used for unrighteous purposes. Believers have the opportunity to use it now in time to impact their rewards in eternity. And by way of application our resources today include our time, our treasure and our talents. It takes your precious time to pray for the precious hidden people groups, but it is an investment that will yield a return that is “out of this world!” May God grant you the desire and the power (Php 2:13NLT+) to obey the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to “make friends for eternity,” “and God will (prophetic promise) open wide (epichoregeo) the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 1:11NLT+).

A GLOBAL INVESTMENT – Pastor Michael Andrus commenting on Jesus’ Parable on the Unrighteous Steward says “Now this investing can be done either indirectly or directly.  Whenever you give money to a Bible-believing local church where the Gospel is preached, you are indirectly using your money to make eternal friends, even if you never get to know them personally.  Whenever you give to a parachurch organization that has as one of its basic goals the winning of lost people to Christ, you are indirectly using your money to make eternal friends.  Whenever you give to an effective missionary, whether at home or abroad, you are using your money to make friends for God. I am not a wealthy man by most standards, but I do have a global investment portfolio.  When I get to heaven, I expect to be greeted by some French believers.  I have never met them, but my wife and I invested monthly for twelve years in the ministry of Jim and Diane Brower, our best friends in college, while they were missionaries in the northern suburbs of Paris.  I also have investments in southern Mexico, in Venezuela, and in Tatarstan, where other missionaries we have supported work in God’s vineyard.  I have investments in Vermont and Huntington, Utah and Portland and Fort Myers, Fl where men I have mentored are carrying on effective ministries. Some of my investments are in a mutual fund, called the First Free Missions budget.  It allows me to have a small investment everywhere our church has missionaries and outreach.  Another mutual fund is Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  As I give to that great seminary, which I do every year, I am investing in every local church, every Bible School, and every mission where it’s graduates eventually end up serving! “(Sermon on Luke 16:1-9 Money–Godly Ways of Giving It:  A Bad Man’s Good Example)

These truths should encourage us to pray without ceasing (1 Th 5:17+) for every soul in our sphere of influence. God’s answer may be delayed as it was in my case on two occasions – On the first, my father prayed for my salvation daily for 20 years and one day at age 39 I called him and told him God had saved me and it was then that he told me that God had answered his prayers which he had prayed for 20 years! In the second instance, I prayed for my son for 20 years and about 4 years ago God answered and saved his soul and granted him sobriety for the first time in his life. If you are praying for loved ones, may my two “twenty year experiences” encourage you to “keep on keeping on!”

You can count on it — God stores our prayers in a bowl in Heaven. Beloved may God’s Spirit enable you to continue steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord in praying for souls of lost loved ones and hidden people groups (see below), knowing that your toil is not in vain in (locative of sphere) the Lord. (1 Cor 15:58+).

“Prayers of faith are filed in Heaven;
and, though not presently answered, are not forgotten.”

— Matthew Henry (Amen and Amen!)

HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUPS (“Unreached People Groups”) are those groups unreached by the Gospel and lack enough followers of Christ and resources to evangelize their own people. In 1980 there 16000 such groups, but God has answered the cries of His children for the lost souls in these groups and today (2022) that number has been reduced to about 7000. What is shocking is that there are still a number of unreached groups, especially in India, that have literally millions of souls and not a single believer has been reported in those groups! Jesus’ words still ring loud and clear 2000 years later – “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (John 4:35+) Based on Rev 5:8-9, followers of Jesus can intercede TODAY for souls to be harvested from among the remaining unreached Hidden People groups and know their prayers will be effective in bringing souls to eternal salvation for in Rev 5:9 John describes souls from EVERY tribe, tongue, people and nation before the Throne of God. The secret of reaching men is to know the secret of reaching God. And a significant component of that “secret” is being faithful to speak to God about the redemption of lost souls.

Would you consider storing up for yourself treasure in heaven daily for the rest of your life (Mt 6:20+)? Can I encourage you to take a step of faith and believe that God will hear your prayers for HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUPS, will store those prayers in a bowl in Heaven and that one day in eternity you will meet those for whom you have been praying day after day, year after year?

While the battle is the Lord’s (1Sa 17:47+), we as His soldiers (2Ti 2:3-4+) are still called to march forth on our knees. And in light of that truth let us apply the famous words of Winston Churchill to our battle for souls against our inveterate, invisible enemy…

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (from his speech given in October, 1941)

Indeed “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12+)

Our adversary does not care how much we read about prayer for the lost
if only he can hinder us from praying for them!

Here is an easy way to pray for the HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUPS daily – bookmark Joshua Project and/or download the APP from Joshua Project and select “daily notifications” and you will receive a daily text reminder with the name of the hidden people group for that day.

Several years ago I was pleasantly surprised to read Pastor John Piper’s words related to prayer for hidden people groups…

“To help (us) stay encouraged to pray for huge Christ-exalting movements of God….each day, as part of our family devotions, Noël and Talitha and I read the daily reading from the Global Prayer Digest….Would you join me in praying sweeping, global prayers that God would glorify Jesus by opening the eyes of millions of (hidden peoples) to see and savor the truth and beauty of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for the justification and jubilation of millions of “other sheep” that are not yet in the fold?” (Pray Global Prayers)

Pastor Steven Cole also made a reference to his personal use of the Global Prayer Digest (now merged with Joshua Project)….

To be obedient to Christ’s command, we need to send missionaries to these many unreached groups around the world. Even if we saw thousands come to Christ in Flagstaff, unless we cross linguistic and cultural barriers with the gospel, there will still be two billion unreached people who have no opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ. So we must have our focus on the lost people groups of the world. Pray for them to be reached. For years, our family has used the “Global Prayer Digest” a monthly prayer guide for the unreached peoples of the world. Support missionaries committed to reaching these unreached groups. Instill a vision for missions in your children. Be open to God’s leading you to go. We should begin in our Jerusalem, but our eyes should be on the whole world. (Sermon on Luke 24:44-49)

Now even if you forget to read the full entry for the HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUP of the day, the APP will send you a text so you never have to miss a day praying for lost souls who have never heard the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:12+) and the good news of His saving Gospel (Ro 1:16+).

Beloved, this is your “once in a lifetime opportunity!” Praying for souls is something we can only do now on earth and is an exciting, rewarding way to redeem our short time on earth for our eternity in heaven! Indeed, if you (energized by the Spirit) pray now, your time in Heaven will be marvelously magnified by the presence of those you took time to pray for on earth! Don’t procrastinate! Don’t delay! Bookmark the two sites and download their APPS today (see links below).

David Brainerd, the missionary to the American Indians, understood the need to redeem the time by praying for hidden peoples writing in his diary “This morning about nine I withdrew to the woods for prayer. I was in such anguish that when I arose from my knees I felt extremely weak and overcome….I cared not how or where I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for Christ.” Brainerd redeemed the time until God took him home at age 29, where he will experience joy forever over the treasures of native American souls in heaven because of his prayers!

If Paul were speaking to us today he might say something like this “So then, while we have opportunity (kairos), let us do good to ALL PEOPLE (aka “hidden people”), and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal 6:10+) Today is your “opportunity of a lifetime!” May our prayer be “Lord, burn eternity into my eyeballs!” Amen!

And may our Father in Heaven grant you amazing grace by His Spirit to be energized and motivated to intercede for peoples you have never seen but will one day see in the presence of the Lamb that was slain and Who Alone is Worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev 5:12+). Amen.

Faith asks no signal from the skies,
To show that prayers accepted rise,
Our Priest is in His holy place,
And answers from the Throne of Grace.

Daniel wrote that

“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3+)

David wrote

“May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” In Jesus’ Name. Amen (Psalm 141:2)

To paraphrase Paul – Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time…that God will open up a door for the Word, so that missionaries may speak forth the mystery of Christ” so that the Spirit of Christ might rescue those who are perishing. (cf Col 4:2-3+)

Rescue the Perishing by Fanny Crosby

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

Source: Precept Austin.org

“The Heart of Jesus”, by Charles H. Spurgeon (Gentle and Lowly, Forgivenss, Holiness)

Gentle and Lowly

“I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29

“Now it is very remarkable that the only passage in the whole New Testament in which the heart of Jesus is distinctly mentioned is the one before us. . . .

The words employed here include, first, a readiness on the part of Christ to pardon all past offenses. ‘Come to me,’ he says, ‘for however much you may have offended in the past, I am meek and easily to be entreated. I am ready to forgive, to forget and cast behind my back all your provocations. I do not say this to cajole you; my very heart says it, for my heart is full of tenderness and compassion for you.’

The words also include a willingness to endure yet further offenses. ‘Not only do I forget the past but I am ready to bear with you still, though you should still offend me. I will endure it all. Come to me, although you cannot hope that your future character will be perfect. I will help you to struggle into holiness and be patient with your failures. As frequently as you shall grieve me, so frequently will I forgive you. I am meek in heart, ready to forgive the past and willing to bear with you in the present and in the future.’

Beloved brethren, what a heart Jesus has to receive sinners in this divine manner!”

C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament, I:177-179.

Source: The Gospel Coalition, January 2, 2016

“The Glory of God”, J.I. Packer expounds on Jonathan Edwards treatise (The End for which God Created the World)

The Glory of God

J.I.Packer expounds on Jonathan Edwards’ treatise on The Glory of God

Edwards inherited a dispute among the learned: Was God’s goal in creation his own glory, as Reformed theology maintained, or man’s happiness, as Arminians and Deists thought? In his Dissertation on the End for Which God Created the World, posthumously published, Edwards resolved this question with startling brilliance. As his son, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., put it:

It was said that, as God is a benevolent being . . . he could not but form creatures for the purpose of making them happy. Many passages of Scripture were quoted in support of this opinion. On the other hand, numerous and very explicit declarations of Scripture were produced to prove that God made all things for his own glory. Mr. Edwards was the first, who clearly showed, that both these were the ultimate end of the creation . . . and that they are really one and the same thing. (Sereno E. Dwight, “Memoirs,” in Works, 1:cxcii)

Edwards clinched his case on this by surveying the biblical use of the word “glory” (Hebrew, kabod; Greek, LXX and NT, doxa). Having stated correctly that etymologically kabod implies “weight, greatness, abundance” and in use often conveys the thought of “God in fullness,” Edwards traces the term thus:

Sometimes it is used to signify what is internal, inherent, or in the possession of a person [i.e., glory that belongs to someone]: and sometimes for emanation, exhibition, or communication of this internal glory [i.e., glory that appears to someone]: and sometimes for the knowledge, or sense of these [communications], in those to whom the exhibition or communication is made [i.e., glory that is seen, or discerned, by someone]; or an expression of this knowledge, sense, or effect [i.e., glory that is given to someone, by praise and thanks in joy and love]. (Edwards, “The End for Which God Created the World,” in Works, 1:116)

And the conclusion he offers — on the basis of both biblical texts that speak of glory and of glorifying in these four distinct though connected ways and also analytical argument surrounding this exegesis — is that God’s internal and intrinsic glory consists of his knowledge (omniscience with wisdom) plus his holiness (spontaneous virtuous love, linked with hatred of sin) plus his joy (supreme endless happiness);

and that his glory (wise, holy, happy love) flows out from him, like water from a fountain, in loving spontaneity (grace), first in creation and then in redemption, both of which are so set forth to us so as to prompt praise; and that in our responsive, Spirit-led glorifying of God, God glorifies and satisfies himself, achieving that which was his purpose from the start.

The chief end of man, as the famous first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism memorably puts it, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God so made us that in praising, thanking, loving, and serving him, we find our own supreme happiness and enjoyment of God in a way that otherwise we would not and could not do. We reach our highest enjoyment of God in and by glorifying him, and we glorify him supremely in and by enjoying him. In fact, we enjoy him most when we glorify him most, and vice versa. And God’s single-yet-complex end, now in redemption as it was in creation, is his own happiness and joy in and through ours.

His great goal here and now is to glorify himself through glorifying, and being glorified by, rational human beings who out of their fallenness come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus the emanation (outflow) of divine glory in the form of creative and redemptive action results in a remanation (returning flow) of glory to God in the form of celebratory devotion. And so God’s goal for himself (Father, Son, and Spirit, the “they” who are “he” within the Triune unity), the goal that includes his goal for all Christian humankind, is achieved by means of a singly unitary process, which itself is ongoing and unending.

“We reach our highest enjoyment of God in and by glorifying him, and we glorify him supremely in and by enjoying him.”

The unimaginable endlessness of this reciprocal sequencing that is in truth the end for which God created the world can only be indicated formulaically and analogically (to use a couple of non-Edwardsean terms). This is done for us in a normative way in Revelation 21, and C.S. Lewis most tellingly did it at the close of his final Narnia story, The Last Battle, where the children have been brought through a rail crash into the real Narnia that is to be their home forever. The key sentences are these:

Then Aslan [the Christ-like lion] turned to them and said:

“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be . . . all of you are (as you used to call it in the Shadowlands) dead. The term is over; the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

. . . We can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (Lewis, The Last Battle[Penguin, 1964], 165)

This picks up exactly, in mythical-parabolic terms, the point that Edwards, in his more prosaic way, was concerned to make. Amy Plantinga Pauw capsules it as follows:

Because “heaven is a progressive state,” the heavenly joy of the saints, and even of the triune God, will forever continue to increase. . . . Saints can look forward to an unending expansion of their knowledge and love of God, as their capacities are stretched by what they receive . . . there is no intrinsic limit to their joy in heaven. . . .

As the saints continue to increase in knowledge and love of God, God receives more and more glory. This heavenly reciprocity will never cease, because the glory God deserves is infinite, and the capacity of the saints to perceive God’s glory and praise him for it is ever increasing. (Pauw, “The Supreme Harmony of All”: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards[Eerdmans, 2002], 180-181)

Here, finally, is how Edwards himself, in his rather more severe and abstract manner, sums the matter up. (“The creature” in what follows is the believer.)

And though the emanation of God’s fulness, intended in the creation, is to the creature as its object; and though the creature is the subject of the fulness communicated, which is the creature’s good; yet it does not necessarily follow that, even in doing so, God did not make himself his end. It comes to the same thing.

God’s respect to the creature’s good, and his respect to himself, is not a divided respect; but both are united in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself. . . .

The more happiness the greater union. . . . And as the happiness will be increasing to eternity, the union will become more and more strict [i.e., closely bound] and perfect; nearer and more like to that between God the Father and the Son; who are so united, that their interest is perfectly one. . . .

Let the most perfect union with God be represented by something at an infinite height above us; and the eternally increasing union of the saints with God, by something that is ascending constantly towards that infinite height . . . and that is to continue thus to move to all eternity. (Edwards, “The End for Which God Created the World,” 120)

The two-way street of this unceasing process, says Edwards, embodies and expresses the true end for which God created the world: namely, the endless advancement of his glory, in union with us, through the endless advancement of ours, in union with him.

Those who have in any measure tasted the refreshment and joy of heart that flow from faith in, friendship with, and worship of the holy Three (or shall I say the holy One, or One-in-Three) will latch on to Edwards’s thinking here as a complete answer to any who fancy that the Christian heaven would be static and dull, and will themselves look forward to the awaiting glory with ever-growing eagerness.

Resource: J.I. Packer

from the book:

“A God-Entranced Vision of All Things”

The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper and Justin Tayor