Atlantic Caribbean Union

The Altar

The Altar
R
eligious background, past experiences, or family upbringing may cause the word altar to mean different things to different people. One of the definitions that can be found on Google is: a table or flat-topped block used as the focus for a religious ritual.  For many this is the image that comes to mind when an altar is spoken of.
 
On September 6, 2014, all 26 Adventist congregations in New Providence came together to start a four-week evangelistic campaign called Mission to The Cities NP14 with Pastor Peter Joseph as the evangelist. One of the primary focuses of the campaign is prayer and Evangelist Joseph has constructed a deliberate strategy that he dubbed, "Ministry at The Altar".
 
At the end of each message, he invites specific groups to come before the altar to pray. The music stops playing and all that can be seen and heard are groups of individuals pouring their hearts out to God. Many individuals have left the tent meeting with the comfort of knowing that their requests have been answered.
 
The question that one may ask though is, what can prayer do for me? Ellen White in the book Steps to Christ on page 95 says that  "...prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse...." This short phrase has three main components prayer, a key and a hand.
 
Prayer
The phrase "prayer is the key" has almost become a cliché among Christians who many times fail to use this very vital instrument that God has provided. Prayer has become an inconvenience for our busy lives where even before stepping out of bed our minds are preoccupied with cares and concerns. We are planning the day ahead without even consulting the Lifegiver.
 
What we often fail to realize is that it is this same God who was merciful enough to allow us to become conscious after a night's sleep is the One whom we have no time for. He awaits an early morning conversation with us but we fail to even tell Him good morning. I would certainly feel extremely rejected and unloved if my wife passed me by all day without saying a word to me; but this is how we have been treating our Creator for days, weeks or even months.
 
Seeing that prayer is speaking with God, if we fail to pray, then we can safely say that we are not speaking with God. If someone says that they are "not speaking to you" they are implying that they hardly have a relationship with you. Is that how we want to be with God?  He certainly wants us to speak with Him, to present to Him our praise, gratitude, concerns, joys, and disappointments.
 
Many times our communion with God is all about requests and we seem not to have anything to give thanks for. Philippians 4:6 says,
 "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." There is no need to look far to have something to thank God for. I even find that our children have learnt how to pray by saying please at the beginning of each sentence. Lord please protect my family. Please give us health, and the list goes on and on.
 
How would we feel if our friend or child came everyday and make requests without ever saying thanks? That is why the verse says "by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving". In our prayer we must always praise. Praise Him for being merciful, for without His mercies things would be far worse than they are now. God really does not need our praise but our praise brings us to a higher spiritual relationship with Him. 
 
One great aspect of prayer is that no place can be considered inappropriate for prayer. At any time and anywhere were can silently give God thanks, intercede on someone's behalf, or pray that we have a safe landing on the plane. Everywhere is conducive to prayer.
 
Key
We should be looking more towards heavenly things in all that we do and that is why the phrase from the book, Steps to Christ says that "prayer is the key to heaven's storehouse". If what we are praying for is not something that Heaven would be pleased with then we should not expect our prayer to be answered. God wants us to be marching towards Heaven. If what we are praying for will set us back in our heavenly march then out of love He will not grant it to us. Heaven's storehouse does not open to release unholy gifts.
Parents need to also learn this trait of our Heavenly Father. There are some times when love will make a parent say no. Children often do not see the logic behind a rejected request and may even understand it to be unkind or unloving, but parents have grown neurologically and oftentimes spiritually to be able to see what may lie ahead. God considers our prayer and looks at us with compassion and love and if what we pray for is not granted, never should we be disappointed in Him. We should praise Him even more.
 
Hand of Faith
The final part of this phrase from Ellen White is "the hand of faith". Faith is an indispensable part of prayer. Without faith in God our prayer would have no significance or power. In the process of prayer we need the Holy Spirit to help us to have faith. We must intentionally ask the Holy Spirit to fill us while we pray. For our hand of faith to open Heaven's storehouse with the key called prayer, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
 
This is the miracle that science will never be able to explain. Hebrews 11:1 says that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". How therefore can the miracles experienced during prayer be explained? I don't think anyone can, but somehow the Holy Spirit can help us to understand. At a recent revival meeting for the Mission to the Cities NP14, Evangelist Peter Joseph explained that one of the greatest miracles is when a sinner is converted into a saint. This happens by faith and every night at the campaign in the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center in Nassau, brothers and sisters in Christ come together at the altar and experience true ministry, Ministry at The Altar. -Mr. John Garcia, IT/Media Coordinator; Atlantic Caribbean Union