EDITOR’S NOTE: This first-person is part of a series of first-persons Baptist Press will publish in anticipation of the 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal. The 40/40 Prayer Vigil is an initiative of the North American Mission Board and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to encourage Southern Baptists and other evangelicals to pray for 40 days from Sept. 26 to Nov. 4. To learn more, visit www.4040prayer.com.
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — “Pawpaw,” said the two sweetest voices I can imagine this side of heaven, “would you take us to Menchie’s for frozen yogurt?” OK, we have taken my two granddaughters Abigail and Rebekah for the past two evenings.
And yes, I do have a major project due at the seminary in the morning. Sure I am out of cash and will have to stop at the ATM on the way. Oh, and no, I do not have their parents’ permission! Who were those people anyway? “Yes, hop in the car and we will go now.” Why? Because I love to hear the excitement and trust in those little voices.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11). And how exponential that will be if what we seek is nearness to God, the cleansing of His grace, the comfort of His presence and the wisdom of His words and thoughts.
Will you turn a deaf ear to the earnest admonition of your child who asks nothing more than the grasp of your arms and the intent of your heart? Unthinkable! For God to turn away from such a plea from His children is more impossible still.
Furthermore, the manifest presence and power of God is the greatest need Southern Baptists have at this hour. A plethora of negative reports and statistical analyses have chronicled our ills. Thousands of our churches are evangelistically ineffective.
A world of more than 5 billion souls without Christ on the down escalator to eternity find few riding the upward bound escalators who will reach across for a rescue. Our convention, for all — and perhaps in part because of — our successes, is pulled in every direction like a pan of taffy candy.
This is why orthodox theology in itself is wholly inadequate. Believing the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God does not guarantee obedience to the Lord who spoke it. Comprehending that repentance and faith are essential to salvation is not to be equated with the act of humble repentance and self-abandoning trust in Jesus.
Even orthopraxy, doing the right things void of the energy of the Holy Spirit and the motivation of love for God and for neighbor, becomes sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.
Consequently, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the North American Mission Board have urged Southern Baptists to participate in earnest intercession with our heavenly Father for 40 days. The 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal calls for a visitation and intervention of God in our churches and our nation. This request ought to be like asking a famished man to eat or a parched throat in the desert to accept a cold sip of refreshing water.
Do you really love God? Was there ever anyone whom you genuinely loved whose presence you did not covet? Is it our desire to continue the task of “doing church” without a visitation from heaven? Do we have an appetite for witnessing the powerful hand of God doing the inexplicable in our day? Among us coterie of souls is there anyone left who longs for the holiness of the cleansing of the Holy Spirit?
While I do not indulge in the hopeless prognostications about the dismal future, nothing could be more obvious than our present need for a fresh visitation of God’s Spirit. We are not such able theologians and churchmen as to be able to “heal the hurt of the daughters of My people” (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11).
We are unable by political or statesman-like sagacity to curtail the immoral descent of our nation into the abyss. If our God does not show Himself mighty in America once again, our First Amendment promises of religious liberty will be squandered and we will soon be as totally secular as much of Europe.
The greatest hour for Southern Baptists has come. I believe that the problems of the church and nation have convinced us to run to God in sacrificial, heartfelt intercession. Our wonderful Lord has promised, “You shall find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
All of our people and all of our churches must rejoice in the challenge from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the North American Mission Board and say with the Shulamite shepherdess seeking Solomon, “I sought him whom my soul loveth” (Song of Solomon 3:1). Join with the hundreds of thousands as we make 2012 the year of seeking God, the One whom our souls love.
Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).