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A Christian leader flew from America to Calcutta to put an extraordinary proposition to missionary Mark Buntain. Mark, who was approaching his sixties, was offered what his daughter called a ‘fantastic’ salary for life plus an expensive house in the United States. In return, he would be asked to devote the rest of his life to prayer.

Let that haunt you for a moment and join me in 1 Timothy.

I used to be perplexed by Paul’s guidelines for the selection of widows financially supported by the church (1 Timothy 5:3-16). In general, Paul favored widows remarrying (1 Timothy 5:14). So why, for these widows, was remarriage regarded as a broken vow (1 Timothy 5:11-12)? Why was as much scrutiny given to their character and past service as to their material need (1 Timothy 5:7,9)? The requirements read like the selection criteria for deaconesses, not welfare cases. And why were the ‘real’ widows those who pray night and day (1 Timothy 5:5-7)?

After years of bewilderment, the pieces suddenly fitted: these elderly ladies were more than charity recipients; they were the church’s paid staff, devoted – like Anna in the temple (Luke 2:36-38) – to the ministry of prayer, with perhaps other duties as well. That’s why such high standards were expected. That’s why marriage would interfere.

Intercession is no frolic through the daisies. In parts of the globe wars rage to determine whether multitudes will be dominated by Islam. I shudder. I would rather be killed than kill. Yet, as I contemplate the horrors soldiers endure in order to kill, I wonder what I should be willing to suffer, battling in prayer for the liberation of souls. That’s the gutsy ministry entrusted to women we might have thought had passed their usefulness. The very class who today are perhaps most tempted to view themselves as worthless, formed the early church’s prized power-house.

If I remain diligent, I, too, will have a full-time ministry when I retire. Like widows with children, (1 Timothy 5:4,8,16) I probably won’t receive my finance from the church, but that makes it no less a valid, full-time ministry. While everyone else has one foot in the grave and the other caught in the hearse’s door, I could be mightily used of God. They could be my most productive years. Or does God only use widows?

The above is from my free web book The Quest for Fulfillment. (© Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996).



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