EDITOR’S NOTE: Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, has issued a call to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. Baptist Press will carry First-Person articles during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs as we petition the Father for spiritual awakening.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Today’s church and society are in the midst of a unique phenomenon that has arguably never occurred in 2,000 years of church history. It is the phenomenon of an unprecedented 40-year explosion of books and emphases on prayer exactly coincided by an unprecedented collapse of morals and spirituality. In the past when most major prayer movements reached 10 to 15 years, God sent sweeping revivals and awakenings. So what is going on in a land so full of “prayer” yet careening ever faster into severe spiritual collapse and judgment?
In Scripture and history, the answer always lies not just in “more general prayer,” but in more of a type of prayer and repentance that is God-seeking, Spirit-empowered and fervent. Yet concerning this point, there is hope. Today’s prayer movement is not only rapidly broadening, there are at least some signs of genuine deepening. More and more prayer emphases are calling for a deeper Kingdom focus as well as deep repentance and returning to God. Even if conditions soon get harder and judgments worsen, God’s remnant can and must intensify in fervent prayer!
Unfortunately, surveys suggest many modern believers feel somewhat overwhelmed and unprepared for the more powerful levels of prayer. Yet, even in a hectic day God’s grace can enable believers to pray more effectively and fervently. In order to deepen our experience of God in prayer, two simple principles will make a major difference.
First — embrace deeper spiritual cleansing and yielding
In James 5:16, the release of God’s power is conditioned on the sincerity and depth of one’s ongoing confession and repentance. In verses 17-18, James broadens the context beyond physical healing to praying for a flood to end God’s judgment of drought. It is no great leap to see a parallel with our current need for a mighty flood of God’s Spirit. For many modern believers, a missing key in revival-producing prayer is a lack of understanding of God’s holiness. For far too many, being “under grace” seems to mean “sin is no big deal anymore.” Of course, any such notion is utterly contrary to Scripture and to God’s patterns in historic awakenings. Truly revived, empowered believers walk in a reverential fear of Holy God (Philippians 2:12-13).
God’s Word leaves no doubt that believers’ consistent cleansing and yielding is to be very specific and thorough (Psalms 66:18; 139:23-24; 2 Corinthians 7:1). When cleansing times are brief, rushed or overly general, issues invariably begin to build up and hinder the fervency and power of prayer. And then we experience what too often occurs today — thousands of “prayers” but little or no revival. Yet, by God’s grace there is hope for change and growth!
Just daily adding a few minutes of deeper Spirit-guided surrender can make a huge difference. Currently, more and more tools are available that can help believers yield all areas of sin and self. Our prayer office offers a Bible insert called My Covenant to Walk in Daily Cleansing. Most other conventions have similar tools. When we ask for wisdom, God surely guides His people into deeper yielding without falling into rote ritual or legalism. At least periodically, more extended times of personal cleansing also prevent hidden hindrances from building up in our lives. When believers learn to more consistently “perfect holiness in the fear of God,” fervency will not be a problem. Daily fullness of the Spirit produces supernatural fervency and it does not require exorbitant amounts of time. By God’s grace any believer can pray effectively and fervently!
Second — commit to pray with specific Kingdom-focus
Another powerful principle of fervency is to pray Kingdom-focused prayers we know God wants to accomplish (Matthew 6:33; 1 John 5:14-15). Best of all, powerful Kingdom prayers do not have to be long or overly complicated. Thankfully, we are now blessed by practical Biblical guides to pray effectively for such issues as lost people, missions, revival and spiritual awakening. Our prayer office provides a simple Bible insert called My Covenant to Pray for the Lost, Missions and Spiritual Awakening. Most state conventions have similar guides that focus and intensify even brief prayers throughout the day. It is very encouraging to report that Kingdom prayer is on the rise!
Even though societal conditions are dark, let us keep our eyes on the God of glory. Believers must not let busy schedules convince them they cannot pray effectively or fervently. By a little more cleansing and sharper Kingdom focus, our prayers can deepen. Before long, we are truly seeking the “Reviver,” not just revival. Whether we soon see sweeping revival, greater judgments or some of both, let every believer trust God for the effective fervent prayer of a yielded heart. Let us pray for a “surprising work of grace” and a genuine return to God in our day.
Gregory Frizell is the prayer and spiritual awakening specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Initial articles about the Call to Prayer that Frank Page issued to Southern Baptists for 2013 can be read here and here. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).