Hunt petitions students to pray for God’s power

Communications Staff — October 22, 2008

Johnny Hunt urged the students of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to pray fervently for God to work in power in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention at a chapel service, Oct. 16, during the seminary’s annual Heritage Week.

Hunt, president of the SBC and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., said to see spiritual growth and vitality return to the churches of the SBC, God must come in power and work in people’s lives.

“Nothing fires up this preacher more than to see God change people’s lives,” he said. “Only the life-transforming power of God when it comes to us and touches us can change us.”

Preaching from Psalm 119:33-40, Hunt challenged students to lead and pray with the end in mind. He noted that while Southern Seminary has a great past, the institution would ultimately be remembered for how it finishes.

Hunt noted that this section of Psalm 119 is filled with prayers of petition. First, there is a prayer for education. Hunt said it is essential for a pastor to remain teachable, even as he teaches people God’s Word week after week.

“When a person is humble before God and dependent upon God he is normally teachable,” he said. “The Psalmist teaches that learning is for the purpose of doing. God help us to have more people who not only desire to know, but to do.”

Second, there is a prayer for illumination. Hunt drew distinctions between knowledge, understanding and wisdom as he examined the psalmist’s prayer for understanding.

“You (students) will have the opportunity through much learning to receive a lot of knowledge. You can read and receive knowledge,” he said. “But understanding is that which you have gained through experience. Often times I am facing things in church and I am thinking ‘they didn’t teach me this.’

“Wisdom, on the other hand, is the gift of God. Unless the Holy Spirit of God begins to be the teacher in the hearts of people, they don’t get it. You just preach the truth, but only God can change the life.”

Third, is a prayer for direction. Hunt noted that the psalmist’s prayer for God to make him do what he delights in serves as a commentary on Romans 7. There, Paul speaks about not doing what he desires to do and his need for God’s grace and strength to enable him to do what he wants to do, which is to follow after God.

Next, is a prayer for inclination, as the psalmist prays for the Lord to incline his heart toward His commands. This is followed by a prayer for attention, which Hunt said is particularly important in today’s culture that throws numerous temptations at believers.

“The Psalmist is praying for inner strength, to keep his eyes on the Lord,” he said. “This is a word that needs to be said in the day of Internet pornography. Simple things have attraction to us. We find ourselves gazing with ever growing desire at something suggestive, sensual and sinful. The Psalmist is praying, ‘O God, turn away my eyes.’”

The psalmist then offers a prayer for realization. Hunt said this prayer focuses on the need to have God’s perspective on self and others.

“God helps me to realize who I am and he helps me to realize the need of everybody else around me,” he said.

“When Isaiah saw who God was (in Isaiah 6) and realized who he was, then he said ‘Woe is me.’ Once you realize this and God deals with your own heart and touches you with the coals from the altar, then we say ‘And I am in the midst of an unclean people.’ If we don’t see people the way God sees people we will never be passionately concerned for them like God is concerned for them.”

Finally, Hunt noted the psalmist’s prayer for protection. Hunt said if he could say one thing to seminary students it would be, “Pray that God would keep you close and clean in Jesus name.”

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