In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Bobby Chaw shared with the City Harvest congregation five things he has learned through the routine of daily prayer.
“Let’s begin our year in prayer, continue the year in prayer and end the year with prayer like Jesus,” encouraged Bobby Chaw, City Harvest Church’s executive pastor, as he started his sermon on the weekend of Jan 22 and 23. In the four Gospels, Jesus was frequently seen praying: He prayed at the start of His ministry (Lk 3), when He was tested in the wilderness (Lk 4) and even as He breathed His last, He prayed (Lk 23:46).
Pastor Bobby shared that prior to COVID-19, he was so busy with preaching at the School of Theology and heading overseas on mission trips every week that it was difficult for him to establish a prayer routine. When travelling came to a halt due to the pandemic, Pastor Bobby decided to begin each morning with an hour of prayer. Out of this routine he has built, he came to understand prayer and the nature of God more and more.
In his sermon he decided to share his reflections on prayer with the church.
1. Do Not Despise Small Beginnings
Pastor Bobby shared that a person’s prayer life can be hindered by unresolved doubts about the power of prayer, or the busyness of life. He encouraged the congregation to simply get started and not to despise small beginnings (Zech 4:10).
The pastor shared how, as he reflected on Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail;” He was inspired to pray for his Chinese Service members one by one by name, just as Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, because he realised that Jesus’ prayer had a direct impact on Simon’s faith.
Each morning, Pastor Bobby would record his prayer for each member and send the voice message by WhatsApp to each one. To date, he has sent out 771 prayers, and he is two cell groups away from completing his quest of praying for the entire Chinese congregation.
“When I first started, I thought this was too daunting,” he admitted. “But I decided to just do it—cell group by cell group, member by member. The important thing is consistency. You must get started.”
Several years ago, Pastor Bobby’s mother asked him to teach her how to pray. He told her that prayer is like talking to God. At the beginning, his mother was unsure about what to say but Pastor Bobby encouraged her to pray the words of the psalmist in Psalms 27 and 91. Each day, she would recite those Psalms, making them her own prayer. As she continued praying consistently, she began to gain the vocabulary to express what was in her heart.
“This year let’s get started with prayer,” Pastor Bobby encouraged.
2. The Holy Spirit Prays For Us
As Pastor Bobby prayed for the Chinese Church members, he was surprised to receive feedback that many members felt ministered and touched by the prayers. Since he prayed the same Scripture over each member, he could not fully understand why.
One day, a cell group leader shared that as she listened to the prayers Pastor Bobby recorded for her members, she found that the Holy Spirit was working through his prayers. Even though Pastor Bobby did not know her members, each prayer spoke to their specific needs.
The Lord reminded Pastor Bobby of Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession.” Due to man’s limited knowledge, Christians may not know what or when to pray, “but when you make room for the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you, though you may not know everything, the Holy Spirit will make intercession for you and your family,” Pastor Bobby declared.
3. God Answers Prayers
The same God who commands man to pray also promises answers to those prayers, Pastor Bobby reminded the church. Sharing the testimony of a Chinese Department staff member, the pastor told the church of how Caijuan’s uncle accepted Christ and was baptised. Soon after, he was hospitalised for heart surgery. However, the surgery could not proceed because the doctors discovered that he had Stage 4 prostate cancer. After running some tests, it was found that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) index was more than 1,300 points. For reference, a healthy individual would have an index of four points and below.
Due to his heart disease, he could not undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Instead, he could only undergo hormone treatment and injections. Pastor Bobby began to record daily prayers and send them to him. A miracle then happened—in fewer than two months, his PSA score dropped to 3.3. A few weeks ago in December, it dropped to almost 0.
“God answers prayer!” the pastor declared. “No prayer, no power!”
4. Prayer Is Interaction With God
The fourth reflection is that prayer is interaction with God. Pastor Bobby shared that he used the word “interaction” because prayer is a reciprocal action and influence, an active ongoing exchange. “Prayer is ‘inter-action’, it is ‘inter-activity’ with God and it is in the process of interaction that transformation happens,” Pastor Bobby explained.
In the Old Testament, God’s people had to dissociate themselves from the unclean. However, when Jesus came, His presence was more powerful than uncleanliness. Every individual who came into contact with Jesus were transformed on the inside—their souls were made clean, and their bodies were made whole.
At the burning bush, God revealed Himself to Moses and engaged him in a conversation. Moses honestly shared his doubts and fears (Exo 3 and 10) and God did not dismiss his fears. Instead, God took time to bring Moses closer to Him, so that Moses could see from God’s perspective. By Exodus 33, Moses was referred to as “a friend of God”—he had been transformed in his prayers because he had honest interactions with God.
A few weeks ago, one of Pastor Bobby’s members, Martin, passed away due to cancer, but his was a life totally transformed by God. In secondary school, Martin fell into bad company and picked up many vices. This, coupled with his bad temper, caused him to remain distant from his family. After Martin was diagnosed with cancer, church workers visited him and his mother, and God’s love touched Martin’s heart. He surrendered his life to Jesus and reconciled with his mother, becoming a loving son. During his memorial service, Martin’s mother shared this transformation happened because the love of Jesus was within him.
This transformation was further observed through glimpses in Martin’s prayers that he documented in journals. In early entries, Martin freely poured out his feelings of inadequacy to God and confessed his sins. In later entries, he thanked Jesus and declared his love for Him. “Prayer is inter-action with God,” Pastor Bobby reiterated. “It is a time where you honestly surrender all that you are before Him.”
5. Prayer Is Intimacy With God
In Luke 9:28, when Jesus prayed, a cloud appeared and covered Him and His three disciples. He was enveloped by the presence and glory of God. “Prayer is being in the presence of God. Prayer is being in communion with Him. Prayer is intimacy,” Pastor Bobby elaborated.
Going back to his quest of recording prayers for his members, Pastor Bobby shared that he asked the Lord one day if He was tired of him praying the same prayer every day. The Lord replied, “The reason why I put in your heart this vision to pray is that every day I want to see your face.” Since that day, every time Pastor Bobby prays, he is conscious of God’s presence, keenly aware that he is sitting before the face of God.
“I found intimacy with God by practising a life of prayer,” Pastor Bobby explained. “There is no other way to build intimacy with God.”
He illustrated this with the lyrics of “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”, a song from the musical My Fair Lady, where Professor Henry Higgins expresses the deep longing he has to see Eliza Doolittle again. Pastor Bobby shared that, likewise, he has grown accustomed to God’s face and does not want to go back to a life without daily prayer and interaction with God.
In closing, Pastor Bobby urged the congregation to begin making time for daily prayer, it is through this interaction with God that one’s heart and life can truly be transformed.