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Why Not Now?
CHAPTER EIGHT

Prayer in Renewal:

Challenge, Commitment and Impact

GEM 2000:02:07  CC Renewal Series # 6


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Prayer is a challenge. 

So often, we hear that “prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,” or “prayer changes things,” or even: “prayer moves mountains.”  Yet, almost as often, we are frustrated, or even bored by what actually happens as we try to pray.  There is a serious gap between our prayer talk and our prayer walk.

When we turn to Scripture for guidance, we soon see:

. . .  if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.  [Mark 11:22 – 25.]

Is prayer, then, a type of magic, a power that an inner circle of “adepts” can use to manipulate the supernatural to their own ends?

 

Prayer and Power: Faith vs. Magic

James gives a direct answer:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord . . . . You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  [James 1:5 – 7 & 4:2 – 3.]

Clearly, prayer only has power in the context of our relationship with God: if we doubt God, or turn our backs on his providence, or ask for selfish reasons, we will get nowhere.  Thus, the key difference between prayer and magic is faith: “without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  [Heb. 11:6.]

John sums up: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.”  [1 John 5:14 – 15.]

In short, the key to power in prayer is that we must trust and seek God, based on his Word.  Then, we can have confidence that what we ask for is grounded in his will for us in our situation, and will be done.   Indeed, Jesus’ words in Mark 11:22 begin: “Have faith in God . . .”

But, what is faith? On this, the scriptures are clear: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”; and “to the man who . . . trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”  [Rom.10:17, 4:5.]  Faith starts when we turn back to our Eternal Father, in surrender and trust through Christ, based on his Word.  Thus, faith is trust in God through Christ, based on his Word.


Prayer, Power & Revival

Once we see the faith link, the connection between prayer, power and revival immediately becomes clear.

First, true prayer is based on repentance and faith in God, guided by his Word.  But, repentance and renewal of our minds and lives are the first two steps to revival.  So, if we were to truly pray, it would automatically prepare us for revival and reformation. Thus, as God once spoke to Solomon:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  [2 Chron. 7:13 – 14.]

Here, God indicates that he allows and uses environmental and economic breakdown to bring our attention to our sins.  For, the same greed and lusts that lead us to forget God and righteousness, in a mad pursuit of power, wealth and pleasures, cause us to neglect our stewardship over the land and its people, exposing us to plagues and disasters.

For instance, as is often said, “earthquakes don’t kill people, poorly built buildings do.”  Similarly, why have we insisted on building towns and housing estates in places that we know are vulnerable to floods, hurricane storm surges, tidal waves, and fast-moving hot ash flows from volcanoes? 

Why do we neglect deteriorating drainage, deforestation and soil erosion?  The widespread promiscuity that is a root cause of the AIDS epidemic?  In short, there is a clear, unbreakable link between the blessings of God (thus, the issue of righteousness) and enduring prosperity.

So, when our economy and environment spin out of control, we should pause, reflect, and seek the face of God, in prayerful repentance. 

More than that, we have a specific, glittering promise:

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus.  He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.  [Acts 3:19 – 21.]

In short, as we repent and turn to God in faith through Christ, God will pour out his Spirit in times of refreshing revival.  For, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people . . . everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  [Acts 2:17 – 21.]   

Further, such times of revival build towards the ultimate restoration of all things at the Second Coming.  In the meanwhile, God sends his word and his church (in the power of his Spirit and under the Lordship of his Christ) to the nations with the message of repentance, renewal, revival and reformation — the “four R’s” of revival.

Therefore, as we receive the Word of God, repenting and reaching out to God in prayer, the process of revival has already begun.  It will naturally progress to seasons of refreshing as God pours out his Spirit in power, as he has promised.  Then, the process leads on to the reformation of communities and nations under Christ, providing that we will open our ears and hearts to what God has to say to us. 


Closing the Power Gap

True faith — which requires turning from our own ways and turning to God: repentance — is the critical link between prayer and power.

It is also a major challenge: we like to have things our own way.  We are comfortable with our pleasures and secret sins.  We cling to our traditions and customs, in the teeth of Jesus’ warning: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”  [Mark 7:8.]  We “harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in [our] hearts,” and forget that “where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  [James 3:14, 16.] 

Sometimes, we have “hoarded wealth in the last days . . . [and] lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence,” perhaps even “fattened [ourselves] in the day of slaughter.”  Sometimes, we have “failed to pay the workmen who mowed [our] fields.”  Some, perhaps, have even “condemned and murdered innocent men.”  [James 5:1 – 5.]

Therefore, we must repent.  Only then will we have true power in prayer.  And, we will see times of refreshing poured out from God across our region.


Towards Times of Refreshing

So far, we have marked the distinction between prayer and magic, and have highlighted the link between prayer and revival.  The remaining issue is simple: how do we break through?

First, our quiet times.  Our daily quiet times before God need to focus on sound Bible study, setting the context for yielding to God in prayer.  Then, as we rise from our knees, we need to determine to practice the renewal of our minds and lives under the Lordship of Christ in the power of his Spirit.

This will immediately bring us into confrontation with the power of evil in our lives, families, communities, workplaces and schools.  But then, Christ came, descending and ascending “in order to fill all things,” and God has purposed “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”  In that context, we have been saved “by grace . . . through faith . . . not by works, so that no-one can boast,” and we “are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  [Eph. 2:8 – 10.]

So, to seek to fill our lives with Christ is in plainly accordance with God’s will; he has promised to answer such prayers. 

But, we lack wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  [James 1:5.]  So, let us carefully study God’s Word and ask for his step-by-step guidance in applying it to our lives, day by day, activity by activity, relationship by relationship.

Next, let us focus on our families.  “The Family Altar” sounds a bit old-fashioned, but the concept is dead on target: our families need to regularly consult with God in prayer and Bible study, leading into a renewal of how we live, relate and work.

The church comes next.  As we come together as circles of people and families that recognise the Lordship of Christ, we can seek God in prayer and Bible study, towards renewing our lives and reaching out to — and beyond — our communities. 

Then, “times of refreshing,” revival and reformation can flow out across the Caribbean, and beyond it, to the glory of God.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.S


Suggested Assignments

 

(a) Questions for Group Discussion

§         Discuss the contrast between prayer as an expression of faith and prayer as magic.

§         Read 1 John 5:14 – 15.  How can we develop confidence and power in our prayer lives?  (Especially, how can we be confident that we pray according to God’s will?)

§         If prayer is a key to revival and reformation, how can we revitalise prayer in our own lives?

§         In our families?

§         In our church?

§         In the wider community?

§         In the region and world?

 

 


(b) Practical Exercises

 

§         Develop a prayer plan as an aspect of your discipling plan.

(c) For Further Reading