Thursday, July 23, 2020

1888 Message Study : Prayer Power; Interceding For Others




"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16, KJV).


This text provides a template for prayer for healing. Many have claimed this promise for themselves and others. Sickness brings a sense of urgency to our prayers. When facing an uncertain prognosis, we long for healing and for the comfort of knowing that others are praying for us.


But what if we are sick and we don't know it? What if the doctor says we are sick but we feel fine?




In His counsel to Laodicea, the Great Physician renders a startling diagnosis to His last day church: "You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). Really? Are you sure? We feel fine, rich, self-satisfied. We don't sense our need.


But to Jesus, our garment of sleepy complacency is nauseating (Revelation 3:16).


A physician's work isn't always pleasant. They have to deal with the worst of the worst: horrific burns, maggot filled wounds, rotting flesh and more. But there is no sickness, either spiritual or physical, for which Christ has not made provision. To meet the unperceived need of our souls He prescribes gold tried in the fire, white raiment to cover our nakedness, and eye salve to heal our blindness. (Revelation 3:18) He also permits trials to refine and purify.




In the years leading up to the signal 1888 Minneapolis conference, our church had become parched and dry, like the hills of Gilboa in the days of Elijah.  {ST February 8, 1892, Art. B, par. 4}


We were spiritually dehydrated, in need of the water of life.


To meet this spiritual-medical emergency, Christ Himself sent a "natural remedy" from the heavenly pharmacy--gentle showers of the latter rain in the form of the message of Jesus Christ, our righteousness.


Those were extraordinary times in the late 1880's and early 1890's, when the message of Christ's righteousness began to shine with brilliance. Hearts were softened. People everywhere were experiencing a spiritual awakening and reconversion. Camp meetings thronged with hearers eager to drink the living water.  One of the most thrilling series of meetings held post-1888 occurred at the 1893 General Conference session where Brother A. T. Jones delivered a powerful series of messages on religious liberty and the righteousness of Christ. Even now, as you read the transcripts from these sermons, you can feel the vibrancy pulsing through the congregation. Here is a sample:


"Well, the latter rain is the loud cry of the third angel's message; it is the beginning of that message of glory that lightens the earth. But the latter rain is the teaching of righteousness. When did that message of the righteousness of God, as such, come to us as a people? [Congregation: 'Four years ago.'] Where? [Congregation: 'At Minneapolis.'] Yes. This point was brought up the other night and can be read again in Bulletin No. 7, p. 183. I do not know that we can state it any more clearly than we did that night. {GCB/GCDB 1893, p. 243.9}


"Now that message of the righteousness of Christ is the loud cry. It is the latter rain. We have been praying for the latter rain here at this Conference already, haven't we? Have you? [Congregation: "Yes, sir."] What were you looking for when your prayer was answered? Are you ready now to receive the latter rain? We have been praying here for the latter rain. Now there is the connection. The testimonies tell us what it is and Joel tells us what it is. I simply ask now, are you ready to receive the latter rain? That is, are you ready to receive God's message of righteousness, according to righteousness? Let us look at that a little further. Joel says, according to the margin, that it is a teacher of righteousness, that which brings the teaching of righteousness according to righteousness. Whose idea of righteousness? [Congregation: 'God's'] No, mine. [Congregation: 'No.'] Yes, mine will do! [Congregation: 'No.'] Why? If I receive the righteousness of Christ according to my idea, is not that enough? Is not that receiving the latter rain? Is not that receiving the righteousness of Christ? [Congregation: 'No, sir. It is your own righteousness.'] But that is what is the matter with a good many people who have heard this message of the righteousness of Christ. They have received the message of the righteousness of Christ according to their own idea of what His righteousness is, and they have not the righteousness of Christ at all. {GCB/GCDB 1893, p. 243.10}




Scenes of our history from more than a century past display camp meetings, school revivals, and weeks of prayer where people responded to this most precious message of Christ our righteousness with heartfelt appreciation. The gentle latter rain showers were doing their work in causing grass to spring up on the dry hills of Gilboa.


This outpouring of God's Spirit on His people was affirmed by the Spirit of Prophecy. "The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth" (RH, Nov. 22, 1892).


What thrilling times those must have been, but sadly, the curtain closes on those memorable events.




Jesus did not come. The message sent to prepare a people for translation was sidelined. Sister White explains why:


"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth [that the law in Galatians referred especially to the moral law], lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E.J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world.  {1SM 234.6}


Consequently, she said, "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ's sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action." — Letter 184, 1901. {Ev 696.3}


And here we are, 120 plus years later.




This brings us back to our lesson for this week on intercessory prayer. To intercede is to intervene on behalf of another. Our memory text in James 5:16 gives us a formula to follow:


1) Confess your faults one to another. God forgive us! We have sinned by rejecting the latter rain message God sent to prepare us for translation more than a century ago. The angels hold back the four winds because God's servants are not sealed. (Revelation 7:3).


Daniel interceded (the act of intervening on behalf of another) with God for the Jewish people in captivity. Like Christ, he identified with their sins as his own. He didn't blame or point an accusing finger. "We have sinned against you," (verse 8) he prayed. His prayer is recorded in Daniel nine.


The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering Canaan. "So, we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19). Similarly, we have failed to enter into the heavenly Canaan. We could have been home long before this.


2) Pray for one another, that you may be healed. In vision, Ellen White saw a great reformatory movement among God's people. "A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great day of Pentecost. Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. On every side doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence. Great blessings were received by the true and humble people of God. I heard voices of thanksgiving and praise, and there seemed to be a reformation such as we witnessed in 1844." {CH 580.1}


3) A promise: the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. "It is a part of God's plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask." {GC 525.2}


It's interesting to note that prayer for the salvation of others characterizes the final work of God on earth. This love for souls is motivated by Christ's agape love. But when the flame of love for Christ is rekindled in our hearts, our prayers, mingled with the fragrant prayers of the one Righteous Man, will avail much and the sick (spiritually and physically) will be healed.




We have much to learn about our true condition, the righteousness of Christ, and the role of intercessory prayer for the salvation of others. I can at least say this is painfully true for myself. I marvel at God's patience with us. Even in these last gasps of earth's history when we should be giving the trumpet a certain sound, there is plenty to turn our eyes away from Jesus. How frequently we fail to reflect Him. May God forgive us!


A couple of months ago I began meeting with a like-minded friend once each week to pray. Recently, another has joined our prayer circle. Two or three are praying in Jesus' name, and He has promised to be in our midst. Consequently, we are seeing remarkable and daily answers to prayer. Hearts are softening to the gospel and He is opening doors for its proclamation. For this we praise God. Matthew 24:14.


~Patti Guthrie