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First Work or Last Resort?

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On June 29, 1991, Elizabeth Beers was born to international workers Bruce and Stephanie Beers, then serving in Quito, Ecuador. It was not a textbook delivery. Stephanie’s off-the-chart blood pressure and mounting complications forced an emergency C-section, turning this blessed event into what the delivering intern described as “the most difficult case I’ve had in nine years of practicing medicine.”

Waste No Time

While performing the surgery, the ER intern’s thoughts were seized by one daunting question: “How am I going to tell Mr. Beers that his wife and daughter are dead?”

At that moment, one hemisphere to the north in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Elsie and Ray Edmond and their son, Steve, were sitting down for their noon meal. Inexplicably, a prayer card tumbled from the bulletin board above their kitchen table and landed face-up in front of them. It was the Beerses’ family prayer card. Having heard through the grapevine that Stephanie was due within a few weeks, Elsie wasted no time. “We have to pray for the Beers family—now! Stephanie is going to have her baby.”

Within a few hours, the ER intern emerged wearily from the operating room, delighting Bruce with the unexpected news that his wife and daughter were going to be OK. The surgeon later recounted the ordeal to Stephanie: “I have no explanation for why you are alive today. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it; keep talking to the ‘Man upstairs,’ because it’s working.”

Bruce recalls having no means to communicate the urgency of that hour as it was quickly unfolding but credits God’s providence and the divine network of prayer for the miraculous outcome: “Because you prayed, my wife and child are alive today, and an unbelieving doctor also saw God’s hand powerfully at work.”

A Heart for the Lost

During Paul’s missionary journeys, he encouraged early believers to pray for his provision, opportunity, boldness, purity of heart, perseverance, and safe return as he ventured into new and often hostile lands with controversial news of a new world order (see Romans 15:30–32; Ephesians 6:19–20; Colossians 4:2–4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–2; Hebrews 13:18–19). And Christ followers have been bending their knees for missionaries ever since.

Far Beyond Us

God’s purposes, however, extend far beyond the safety, security, and success of His sent ones. His heart bleeds for lost people. And He sometimes sacrifices His closely held children in pursuit of those who have wandered far.

The most vivid prayer ever uttered for a lost world are seven words found in our Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done” (Matt. 6:10, KJV). These words convey the heart of the Creator for His strayed creation: Return to My loving embrace. And the One who uttered them put everything behind them—including His life.

Unless our prayers express God’s heart for lost people, we are missing something crucial. We sometimes become so fervent about praying for the means that we neglect to pray for the ends: the “end” of mortality (redemption of mankind), the “ends” of the earth (completion of the Great Commission task), and the “end” of the age (return of Christ).

The faithful prayers from the Alliance family give our workers the strength and support they need to care for people around the world.

Utter Dependence in Prayer

In 1989 the faithful, persevering prayers of Christians worldwide were answered with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the demolition of the Berlin Wall when the door to Eastern Europe swung wide open to the gospel. The Alliance and other missions-minded organizations joined hands with a reviving national church to help reestablish Christ’s Church in this spiritually impoverished area of the world. Despite mammoth obstacles, God has been ferociously faithful, and church-planting efforts have gained great momentum in eastern Europe and north and central Asia in the past few years.

Yet today, visa guidelines in one of these countries have made it virtually impossible for international workers to remain. Will this signal the untimely demise of a newly budding, vibrant church? How will we respond? Retreat, rethink, retool, and regroup? Or fall prostrate and declare anew our utter confidence in and sheer dependence on a God who has proven Himself over and over again when it comes to redeeming humankind?

Through prayer, Christ offers us unimaginable opportunities to join in His labors and share in His triumphs. It is a divinely tuned resonance that occurs between the heart of the Creator and the soul of the worshiper. As A. W. Tozer reflects in “The Set of the Sail,” “Prayer at its holiest moment is the entering into God to a place of such blessed union as makes miracles seem tame and remarkable answers to prayer appear something very far short of wonderful by comparison.”

Prayer is not a last-ditch exercise of desperation when all else fails. It is the primary work of the people of God. It is, has, and will always remain a core value for Alliance people and the driving thrust of our missionary effort.

What place does it truly hold in our hearts: a first work or a last resort?

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