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FIRST-PERSON: Praying about Iraq — and revival

KENNER, La. (BP)–“This week I’m doing missionary work in Iraq; I’m praying” — that’s the message on our church sign this week. We will not sit idly by and do nothing while the Middle East is on fire; we will pray. We will not wring our hands or march in the streets or hyperventilate over the news; we will pray.

Prayer is not the least or the last thing we can do, but the first, the best, and the most.

I recently noted that we have a president who does not live by the polls, saying that only a lost man turns to the people he is leading and asks directions. I received a response from someone who was frustrated that Mr. Bush seems not to listen to the million anti-war marchers, that he hasn’t changed his ways because protesters are carrying signs in the streets. I suggested that perhaps he was listening to the 268 million who were not marching, that conceivably he knows more than we do about the Iraqi situation, and I would far rather him listen to God than to me. Personally, I would distrust a president who checked each morning to see what his critics were saying before planning his actions. I pray for the president, that God will show him the way and he will have courage to walk in it.

I am amused to see how that frightens some people.

A lot of people in our churches have been praying for revival. We hunger for a movement of God’s Spirit in our land, believing that it starts in individual lives and churches. Therefore, the heart of our prayer goes like this:

“Lord, we are asking you to take ownership of this church and everything we do here. We are primed and ready for you to revamp the order of worship at any moment you please, anoint the preaching and worship taking place in this place, fill us individually and this place collectively with the Holy Spirit and do great things among us for thy glory.

“We are ready for you to energize our loving, our praying, our praise, our Bible reading, our giving, our serving, our ministries, our witnessing and our relationships. We want all the glory to be yours and none for ourselves.”

As I understand revival, there is a price to be paid. God will not go where he is unwelcome, will not send his presence where no one hungers for him, and will not trust his blessings where he is not loved and honored and obeyed. If there is a “formula” for revival — and we need to be careful here, for a sovereign God follows no man’s plan — it must be to:

— Humble ourselves in repentance from sin, self-righteousness and hardened hearts.

— Hunger for him — not for his gifts or works, but him personally.

— Wait before him, persevering in prayer and faith and labors.

— Obey him, doing what we know today to be his will.

I told our congregation the other day that I needed to “warn” them about the dangers of revival. So, consider this a consumer warning on the subject:

1. For those who like everything the way it has always been, a heaven-sent revival is the last thing you want. When the Holy Spirit moves in and takes over, he leaves nothing untouched. Everything is made new (Revelation 21:5).

2. For those who want the church program predictable and their lives left alone, a revival would upset that. The Holy Spirit has a mind of his own (John 3:8).

3. For those who like a worship service to last one hour — or less — and not a minute more, you do not want to be praying for revival. God will not honor your idolatry of the timepiece (Isaiah 55:8).

4. For those who feel threatened by new people filling the church, enthusiasm in worship or exuberant witnessing or generous giving or outlandish acts of service in the community, a heaven-sent revival would cause all those things and more (Acts 2:41-47).

Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That is a perfect description of a revival.

When I was a college senior, God “moved” in our community. Every afternoon, scores of high school students descended on the church to pray and have the pastor introduce their friends to Christ. Many nights 40 or more people were saved in services. A spirit of love and humility filled the place and the people. In the midst of all that, God called me into the ministry. I hunger for another heaven-sent movement of God. I’ve seen what man can do; I long to see again what God is able to do.
McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church, Kenner, La., and a featured cartoonist on BP. Check out his cartoons at BP Life Lighter Side, www.bpnews.net/bpfun.asp?ID=JM.

    About the Author

  • Joe McKeever