October 29, 2017
Guest Speaker Al Whittinghill
Al Whittinghill is a part of the worldwide ministry of Ambassadors for Christ International and works with AFCI out of its office in Atlanta, Georgia. For more than thirty-five years Al has been privileged to preach, teach, and minister across more than 60 countries. One of the greatest desires of his heart is to see a genuine move of God in the Church of Jesus Christ, both here in America and around the world. He is married to the Mary Madeline Whittinghill, and they have five grown children and are also the proud grandparents of thirteen grandchildren. Their home is in Woodstock, Georgia, and they are members of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta.
This a business meeting, really, this morning. It’s the Father’s business, and his business is seeking people to worship him in spirit and in truth, and there’s nothing that can change your life and mine more than to really plug into what we’re going to be talking about.
I want to ask you a question: Do you believe that God can really change a person’s life in one moment? Do you? Do you believe he can change a life in one minute? Do you want him to? Do you believe he can change a family in a moment? I do. I’ve seen it, and I want him to be changing my family. He can change a church forever in her trajectory and in her dimension, and he’s doing it all over this world and in this country, as people are listening to what the Spirit of God is saying to the churches. It’s like they used to say for Verizon, “Can you hear me now?” God is saying to his church, “Can you hear me now?” -because he’s speaking.
These are exciting times to be alive, but unless we plug into the Father’s business (what we’re talking about this morning), you won’t survive the days ahead as a Christian, but if you walk and I walk in the beauty of what we sang about, no weapon formed against us will prosper. We have the truth, and we triumphant in it. If we walk in the beauty of his presence in the Lord, if that’s really true, then we will prosper, and we will be more than conquerors, and we will glorify him in the little things, in the ordinary things. They will be supernaturally natural by the power of God.
That’s what’ll win the world. -not just luring them in by the charms that we set up and the other things. We’ve got to let them come and see the presence of God resting on his precious church.
I want to read with you from Luke chapter 10, if you’ll look at that with me. I will use an older translation. I just started years ago, and I kept on in it. That’s how do my Scripture memory. But in Luke chapter 10, the disciples are just coming off a major campaign. They’d been sent out to the cities, and there had been 70 more appointed. They’d been sent out, and they’ve been seeing the fact that in what they’re doing, it’s not just the visible that’s involved. It’s the invisible, and that really is where the great battle is around us. -not with just flesh and blood, but with the invisible hosts around us that hate God and hate you.
So, they are winding down and they come, who knows how many, but it was more than 12 more than likely. They come to a little town called Bethany just over the hill from Jerusalem, and that is where this took place. Verse 38 of chapter 10:
“Now it came to pass as they went, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.” Now apparently she was the senior of two sisters, and they had a brother whom you’ve heard of named Lazarus. Jesus loved these people, and he would often go to their house, but here they were coming in after this campaign and they were going to get a meal.
Now, my wife has a gift of hospitality, and if missionaries are coming in, she puts out good stuff. She really wants to bless them, and if you’ve got that gift, you know what it would be like to be anticipating the Lord Jesus with his disciples to come sit at your table. I mean, you might not use paper plates, but you would be a little overwrought, no matter how skillful you were, and this precious woman named Martha is going to do all this for these coming with a noble motive, and Martha and Mary apparently are in their equivalent of the kitchen getting everything ready when the disciples come in.
They take that room, whatever it was. Try to visualize it in your mind. It says (verse 39), “Martha had a sister called Mary.” You see, Mary is all through the Scriptures, and she’s doing the same thing. It says, “She also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.” What an awesome thing for God to say about us or you or me!
This person sat at Jesus’ feet, the risen Lord Jesus, and listened to him expounding and opening his own word to her. But there’s a contrast with Martha: Mary is sincere. Mary is honest, and she’s really seeking to bless the Lord Jesus, but Martha was cumbered, or weighed down, with much serving. Well, she’s getting ready to feed all these men, and she came to the Lord Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore, that she get busy [or tell her to help me].”
Mary and Martha had been in the kitchen. Apparently, Mary had left and put down the pans (or whatever they were) and sat at Jesus’ feet and was listening to him open the Scriptures. -communing, worshiping him. Martha looked out, and it made her a little upset. “Look at all there is to do! Slacker!” You know, we’ve all done that, and “Lord Jesus, don’t you care that my sister has left all this on me? I’m taking care of the nursery all by myself. I’m mowing the yard all by myself.”
See, we do all these things thinking we’re ministering to Jesus, and we neglect this, as we’ll see what happens. Martha says this to the Lord, “Lord, don’t you care?” -That’s a rebuke. She’s not tuned in, and Jesus answered and says to her much more tenderly than I can ever say, “Martha, Martha.” It’s like, “I understand who you are exactly. I made you. Martha, Martha, you are careful. You are troubled about many things.” Is that true about you?
Today in our day, finances and jobs and kids and whatever else, drugs… whatever. I’m troubled and bothered by many things. That’s true about us. The next word is but. Jesus says, “But one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” You see, there’s only one thing that’s needed. That’s the only time Jesus, except for talking to the rich young ruler, when he says, “One thing is needful.” He says, “This one thing you lack…” to this religious man who didn’t have a relationship with him, but he says here, “One thing is needful.” In other words, if you had to pick one thing, this is it, and it’s a choice. Mary has chosen, like some of you will have a choice about whether to come back tonight.
See, this is what your whole Christian life is made of: consecrated choices. And every single one of us is right where we want to be. You can say, “I wish I knew the word better,” but if you don’t study it, you won’t. “I wish I prayed more.” But, if you don’t make time, you won’t. You see, we’re just as spiritual as we choose to be. It’s true. The way is open. He says, “Come unto me all of you that are weary and heavy laden, and have made an open door before you.” So, I can choose to go on, and I can keep a distant relationship and content myself with being burdened down with a lot of serving that makes me feel like I really am committed and dedicated, OR I can make the choice to know when the main thing is urgent and necessary. -to be in communion with Jesus, so that everything else I do will suddenly take depth in meaning. Do you see that?
“You are troubled and bothered by many things. One thing is needful.” -and the chapter division wasn’t in the original. It goes right to, “And it came to pass that as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples says to him these words: Lord teach us to pray just like John [meaning the baptizer] taught his disciples.” John the Baptist had a school of prayer. This is why probably he was the greatest preacher. -as Jesus said, “a burning and shining light.” This is why his life emanated power and light, but they have seen what Jesus just did with Martha and Mary.
When you see something like this, God wants to change your life and mine. He never does just this one thing. It’s always affecting something else. The Sermon on the Mount, those who overheard this, he imparting these great truths. So, they got it. They saw him getting up in the morning a great while before day. Luke says he got up evenings, and he prayed all night. Many nights, he would leave the crowds and go out underneath a bush and pray. So, they saw this mysterious relationship with this one he called “Father”. And “I don’t do a thing but what I hear him saying,” and, “What you see me doing is what the Father who is in me is doing.” So, you can almost anticipate from the disciples, “I want to know about this, because we don’t know a thing about this.” It’s how we feel about prayer.
And so, they came to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” -because prayer was the most conspicuous thing about the Lord Jesus, and you wonder what he prayed about. He didn’t have sins to confess. He didn’t have all the attitude problems we might face, but yet it was communion with the Father. -being with the Father. That’s what prayer is to be to us. -not just getting our needs met, but being plugged into an alliance with the heart of the Heavenly Father through the Word of God, that we actually become his mouthpiece and his heart flow and his hands and his feet, to let thy will be done on earth. Thy kingdom come and to make his name holy as he rests upon his people.
That’s what he wants, and it begins with the choice to enroll in that school of prayer. “Lord teach us to pray.” And then he goes and gives to them the Lord’s Prayer to answer their prayer, and he gives a parable about asking and seeking and knocking. -the growing intensity of those who wait upon the Lord, wait for the heavens to be planted. But then he says the real answer in verse 13. He says that if you are human and you know how to give good gifts to your children, you wouldn’t give your child something bad when he asks you for something good, like a joke. That’s what you’re like, but how much more will your Heavenly Father (you are children of God) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?
It’s a choice, you see. The Holy Spirit (here being that which will guide us into all truth), he will teach us the things of Christ and show us about prayer. He’ll lead you, but you’ve got to ask him. You have not, because you ask not. Either that or you’ll (I’m just putting it on the table), you’ll find something else to do tonight. Sunday night is the number one night for TV in America. Did you know that? And so, you’ve got to learn to make choices, and I believe this is a great line of demarcation, even tonight for perhaps you. You see, prayer in the Scriptures, it’s very clear. It’s the single most important thing. Jesus said it’s the one thing needful in a believer’s life. -The word of God and prayer together.
If you want to see your life changed, say yes to that. “Lord, teach me to pray.” It’s the best way for you to see your life transformed and to see your family transformed and your church transformed. -to really pray. It’s the best way to protect your loved ones from the vices and the terrible things going on all around. It’s to set a parameter like Job did around his family. God called Job the best man on earth three times, and the only characteristic he cited about Job was that he got up every day and prayed for his family. It’s the only one he cited. Now, there are other things, but that’s what God honored. He was setting a hedge, and even the devil admitted it when he said to God, “You’ve set a hedge around them, and I can’t touch him. That’s what we need to do for our families.
You see, it’s the greatest factor. Prayer. -in discipleship and in Sunday school and in the nursery and all the life of the church. Prayer is the greatest factor behind everything God does. It’s always a prayer method. Everything he does visibly, he does first invisibly. Somebody, somewhere has prayed, because God has chosen to flow over the bridge of prayer.
And so, we have not because we ask not, and the devil fears nothing but prayer. He doesn’t care how many pots and pans we shake or how much we serve on one level, but when the church starts praying, he starts trembling because he has no defenses, you see. He’s trying to cut off the supply lines to the church of the Lord Jesus, and so we do all these other things, but we leave off that supply of the heart. Prayer. -and of the Word coming in, listening to him explain it, and us asking of him, praising him, and thanking him. Prayer is a huge word. Huge! -much bigger than just asking for things, you see.
Have you ever seen this? Have you ever asked God to teach you to pray? Have you ever asked him? -because, you see, you enroll by faith. You make the choice like Mary. You sit at his feet and say, “Lord, teach me to pray.” But he’s got to be Lord before he’ll be teacher. -not just the Savior to rescue you from all your troubles. He’s the Lord, and this is why we come. “Lord, let thy will be done. Prayer is not just to get my will done in Heaven. Prayer is also to get God’s will done on Earth.
Our needs are met. “Lord, we come to you. Now would you so change us, that we become salt and light, and we really become a true witness, not just to things getting better, but of the risen Lord Jesus, you see. Prayer is the key to church growth. It’s the foundation for all missionary sending, thrusting like a jet engine, these laborers to the harvest field. It’s the unfailing way for you to be strengthened in times of trouble and in trial and in temptation. “Watch and pray with me…The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Watch and pray, that you fall not into temptation.” Jesus said.
Let me tell you; All failure of the ministry starts at the closet door. I believe this. People close the closet door of prayer, and they try to do all these things and please all the people who are walking on a visible level, instead of an obedience level, and the enemy is there just waiting like a dog waiting for the weak moment, and that’s what you see happening all around.
Prayer will dissolve your doubts. It’ll plant passion in your heart. It’ll open up the doors of heaven and the windows of Heaven. Jesus prayed, and Heaven opened. The church prayed, and Heaven opened. It’s always that way in Scripture. It’s God’s favorite classroom. Young guys, ‘you want to know the Word? You go and let Jesus be your teacher.
“I’ll not just teach you praises,” the Lord says, “I’ll teach you other things. I’ll give you passion. I’ll make you into a man of God that the lady that you’re praying for will want to be with, if she’s a godly woman. I’ll turn you into a man who is wise, who can win the city, save a city, by his wisdom.” And you see, prayer is the single thing that the devil fears more than anything else. He is afraid, and I’ll tell you what. You’ll have a hard time coming tonight. He’ll try to make all kind of things come up, but don’t listen to him, because it’s not just a meeting we’re having. We are seeking to cross a line that your pastor and other leadership in this church feels that God has a mission, a great thing for you to be involved in. -who he is and what he doing in the days ahead.
But it won’t happen without prayer. In the millennial marshmallow mentality that we have in the church so much, there is a mentality that we can have a growing church, but we have a shrinking prayer meeting. It’s just a form of spiritual insanity. It won’t happen, because we may do all kinds of things and beat the air in shadowbox, but it won’t be the power of God. So, it’s really the most urgent need in the world for the church. It’s the most awesome privilege in life. -to pray. And it’s what God wants to do in your life and mine. More than anything else, he wants us to really learn to pray. “One thing is needful…Lord, teach us to pray.”
It was when they saw him praying in a certain place, that they asked that, and when you and I see what his priority is, it should open it up to us to say, “Lord, teach me to pray.” When I see that when he was raised from the dead, he went to sit at the Father’s right hand, and he’s ever-living to pray. It’s what he’s doing right now. -ever living to pray for you and for me. He’s our anchor within the veil.
So, he wants you and me to join him. You can’t please him if you don’t join him and commune and co-labor and have compassion. That’s to share in who he is, and you will never know him if you don’t pray. Never.
You may know about the church. You may be active, but you won’t see the devil tremble, and that’s kind a battle we really have. God’s placed the powers of the unseen realm at our disposal. So, you learn prayer not in the classroom, but in time alone with God in the closet. You learn prayer when you get together with other Christians. It’s his priority for every single one of us, that we be a person of prayer, but it’s his priority not only for us, but it’s his priority for our families. -every young family. The things they’re saying about the family all across our country are frightening, to say the least, and you see, I must teach my family and lead my family in prayer.
Every husband and wife should be praying together, and if you are not, you are vulnerable, because you can’t really know each other just on a soul level. As I said in the last service, God has wound women up like this: beep beep beep beep beep. And men like this: Beeeep beeeep. And these two signals don’t go together. People get married for body reasons; People get married for soul reasons. But the Spirit is what keeps a marriage together, and that’s when two people learn, Adam and Eve, to kneel at the foot of the tree of life, the cross. And they eat fruit of the Lord Jesus and his death on the cross together, and they pray over their children. They pray down the avenues of their future.
That’s what will make a home last and stand in our day. I could tell you of people in churches (I don’t have time to go into it) but I tell you, I’ve seen people who have been in church for 50 years, 30 years, 20 years and are active just like Martha. They’re sincere. They love Jesus, but they’re not praying together. If you look beneath it and they come in for counseling, you will find the squabbling, and there’s all kind of stuff going on.
Prayer will settle that. Prayer. And so, I would say today, if you’re here as a couple and you’re not praying together, don’t be scolded. Just repent! And say, “Today, a new beginning in prayer. We’re going to make a choice. We’re going to kneel together, even tonight. We’re going to kneel together and we’re going to say, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as a family.’”
Now, I’ll tell this story about my daughter too. You know, from my earliest years, this really happened to me when I was in southern England and I saw in a church service, a little lady on the front row. She had on this purple velvet dress and a hairnet and those kind of shoes that women wouldn’t wear unless you bury them in them. She was down there on the front. She couldn’t sing worth a hoot, and I remember we got there a little late. I was preaching, and after the service, she came up to me and she said, “Good word, son!” And she had on a button that said, “Keep me burning, Lord!”
I said to the pastor, “Wow! Who was that?” And he said, “That was a sister who lives out on the bluff over here overlooking the sea, and people line up outside of her house to knock on her door, because she’s a real intercessor, and people come to her, and God answers her prayers.” And I said to myself, “That needs to become something that I know more about.” That little lady so put an arrow in my heart, that I went home and began to meet with my kids, and when they were young (Jonathan was six; Elizabeth was four). Elizabeth had trusted Jesus and repented and wept over her sins. Little Catherine was too young to really talk much, but she would talk a little bit, just enough. She would say some like this: “Lord Jesus…” and she would smack her lips. “Send (name a missionary) a red dress.”-thinking about it real hard. And I’d say, “That’s the cutest thing!” and I almost died on the spot.
But I saw God answering her prayers. I saw God answering her prayers, and I said, “Wait a second. Wait a second. Maybe there’s something to that!” And you know what he said to me? “It’s not just moving your lips that makes prayer work. I, the Lord, look on the heart, and I see her little heart and I’m going to encourage her in the thing that’s dearest to my heart.”
Well, another time I got this map of the world. I would do that often. I would lay it on the floor, and I’d read this missionary book called, PT Johnson’s Operation World. You’ve probably seen it. It tells you about the countries. You read about China and all their needs, and you can pray for them. So, I laid this map of the world out on the floor, and we put our finger on the country after we read about it.
I love that map. I’ve still got it. It’s still got little spots from drool and earwax that the kids put on it. Only dad would appreciate it, but yet we’d put our finger on it. Well, I read to them about Ethiopia. Elizabeth is now… I won’t tell you her age, but it’s over 30, but she was just four at that time, and really, her heart was toward the Lord, and the Lord was teaching her.
So, I read about Ethiopia. -that the Communists had a blockade around the country like they did Ukraine in 1932. The state was keeping food out to starve a nation into submission, and Ethiopia was about to starve, millions of people, and it made the paper; It was common news. So, I read to them about that and all the stuff, and I was trying to pray for Ethiopia. Elizabeth looks up and says, “Daddy, doesn’t Father God have all the bread in the world?” I said, “He does. That’s it. You’ve got it.” And she said, “Well, why don’t we ask him? He’ll send bread to E-ta-O-pah!” (That’s the way she said it). I said, “That is wonderful! Elizabeth, you lead us!” So, she walked over, and she put her finger on the map. She bowed her head, and she looked up, and she said, “Father God, Father God, Daddy says they need bread in Ethiopia, and you have all the bread in the world. Will you send Bread to E-ta-O-pah?”
Now, as a dad, I’m running down the road saying, “Praise God! My child is praying, and she’s learned how to pray,” and I’m excited. She runs right on, and she says this: “Father God, we want you to send that bread right now.” I remember thinking in my mind, “…if it be thy will.” You know, like we often throw in at the end of our prayers, because we don’t really, really believe. We’re just hoping and praying. We’re not believing and praying. There’s a difference. The Word helps you believe God, not just hope. Hope is different. Hope is always future. You’re content to leave it there. Faith says, “Now it is.” This is what God says. This is the inheritance through the blood of the lamb, and she had laid hold of it.
I remember she got through, and I said, “Elizabeth, that was wonderful. Daddy’s so proud of you. I was just so blessed by that prayer.” And I gave her a great, big hug, and she walked away. After we were finished, I prayed and said, “Please don’t let her be disappointed, Lord.” That’s what Dad was praying. “Don’t let her be disappointed. These things take time. It’s complicated. Sometimes, we make prayer bigger than it really is. It’s not simple.”
And I remember, 40 hours later, I was waiting in a doctor friend of mine’s office. We were going to have lunch, and he was seeing his last patients. I picked up a newspaper, waiting and as I was there reading, on the second page was this big headline (it was 40 hours after we had prayed) and it said: Largest Shipment of Bread Gets into Ethiopia.
I’ve never seen a headline like that before that or since. -bread getting into Ethiopia. And a looked at it, and I said, “Whoa!” It had the time that the borders opened up, and I tabulated the time zone difference, and to my sheer amazement, it was half an hour to 40 minutes after Elizabeth had prayed. I remember saying, “No way!” and the Lord said, “Yes way! And except you have the faith of a child, you will never be able to ask me for the nations. You’ll never be able to ask for the uttermost parts of the world for your possession like that early church did in Acts chapter 4. You’ll just be content to ask for a nice day at work.” You’ve got to ask God for the nations. You’ve got to get in on his heart, but you don’t know his heart, and that began a real change in my own heart.
Well, I remember it was years later. Elisabeth had grown up. It was on 9/11 actually, and I was in South Africa. I was marooned there, because they came into the room and said, “Mr. Whittinghill, they’re running airplanes in the buildings in America.” We didn’t have TV. We just turned on the radio and heard sirens. I thought it was every city in America; I didn’t know. We were stuck there. So, this woman at the end of the meeting came up (I don’t remember what I preached on, but I told that story about Africa), and at the end of it, this beautiful, elegant, older lady walked down the aisle after the meeting. She had on a red dress. I’ll never forget it. She said, “Mr. Wittinghill, thank you for telling about Ethiopia. You see, I’m in the Ethiopian Parliament, and I was there during those days that you make mention of more than 20 years ago, and I want you to thank Elizabeth for praying for our country. Many people were praying, but thank her for praying for Ethiopia. I saw the heavens just roll back, and food came in, and it was an amazing thing.”
God wants us to understand. You see, I went and told my daughter, and it made her cry. This will make you cry when you see how God answers prayers. Your prayers. -when you finally understand with a greater light in the days ahead. Your prayers outlive you. When you pray for your kids, you can pray down the lives of your children. My oldest son says to his friend, he says, “One of the first memories I have is waking up in the night and seeing my dad on the floor by my bed praying for me.” I said, “Lord, I didn’t plan that, but I’m glad he remembers that.” -because you see, now he’s got four sons, and he’s doing the same thing. It’s a legacy. Put a legacy in your family.
If a husband and wife aren’t praying together, then you’re having trouble, I can promise you in these days. But today, repent and say, “Tonight we’re coming back together, and we’re going to kick some scaly rear.” I shouldn’t have said that, but you know what I’m talking about. We’re tired of the enemy lording it over our home.
‘Last thing is, it’s the priority for the church. The church of the Lord Jesus in the book of Acts, you see, “My Father’s house…” This is their distinctive. It’s called a house of prayer. -not just by the church, but by the people who see the church. I wonder what they would call most of our churches. It might not be a house of prayer. It might be they have a great softball team, or they do all these other things. They make a great luncheon or whatever else. -and I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad, but I’m saying this: They need to know, that place right there, they are in touch with God, and I have a need in my life, and I’m going to go ask them to pray for me.
At the Brooklyn Tabernacle, I asked them to go on the streets of Brooklyn and put a sign there that says, “Can we pray for you?” You’d be surprised at who stopped by and said, “Pray for this or that.” And they’ve seen things happen that are unbelievable. 40+ times in the book of Acts, prayer is mentioned. It’s like a plough. It’s not really the acts of the Apostles; It’s the acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles as they trusted Him, and in only 2 chapters in the book of Acts, prayer is not involved in the church, and in those 2 chapters, the church is in trouble.
So, what am I saying? God wants you and me to take this whole issue of prayer seriously. One night of prayer, real prayer, could turn some families around. One night of prayer of a church could set a trajectory and thrust forth in the heart, issues in real life that are the things that really matter. God wants the church to know him and to love him and to worship him, but it won’t just happen coming in here once a week and singing songs to him. It’ll happen as we make the choice to get alone with him.
I’ve had men say to me when we send them out alone, they come back and say, “That makes me nervous to get alone.” You know why? Because when you get quiet long enough, you begin to hear eternity. In our day, we’re so noisy. We get in the car and have the noise, and we never have anything quiet at all. It’s always noise! Be still. Get alone with God. Listen to His heartbeat! Don’t walk to the drumbeat of the world. Walk the heartbeat of the throne room of the Lord Jesus.
There’s no telling where God will send you. I think back to young guys who were in seminary with me. They’re all over the world. We had a knot between us that was compassion and fire, and we’ve all gone all over. We’re old now. You’ll be old before you know it. You’ll dance with your daughter at her wedding soon. If the Lord tarries, if He doesn’t come soon, you’re going to go quicker than you think. Redeem the time. Redeem the time. Make the choices that are worthy of Him. He’s worthy. He’s worthy.
• I’ve prayed for the first time today for Jesus to save me from my sins. This morning my Next Step is to start a relationship with God.
– My prayer life is weak. Today I made a commitment to be totally honest with God in prayer.
+ I learned today how to pray with passion. I will return this evening to put into practice what I learned today.
- Did anyone teach you how to pray? If so, what were their instructions?
- Be honest. On a scale of 1 – 10, how honest are you with the deepest things of your heart when you pray?
- If God already knows everything, why does he want his people to pray?
- When was the last time that you sensed God was speaking to you? How did you hear from him?
- What is the most desperate prayer that you’ve ever prayed? What make this request so desperate? How did God answer that prayer?
- Read 1 John 5:14-15. When was the last time that God gave you what you were asking for in prayer?
- Spend a few minutes together speaking to the Father in prayer and listening to the Father in prayer.