On January 5, 2012, shortly before his 86th birthday, a great Bengali Christian businessman graduated to be with his Lord. His name was Mr Samson H. Chowdhury.
Mr Chowdhury is well known to many New Zealand Baptists because of our relationship with the Bangladesh Baptist Christian Fellowship (BBCF). Not only was he one of Bangladesh’s most successful businessmen, known and recognised in business and government for his integrity and honesty in dealings at every level, he was also a man who gave of himself in service to God.
A full obituary of his life will be published in an upcoming edition of World Reach but there is one aspect of his life I want to zero in on. It’s an aspect of Christian living that, I think, has become a lost discipline in need of recapturing.
In her book God Owes Nothing to Anyone, author and tranzsend overseas worker Susan Osborne highlights an important insight into the sort of person Samson Chowdhury was.
“Honouring and serving God has been part of Samson’s life from the very beginning. He was born into a Christian family and was nurtured and brought up in the faith. His parents were devout believers whose devotional life was evident to all. Samson’s wife, Anita Chowdhury, comments on how this was a challenge to her prayer life:
“‘It began when I was living in my parents-in-law’s house. I noticed that my father-in-law would get up very early for his devotions and then there would be family prayers. Even though I was a daughter of a Christian family, it was only after I was married and living with my in-laws that my prayer life began. I learnt so much from my in-laws but they influenced my prayer life a lot. So, when we moved into town and set up a separate household, I adopted their habits of family prayers every day. And I thank God that till today, I was able to maintain this habit. In fact Samson always says, “No prayers, no breakfast. Being late is no excuse.”’”
Can you imagine a life of ‘No prayers, no breakfast?’ Perhaps you live such a life? If so, I lift you up in high regard. I have to confess, however, that I am far from this ideal.
I was raised in a Christian home where prayer was a taught discipline – at least the idea of prayer was. Prayer has been important to me and my prayer life has grown over the years. However, while there have been moments when my conversation with God (my prayer life) has been incredibly close and intense, in much of my life it has been a conversation with varying levels of distance. I know from experience that when I’m close to God in my prayer life every other aspect of my life is more even and things happen.
I don’t know about you but it causes me to wonder, why is maintaining a consistent prayer life such a challenge? I know I should pray. I know why I should pray. I know I can pray. I know prayer works. I have the tools to pray. I even have an iPhone app. So, why don’t I get disciplined and have the prayer life I desire?
During 2012 we want to challenge ourselves, our readers and supporters to pray for us about a number of things. But in that challenge we want to encourage and equip.
Of particular note, we want to pray for the nation of Thailand. God is doing a work across Thailand. Toward the end of last year I was challenged that, without prayer, the work will struggle to gain momentum. The fledgling church in Thailand has an audacious but God-inspired vision and they have seen many come to Christ as a result. However, for God’s vision to be accomplished, more people are needed.
People are certainly needed to go. Tranzsend alone needs, by the end of this year, at least three young couples or singles to start language study to assist the local Thai church in planting churches across Kalasin, one of the least reached provinces in Isaan, north-east Thailand.
People are certainly needed to give. To achieve the work, we need people to give of their own resources so that income generation projects can be developed and Thai pastors, supported by their local churches, can be released into full time ministry.
This has a double-edged effect: the church becomes economically sustainable, and the ministry is released.
Being a pastor and church planter in rural Thailand is a part time role. We need more full time local pastors trained and supported to continue the work. Handouts, like donations, can be short-lived and ineffective in the long run. Helping churches develop economic sustainability for their people and communities is far more effective.
However, most of all, we need people who will pray; people who will adopt Samson Chowdhury’s motto as their own: “No prayers, no breakfast. Being late is no excuse.”
Where does it start? It starts with next breakfast. Don’t look back and feel guilty. Look at the next breakfast you will have and make this your new rule, “No prayers, no breakfast.” Over the next few months we’ll suggest what prayer might look like. We’ll suggest some tools, some topics, some exercises, and some examples.
I wrote this article before breakfast, and I’m hungry, but I can’t eat yet! “No prayers, no breakfast” is my new motto. I’d love you to join me.
– Peter Mihaere is General Director of the New Zealand Baptist Mission Society – New Zealand Baptists Reaching the World.