Friday, February 01, 2013

Survival or Revival? (Revival Praying: H.O.P.E)

How is your prayer life? What do you usually pray about? When you go to a prayer gathering, what are the kind of things people pray about? These questions are dealt with in this article, which makes a case for a renewed understanding of prayers. Prayer is less of asking for things, but more of building up a relationship with God. In praying, we let God be God, and let God show us our true need. St Francis of Assisi recognizes this human flaw, and recommends the following:

"When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing - nothing." (Saint Francis of Assisi)

James 4:3 warns us: "And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong--you want only what will give you pleasure."

A) Survival Praying
In many churches, whenever there is a prayer meeting, chances are, it will be some kind of a survival-related prayer. In my years as a Christian, nearly every prayer meeting is filled with requests for some personal issues or some form of intercession. If there is a major illness by someone, or an emergency requests, the numbers go up. If there is a major exam coming up, panicking students shoot prayer requests in droves. In times of danger or uncertainty, prayers gush forth as if God does not already know. I call these "survival prayers."
  • My mother is very sick, please pray for healing.
  • My exam is near, please pray for my Math paper
  • My son's leg is injured, please pray that he will get well soon
  • Our Church is struggling with leadership matters, so please pray that God will raise up leaders.
  • "Lord, please give me ___________" ; "God, please provide us _______________..."
  • ....
Sometimes we do come before God saying things to God as if God is not aware of our needs.  Just looking at the prayer requests that come through a Church's website, practically all of them are asking for something. A job, more money, mending a relationship, recovering from depression, dealing with particular emotional needs, spiritual needs, and so on. There are very few, even none, that talks about holiness, or about revival. All of them touches upon some earthly survival matter. Sometimes I wonder, some Christians come to God in prayer only when they have problems. Other times, where are they when God is waiting?

As long as we are all fixated on survival matters, we will be locked into a mode of survival praying. If our prayer routine comprises mainly asking God for stuff, we reduce God to a spiritual dispenser of answers. We treat our prayers as magical keys to unlock the spiritual treasures the Holy Spirit can give. We treat God as a heavenly Santa Claus. As long as we remain in this mode, we will never really grow out of survival praying.

B) Revival Praying

For many churches, in fact, more than 90% of them have more than 90% of the prayers centered around needs. Very few actually pray for revival or for some form of spiritual awakening. Put it this way, it is hard to awaken a sleepy soul. Most of the time, when one is in pain, one will then pray very hard. At other times, the soul gravitates toward wanting to do things according to one's comfort level. Revival praying is essentially learning to live beyond our own needs, beyond asking for physical needs of people around us, and beyond the four walls of our churches, and organizations we represent. Revival praying focuses more on God's will rather than man's perpetual need for comfort or for meeting of some need. Revival praying demands more out of self and even more out from God. Here are some examples of revival praying and prayers.

  • "Expect Great Things from God, Attempt Great Things for God" (William Carey)
  • "Give me Scotland else I die!" (John Knox)
  • "Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down." (John Wesley)
  • “You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God...This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame.” (William Booth)
  • “It is God’s will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people; as is manifest by Ezekiel 36:37. and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for His church, He will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication (see Zechariah 12:10).” (Jonathan Edwards) 
Indeed, when we pray the Lord's prayer, that "Thy kingdom come," we are also praying "Thy will be done." When we pray for revival, we are offering up ourselves as ready to obey God, instead of ordering God to be ready to obey us. Let me suggest four ways toward Revival Praying.

C) Revival Praying: H.O.P.E

I use the word "HOPE" as an acronym for what it takes to undertake revival praying instead of being locked into a circular form of survival praying. First, HOLINESS pleases God. Every person who has a desire for revival or a spiritual awakening must determine in themselves to be holy for God is holy. They pray in a way as to ask Go for help to be a holy person. Holiness is definitely God's will for our lives. See how the Scriptures affirm this.

  • "I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. " (Romans 6:19)
  • "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24) 
  • "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) 
A people with a key desire to want to be holy, is immediately fodder for revival. God is pleased when His people call upon Him to be more holy according to the Lord's choosing. Surely, if there is any prayer request to want to be holy for the Lord, the Lord will cherish and take pleasure.

Second, OBEDIENCE is more important than sacrifice. We can burn midnight oil pleading to God for mercy on our needs, or intercede for some others with regards to some dire straits situation. Yet, it is the obedience to the Word of God that is more important than the sacrifice of hours we put into spiritual work. There is no substitute for obedience. Just like praying. We all know that prayer is important, but how much do we actually pray through the day? Knowing prayer is one thing. Actually praying is another. Oswald Chambers has said, "Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work." If that is the case, it is less important to talk about prayer and more important to actually pray. Prayer is obedience. The hymn of John H Sammis says it very well.

"When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

Third, renewed PREACHING is a mark of revival. Far too many sermons and messages center around giving good advice. What we need is red-hot preaching that presents Christ as the center, as the Person, as the highlight of every meeting, every gathering, and every Christian occasion. If we do not preach Christ, then what are we doing? Pray for your preachers. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move. Look at how the passion of Paul has been re-ignite by the Holy Spirit even when he was under arrest in Acts 26.

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" Paul replied, "Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.' (Acts 26:28-29) "

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in the beginning of his book, "The Cost of Discipleship."

"Revival of church life always brings in its train a richer understanding of the Scriptures. Behind all the slogans and catchwords of ecclesiastical controversy, necessary though they are, there arises a more determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all, for Jesus Christ himself." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Preach the Word in season and out of season. That is a key part of revival. Pray for your preachers. Pray for the preaching every Sunday. Pray that the Spirit moves among the people as Christ is preached.

Finally, EVANGELISM is a mark of revival. There is no greater proof of one's reawakening than the desire to share the gospel with all. Look at the early Church. The numbers grow tremendously with each proclamation of the Gospel. The book of Acts records many being added to the church when the preaching of the Word is done and when the gospel is shared throughout the regions.
"God uses people. God uses people to perform His work. He does not send angels. Angels weep over it, but God does not use angels to accomplish His purposes. He uses burdened broken-hearted weeping men and women." (David Wilkerson)

Let us awaken ourselves to a renewed journey to holiness. Let us gird up and be ready to obey what the Bible is teaching us. Let us pray for our preachers, that they will preach Christ passionately and that the Word of God take root in the lives of all who hear the Word. Let us go forth to evangelize with our testimony of what Christ has done in our lives.

May revival praying take hold of more churches. For the sake of the Kingdom of God.


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