A Life of Prayer
by Hennie Swart
Prayer is the universal language. Everyone admits to praying sometimes, even those who don’t intend to or don’t even believe in God. It is near impossible for dependent human beings who cannot control everything to consistently “suppress the truth” about God, which “God has shown… to them” (Rom 1.18-19). Even devoted atheists sometimes (in a moment of weakness) allow a “God help us,” or a “thank God” to slip out. But those of us who are Christians usually have the opposite problem – we have the same human instinct to pray, but in our weakness, we often pray less than we’d like to. I’ve never had a Christian tell me, “I pray too much, this year I’d like to pray less.”
So what is prayer?
I like this definition by Timothy Keller from his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God: “Prayer is the continuation of a conversation started by God.”
This means, firstly, that prayer is a conversation between God and us. It’s dialogue, not just monologue. Secondly, it means prayer is never us taking the initiative, but always us responding to God’s initiative, the conversation started by God, whether in the so-called General Revelation of creation or the Special Revelation of the Bible. So obviously the better we hear and understand what God has said through life and Scripture, the better we can respond, so that good prayer is both listening and speaking. This also means we should not just try to develop a so-called “prayer life,” but rather a life of prayer, in which we constantly respond to everything that happens to us with prayer, until we learn to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).
In his book on prayer, Keller mentions four things he did in order to learn how to pray:
1. He went through the Psalms, summarized each one, and prayed through them. How wonderfully simple and yet profoundly impactful. As St Athanasius wrote: “Most of the Scriptures speak to us, but the Psalms [also] speak for us.” Eugene Peterson notes in Eat the Book: “Using the Psalms as a school of prayer… we get a feel for what is appropriate to say. As we do this, the first thing we realize is that in prayer, anything goes. Virtually everything human is appropriate as material for prayer: reflections and observations, fear and anger, guilt and sin, questions and doubts, needs and desires, praise and gratitude, suffering and death. Nothing human is excluded. The Psalms are an extended rejection [of the belief] that prayer is “being nice” before God. No—prayer is an offering of ourselves, just as we are.
2. He inserted a time of meditation as a transition between his Bible reading and praying. This is great advice because it links our Bible-reading and prayer, God’s speaking to us and our speaking to Him. It also allows us to effectively do what Bible teacher PT Forsyth suggests: “What we receive from God in the Bible’s message we return to Him with interest in prayer.”
3. Third, he did all he could to pray morning and evening, not just in the morning. The more regularly and consistently we do something, the more quickly it becomes an established habit in our lives.
4. Fourth, he began praying with greater expectation, with greater faith. Not only does Jesus command us to pray with faith and expectation, but if we do we are much more likely to notice when He answers that prayer and thank Him for doing so.
Some more encouragements
It is a truly awesome thought that Almighty God wants to communicate with us. That He initiated the conversation and that He always listens, even when we don’t. It is true that prayer is a duty commanded in Scripture, but prayer can also become a sweet delight, something we do because we want to, not just because we have to. This however requires that we sometimes “pray through the duty into the delight” as JI Packer puts it. Such a life of prayer is a habit that needs to be cultivated and takes time. Nothing of eternal significance is accomplished apart from believing prayer.
1. For wise guidance on how to grow in a life of prayer see The Praying Life by Paul Miller and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
2. I’ve also found Answers to Prayer by George Mueller very helpful in encouraging my faith in prayer. This classic book contains some powerful testimonies of answered prayers by George Mueller who started multiple orphanages in England and never asked anyone for money, but just brought their needs before God in believing prayer.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]
by Hennie Swart & Phillip Boshoff
It’s our duty, especially in a democracy, to not only submit to governing authorities, but to participate in them by voting and public discourse, and to hold those who govern us accountable.
4 MIN READ
On Wednesday 8 May South Africans will cast their vote in the national elections. Christians should approach this decision with faith and boldness, not fear.
From the very beginning of creation, God intended for human beings created in His image to rule the earth on His behalf. In Genesis 1:27-28 He addresses both Adam and Eve (“them”), showing He never desired individual rulership. Even in Revelation, Jesus is not King alone – His Bride will rule with Him.
Biblically, any human government must ultimately be subject to heavenly government. Rulers must fear the Lord and represent Him in serving their subjects. When that doesn’t happen, God brings judgment. He does not look kindly upon governments that abuse their rights and shirk their duties.
God said to the mighty Emperor of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, that he would “…be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32).
This is a challenging Scripture. With all the political scandals and reports of mismanagement, do we really think God rules the kingdoms of men? But this passage (and others) clearly shows that that is true.
God appoints and removes kings. When Saul abused his power as king, He rejected him as king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1). He then sent Samuel to anoint David, “for I have provided for Myself a king”.
The ideal human ruler is chosen and anointed by God – someone who can represent Him because they have His Spirit inside of them. God, not the king, remains the highest government.
But even David’s rule was not perfect. He was a type, a foreshadowing, of the ideal king, fulfilled only in Jesus – God as King in the form of Man, the only incorruptible One who could accurately represent God on earth after man fell into sin.
And once again, we see Jesus delegating His rule to His followers. In the New Testament Jesus said to His disciples: “and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom…” (Luke 22:29).
God has not abandoned His original plan for humans to rule the earth, and He has made provision for that to happen through Jesus’ return. But until then, we have a Biblical responsibility to be involved in human government.
Christians’ role in government: Salt and light
God appoints human government, but He is not pleased with wicked human government. Beware of quoting Romans 13:1 out of context, saying: “God appoints all human government, so don’t complain.” It’s our duty, especially in a democracy, to not only submit to governing authorities, but to participate in them by voting and public discourse, and to hold those who govern us accountable.
The church should not just react against upsetting policies. If God calls us to be salt and light in society, we must be salt and light in government as well. We should be there when the laws are being written, engaging constructively. Like Daniel, Joseph and Esther, we shouldn’t be afraid to engage in a secular space. It’s very hard to be a shining light when you’re removed from the darkness.
Practically, we can’t all govern together at the same time, but we can appoint people to represent us and God, to have a Christian voice at the highest level of policy-making.
Because of South Africa’s history and diversity, we have proportional representation in government. Therefore there is no such thing as “dividing the vote” by voting for smaller parties. You can vote for someone who shares your values to represent you. If that party gets enough votes, they can have a voice in every discussion, every debate, every point put forward.
We will be accountable for our vote
On Judgment Day, will we be held accountable for the choices of the people we chose to represent us? If politicians and parties keep to their official, published public policy – and we knew what that public policy was and voted for them – the answer is yes. If we empower someone to make decisions on our behalf, we are responsible for those decisions.
You will have very few opportunities to demonstrate your devotion for Christ as clearly as at an election.
When voting, consider this:
Are you voting out of fear or faith?
What do you think are the key issues on God’s heart for our country?
Will the people you vote for really be able to represent you? Are you completely comfortable with all the policies of the party you vote for?
Will the party you vote for have the right values and the competence for service delivery?
Pray and hope in God
Like the Israelites who were living under Babylonian rule, we should work and pray for the welfare of our city (Jeremiah 29:7). Vote for Christian parties, but also pray for the Christians in the different parties to stand up. Pray as Jesus prayed: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV). No political party is irredeemable, and no one is perfect.
Ultimately we look to God, not man. “The LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; He will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).
Even if the ACDP came into power, that would by no means solve all our problems. All human governments will be disappointments, except for One: The Son of David. When He finally rules, human government will be perfect government. Until then, we must vote our values, but hope in God.
Listen to Hennie Swart’s sermon here.
Listen to Phillip Boshoff’s sermon here.
Dear Friends & Family
Welcome back after the holiday break! May the Lord bless you and yours during this new year, may “the good hand of your God be upon you” for good, and may He “strengthen your hands for the good work.” (Nehemiah 2.8, 18).
The project we started to repair and renovate the Roosevelt High School hall after the fire at the end of last year has served to remind us that, much like God’s people in the days of Nehemiah, we as individuals and communities are “under construction.”
When God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” He/They (note the plural “Let us make”) intended us to be like Him individually and corporately – godly people in Godlike community; that’s why He goes on the say, “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Genesis 2.18) and why we all long for deep, meaningful community.
But the Fall (Genesis 3) didn’t only break us as individuals, it also broke our relationships, so that since the Fall community and good, healthy relationship in general are harder to create and maintain than they ought to be. Our modern, urban setting only exaggerates this problem:
- Our lives are often so full that we fail to make time for regular community.
- Our lives are often so fast-paced that we lack the patience required for regular community.
- Our lives are often so fluid that we lack to consistency necessary for long-term community.
What we need is margin, a gap between our load and our limit. Let us this year create the margin we need to develop a rhythm of regular community. Let us continue to become the family the Father is forming, the church the Son is building, the temple the Spirit is filling.
We might be broken people living in a broken world, but God has given us a broken Saviour to build us up again. We are under construction.
Hennie & Rochelle Swart
Dear Friends & Family
Another year has gone by, a year full of ups and downs, but through it all we can see God’s grace.
One of my favourite moments of 2018 was our annual Converge Camp. I loved catching up with everyone, cooling off in the pool, worshipping together, and sharing some vision. As discussed on the camp, we feel that God is ‘Calling Us Higher’ – in our relationship with Him, in our relationship with one another, and in our relationship to the rest of Joburg (Mark 3:13-14).
We encourage you to join us as we go up to the mountain with Jesus, sit at His feet, and hear what He has on His heart for us in 2019. The holiday season is ideal to reach out to those in our community, as well as those that have not yet experienced the love of God. Shofar Stellenbosch published a few plans on YouVersion – if you are looking for a devotional to do over the holiday period you can go check them out here.
We are excited for what is in store for 2019 (click here for important dates in 2019) – we will once again have our Global Convergence in September, and this year there will be a Gauteng leg of the conference as well. More detail to follow in 2019.
We trust God that even the foyer of the Roosevelt High School hall that burned down is an opportunity from the Lord to make it better. After all, He is the God who makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8.28). The hall renovations are underway and we will update you in the new year of the progress they made over the holiday.
We will also have a quarterly Prayer & Praise evening, where we will come together to worship God, and to intercede for our church, our city and our country. It would be great if you could prioritise these evenings as we want to be a church that diligently and zealously prays for His Kingdom to come.
May you all have a blessed festive season during which you truly experience God’s guidance. May your cups always overflow as you enter more fully into His rest. And may His goodness and mercy follow you wherever you go. For those that are travelling – please travel safe. We look forward to see you all in the new year.
Lots of love,
Hennie & Rochelle Swart
Our Bodyserve ministry for 2018 has been very busy and effective at caring for those in need who are part of our Shofar Johannesburg community.
Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
This scripture has been our anthem for 2018. We have provided food parcels and vouchers for those in need, making sure that those in need have their daily needs met and have enough to eat. We have provided for accommodation needs, and other needs that have arisen from our church body. Our hearts are to look after the widow and the orphan but also the needy. We believe that our faith should be followed by works as well and that we should make a difference in the communities that we are a part of. James2:15-17 (NKJV) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
We want to commend you as our church for not just providing spiritual guidance but for also being the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and we look forward to what God will do in and through us in 2019.
Have a blessed holiday, we appreciate you all.
Hennie and Rochelle