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Obedience begins with desperation, prof tells students at Midwestern

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Seek God desperately, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students were challenged during a special chapel service in conjunction with the Kansas City, Mo., seminary’s annual day of prayer. John Hannah, senior professor of historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, called on students to personally seek revival during a two-hour chapel service, with his Oct. 22 message followed by a time of individual and corporate prayer and repentance.
Hannah was at the seminary for two days, speaking in various classes and presenting a dramatic monologue of Jonathan Edwards.
Alan Tomlinson, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Midwestern and who studied under Hannah at Dallas, introduced Hannah to students, saying, “Everyone who came out of [Hannah’s] class had grown in their relationship with God. He marked me for life.”
In his opening remarks, Hannah noted how English evangelist Gypsy Smith answered the question, “How do you have a revival?” Hannah quoted Smith as saying, “‘Get some chalk. Get alone. Get on your knees. Draw a circle around yourself. And pray. Ask God to give you a heart for him. And don’t get up until he has answered your prayer!”
Using the second chapter of Jonah as his text, Hannah said the prophet’s prayer contains the four main elements for renewal in the life of a servant of God: desperation, confession, repentance and rededication.
Hannah noted in the story the pagan sailors desperately tried to save themselves and Jonah from the storm and showed more compassion for Jonah, who was asleep, than Jonah showed for the Ninevites.
Hannah then asked the seminary audience, “Why is it chalk time for you and I?”
“Before he can reach down into the hearts of pagans, he has to reach down into the hearts of his prophets,” Hannah said. “Before he can reach kings, he’s got to reach preachers.”
Hannah asked the seminary community if they were ready to get out the chalk, draw a circle around themselves, pray, and not get up until they were filled with a sense of God’s presence. Commenting on revival, Hannah declared, “Before there can be revival in Kansas City, there has to be revival at Midwestern Seminary. Before there can be revival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there has to be confessing sinners at 5000 North Oak.”
Hannah said of Jonah that while he had a marvelous testimony, he lacked obedience and a heart for God. It took a storm, being thrown overboard and ending up in the belly of a big fish to bring Jonah to a sense of desperation great enough to cause him to pray. Hannah said he felt sorry for the fish having to bear the burden of a rebellious prophet in his belly for three days.
“It is dangerous in life to have a knowledge of God without having a passion for God,” Hannah said, noting spiritual giftedness will wreck the Christian who relies upon it alone. “The most marvelous place to be is in desperation,” said Hannah, calling it the place where obedience begins.
Desperation also serves as a mark of the servant of God, Hannah said. True confession always leads to repentance, he explained. Repentance is not a change in your mental apparatus, it is a change in your morph, he said, using the Greek word for form.
“That always leads to rededication,” Hannah said of confession. “I really think that is what a day of prayer is — a day set aside to make a remarkably profound statement.”
Hannah asked those assembled if they would be willing to say, “I will sacrifice my life to you, oh God.” He said while some might answer they didn’t feel called, that was not the question.
“I am asking you if you are willing,” Hannah said. “Have you come to the end of yourself? Are you desperate? Or are you still relying on your natural talents?”
After Hannah’s message, the students got down on their knees and began to petition God for the movement of his Spirit in their midst. After a season of individual prayer came a time of corporate prayer, confession, repentance and rededication. Out of the circles of chalk came prayers such as “Forgive us for our busyness;” “Forgive us for our self-reliance;” “Forgive my sinfulness;” “Forgive me for not being a loving child of God when others can’t see;” and “Forgive me for not witnessing this morning when I had the chance.”
One student prayed, “Lord, forgive me for being a cancer to the body of Christ. I know even by my attitude I have made worship difficult for everyone else, for my wife and for my child, for my brothers and sisters around me, for the professors and for the president of this campus. Lord, please cleanse my heart. Help me to go the way of righteousness and not be a cancer to your body. Thank you in Jesus’ name.”

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod