Welcome to the September 2023 Prayer Vigil!
In 2 Corinthians 12: 1 – 10, the Apostle Paul told the church in Corinth that he “must go on boasting” and went on to describe how he was the recipient of great revelations directly from God when he was lifted up to the “third heaven”, or “paradise”, the abode of God. There he heard “inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell”. Paul was saying this to the Corinthians in his letter to counteract the influence of the “false apostles” who were drawing the Corinthians to themselves, and away from the truth, through exaggerated claims and boasting.
However, Paul explained that it was inappropriate for him to boast even though he was speaking the truth, because boasting about his exceptional experiences would glorify himself too much in people’s eyes. However, God allowed what Paul described as “a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan” to torment him. The reason – to keep Paul from becoming “conceited”. Even though Paul prayed to God three times and pleaded for the “thorn” to be taken away, God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. At the end of the passage, Paul concluded that he would boast instead of his weaknesses so that Christ’s power might come upon him. He would delight in his weaknesses, hardships and trials, because “when I am weak, then I am strong”.
What can we gather from this passage in 2 Corinthians and elsewhere in the Bible about pride, grace, prayer and weakness?
We may say that pride is the enemy of grace. Pride can make us feel a sense of power, self-sufficiency; it makes us think we need not depend on God. It will keep us from receiving the grace that God would like us to have and may harm others too. This was what was happening in Corinth with the false apostles who were proud and drawing people away from the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 11: 3 – 5; 13). More often than not, we overlook the fact that we are each the recipient of God’s grace every moment
of our lives as our creator sustains us (Heb. 1: 3) through the air we breathe, the food we eat and all the other things he created. Pride keeps us from knowing the truth about ourselves, our inadequacies and sins, and keeps us from acknowledging that God is sovereign and in control of all things, even our circumstances. Unless we humble ourselves, see ourselves as we really are – sinful creatures in need of God’s grace, we will not get to know the truth or the freedom that Jesus Christ said that we can have
(Jn. 8: 32).
Paul prayed three times, pleading to God to remove the torment which God allowed to come upon him by a messenger of Satan (reminds us of Job 2). But God said “no” to his request. In the same way God can say no to requests we make in our prayers, even prayers to remove things which in our view are bad things. We need to accept the fact that God is sovereign over all mankind and sees the whole tapestry of life (Ps. 33: 13 – 15) while we see only a minute corner of the tapestry, and his ways are beyond our understanding (Is. 55: 8 – 9). But we can rest assured that even what we see as bad things can become in God’s plan something for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8: 28). In this case to keep Paul from becoming conceited.
Paul was aware that being weak was desirable so that God’s power may be revealed through those who are weak like jars of clay (2 Cor. 4: 7) which is why Paul said “when I am weak, then I am strong”. This is counter culture and sets Christianity apart from other religions because Christians can rejoice when people see them as “weak” so that people will see that it is the power of God working through them and transforming lives. Therefore, we need not be concerned that we are weak in the world’s view but pray that we are strong in our faith. For when all human options are exhausted in our worldly struggles, it can be seen that we can rely only on the grace of a faithful and merciful God whose love and grace are sufficient for all our needs. In fact, just as Jesus Christ died for all (2 Cor. 5: 15), God’s grace is infinite and inexhaustible (Eph. 3: 20 – 21).
How then should we pray? Let us pray –
- For protection from false teachers and Satan’s deceptions that may lead us to become proud and forget that we are in need of God’s grace.
- Thank God that we can rejoice in our weaknesses because God’s grace is all sufficient.
- Thank God for listening and responding to our prayers and help us to have peace and understanding even when we receive “no” for an answer; thank God that he works in all circumstances for the good of those who love him and to bring glory to himself; ask that people be awakened to receive God’s most important and ultimate act of grace – the death of his only son Jesus Christ on the cross for the remission of their sins.
- For IBC to continue being a body of caring disciples and an instrument of God’s grace where people in need can find the ultimate solution to life’s struggles – Jesus Christ, the way to eternal life.
Let us continue in prayer for –
- IBC to be a body of disciples united by the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission.
- Thanksgiving to the Lord as the Pastor Search Team continues its work with Pastor Scott’s guidance.
- The Spirit’s guidance for the deacons, Pastor Search Team and ministry leaders as they work with Pastor Scott to reveal the Lord’s way forward for IBC.
- The Hong Kong government’s timely approval for Carlos to leave Hong Kong.
- God to provide a Youth Worker to guide and mentor our youths.
- The Lord to provide more teachers and helpers for Children’s Sunday School.
- The Lord’s protection and guidance for our young people as they go forth to a new term of studies.
- IBC’s church retreat to be held October 22 to 23.
- The Lord’s continual guidance and protection for Pastor Will and his family in the U.S.
- Kenneth Poon and his family in San Francisco as they mourn the recent passing of his father.
- Lena Lam and her family as no further treatment is possible for her brain tumor.
- The Lord’s healing and care for Lena Lam (brain tumor); Michelle Niem (to receive the right treatment for sarcoma); Thomas Lam (healing for his eyes); Iris’ two sisters (for long term cancer remission and healing); Stephanie’s mother (healing after cancer treatment); Quina’s friend Paula in California (treatment for cancer); Alice, sibling of Jackson’s sister-in-law (recovery after second cancer surgery); Anna Chen’s niece, MeiMei, and her family (she is receiving care for terminal illness); for God’s grace and care for Beatrice, Y.M. Chen and Herald Lau.
- Strength and the Spirit’s gift of mercy for those who are called to care for the elderly and those with health needs.
- God to work in the lives of non-believing friends and loved ones – Frank Lai’s brother Jan (who visited IBC again Aug. 20); Kenneth Lee’s mother and siblings; Michelle Niem’s family members; Angela’s sister and brother-in-law; Pansy’s husband; Stephanie’s parents; Frederick’s mother; Mona’s colleague and neighbour Lily; Ivy’s son and family.
[This prayer guide was prepared by Charles Ip]
Please sign up with the link for the prayer vigil, thanks!