“Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.” John 10:7-8
My dog loves his back yard. He is 14 years old and for most of his life he has enjoyed his kingdom of trees, lush grass and a deck to sun himself on. We like it too. When he goes outside to do his thing or simply go and meander around, we let him out and walk away. We don’t worry about finding him around town or swimming in the pond next door. (He wouldn’t do that anyway, he hates water.) When he is ready to come back in, he sits at the back door and barks. The prince has returned from surveying his kingdom and it is time for another nap. What makes Bandit secure in his little fortress and me and my family having the confidence to wait for his bark? It is the privacy fence. He is protected and that allows him and us to not worry.
Prayer is a lot like the fence. It is a wall that we build to keep the enemy out and the blessings in. Recently our staff and church family have experienced things like sickness, situations and uncertain circumstances that has tried to distract, disarm and misdirect. My wife has been one of those people who has experienced illness that seems to be as of right now a mystery. After a second trip to the ER, I had this thought that I knew was from the Lord. I saw a wall to keep the enemy out, but there was a problem. The gate was left open.
The enemy prowls around like a vicious animal wanting to scare, intimidate and if allowed, devour. (Did I mention he was vicious?) He is also pretty good at finding unguarded and open gates. I was watching a movie about a farmhand teaching a recruit how to milk goats, feed chickens and manage the property. As they approached a gate, his instructions to the newcomer caught my attention. “Leave the gate like you found it. If it is open, leave it open. If it is closed, leave it closed.” That was some rural nuggets of wisdom right there. How many gates are to be closed, but because of negligence, apathy, and distraction, they are left open only for the enemy to walk right through.
My wife asks me routinely if the gates in the back yard are closed. Why? Because she doesn’t want to find a varmint taking a swim in the pool or having an unfriendly encounter with prince Bandit in the back yard. As I was driving my wife home from the ER, I understood what God was saying. Close the gate by asking our leaders and church family to pray. As I write this, I have Pastor Don, my associate and Bible teacher in the hospital with stomach problems. Pastor John, our youth pastor is on the couch with swollen eyes, headache and stuffed up nose due to the wonderful Illinois allergies and I have already mentioned my wife who also just lost her second uncle in the matter of one month. Add these things to many in our church family who have gotten news of cancer, furloughs and stress – “We gotta shut the gate!”
There are pictures that show what a sheep pen looked like when guarded by a shepherd that Jesus was referring to in our scripture. Around the sheep would be a fence with only one way in and one way out. Guess who was standing guard at the gate. The Shepherd. Our text gives us the picture of how to close the gate. Put Jesus, our Shepherd there through prayer. Call on Him, look to Him and ask Him to guard and watch over our loved ones and keep the enemy out. He is the door. He is the gate.
When I sent out the call to pray to my church family, it was like I heard a boom as the gate slammed shut. When reading this scripture today, I see our shepherd standing at the gate and my soul is at rest. It is not a time to worry. We simply need to find the gates that have been open and get them shut through prayer. I know we do not always like to mention to others when we need prayer, but if we do not, who is going to help us shut the gate and keep it closed? When my wife prays for me, she is shutting the gate on the enemy who wants to distract me with busyness and temptations. When my staff prays for me, they are keeping their leader surrounded in protection and wisdom. When my church prays for me, they keep their pastor locked and loaded to kick the wolf out of the pasture. When we pray, Jesus stands at the gate. Prayer shuts the gate.