When Was the Last Time You Wept Over Broken Walls?

Preachers, today, don’t want to talk about sin and its devastating consequences, and congregations don’t want to hear about it. Nevertheless, like death, just because we try to ignore it doesn’t make it go away or any less real. When sin is left unchecked—even the supposed “little” ones—it eventually ruins. Like and old weathered and rotted fence, it will eventually break leaving the property vulnerable.

For example (and I’m sure many of us can relate to some of these), multiple explosions of anger eventually ruin a relationship between friends or relatives. Continual seemingly innocent flirtations finally lead to an affair, ruining marriages. The banding with bad company does corrupt good morals. Continual pride or lack of grace finally turns persons off from the gospel because they see no love of Christ in a person. And the list goes on. None of these are exaggerations but are very real. I can almost guarantee if you’ve not experienced one of these personally, you know of someone who has.

Churches are not immune. How many churches have been completely shamed and devastated because of a minister’s infidelity or greed? Still, how many churches have no genuine spiritual vitality, all because of the condoning of sin(s)? Oh sure, they might have food drives and so forth, but they are completely barren as far as spiritual vitality goes. The walls are broken down, and the people are left vulnerable, ravished, and hardened.

We read in Nehemiah, in his own words,

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”   As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. ~ Nehemiah 1:3-4

Let us not think this was simply an immediate response on Nehemiah’s part and he was over it in five minutes. In his commentary on Nehemiah (in the ESV Expository Commentary series), W. Brian Auker notes “the prayer that follows summarizes what Nehemiah prays over several months.” Today, we see the damaging effects of sin all around us, from Washington all the way down to our homes and personal lives. All around us are broken people within broken down walls. Tragically, too many preachers and authors are saying with sympathetic smiles, “It’s all okay. You’re okay. God loves you. This wreckage is not your fault.” But the fact of the matter, sometimes it is—as it was of the Jews of old. Our sins have consequences, and sometimes the results are extremely horrible and painful. To treat persons as though everything is okay is not only to dismiss the problem, but it’s also to openly lie to them and make light of the reality of the consequences of sin, whether it’s our sin or the sins of others.

Understand, my point is not to throw people’s sins and consequences in their faces. Rather, I want to ask you—especially if you’re a preacher—a question: When was the last time you wept over the broken walls? When was the last time you wept over persons who once walked with the Lord but who are now entangled in sinful living? Or wept with a family whose child has overdosed? Or wept over your town or city gripped with drug and alcohol addictions, immorality, and domestic or gang violence?

Am I crossing a line when I say many preachers are too busy growing their churches and youth programs to notice the broken walls around them? Do I speak erroneously when I say many of us have been hurt enough times, we don’t feel much of anything? And am I mistaken when I say many churches are oblivious to many of the broken walls, because they don’t view sin as being destructive? Instead, they want to blame all the ills on society and others? But tell me, if our hearts are not broken because of the broken walls, will we really be stirred to positive action? If we don’t feel anything, if we are not moved with compassion, are we really going to pray? Tony Evans writes in his Bible commentary,

“Broken people cannot fix broken walls. This raises the question: is prayer the first thing or the last thing that you do when you see that something is broken? If it’s the last thing, then you waste time in everything you do that leaves God out of the equation to fix it. Far too often, we allow other things to push prayer aside rather than allowing prayer to push other things aside.”

E. M. Bounds notes, “The world needs more true praying to save it from the reign and ruin of Satan.” But how will we truly pray unless we’re truly moved? And how will we be moved unless the Holy Spirit does a deep work within us? May God prick our consciences, break our hearts, and help us to weep over the broken walls around us! But even in this, we must be willing to yield, repent, and declare, “God, Your will be done!”

Perhaps it’s been a while since we’ve wept because of the broken walls. Let us confess our sins and callousness, and let’s ask that God will restore a genuine fervor for lives to be restored by His truly amazing power and grace.

Whatever Happened to Prayer Meetings?

There is a strange phenomenon which has taken root in much of modern Christendom, bearing poisonous fruit in many churches. This phenomenon has to do with people talking about dependence on God and the importance of prayer, all the while jettisoning prayer and the stressing of it in many congregations. (I will talk about its fruit in a moment)).

Case in point, whatever happened to prayer meetings? Many churches no longer have them. After all, typically prayer meetings were quite low in attendance. And being fair, often such meetings were not truly prayer meetings, but most of the time wasted gossiping and sharing prayer requests instead of actually praying. So instead of fixing the problems within the prayer meetings, such meetings are chucked altogether, to use the time in more “profitable” ways.

Ah, but over time some seeds have been unwittingly planted. Sprouts broke through the ground and their roots began digging deep into the soil. Eventually a trees grew and fruit was born, fruit which was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the [trees were] to be desired to make [us] wise,” (Gen. 3:6) we’ve partaken of the fruit. This fruit has distorted the perception of much of the church, make no mistake. Men and women alike have mistakenly perceived that they can build churches without the help of God. They mistakenly believe they can offer the sacrifices of Cain and still be accepted (Gen. 4:3-4). By their own hands and wisdom, they build and sustain their congregations, believing that the growth in numbers signifies the life and blessing of God—despite any shallowness of faith, mock reverence, disbelieving of the Scriptures, and the void of real intimacy, power, and revelation of God.

Understand, I am not simply being critical. For all our talk on how dependent we are on God, why is there, in many cases, such a deemphasis on prayer? Why do many churches place so much attention on the worship but not prayer? Why have so many churches abandoned expository preaching and replaced it with “topical,” and merely referencing the Bible (which is God’s revelation to us) instead of digging into it? We have within congregations, as well as among churches professing the name of Christ, persons with differing opinions on crucial issues like sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, etc. Be very clear on this—there is no division within the Godhead on these issues, nor within His revelation. No, but the poisonous fruit of the trees we have planted have poisoned the mind and distorted the perception.

Too often churches and individuals already have the course of action they intend to take, in accordance with their own understanding. Instead of truly seeking the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and direction, we lay our plans and strategies before Him and ask Him to bless them. We consider this a “prayer of dependence.” E. M. Bounds is right when he says, “We do more of everything else than of praying. As poor as our giving is, our contributions of money exceed our offerings of prayer.” Can most churches and individuals really argue against Bound’s assessment?

Where are the prayer meetings? Where was the emphases on prayer and our need for God’s power? When was the last time we and our churches have truly cried out to God for a genuine and mighty move of His Spirit and power? Oh sure, we might occasionally toss up a prayer for revival, but do we sincerely desire moves of God and revival? These do not come without a cost. Not only do these require the time for seeking and asking of these, but also surrender. A. W. Tozer asks,

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late [I dare say, not much in our day]—and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying [in our case, we tend to substitute both praying and obeying for our own ingenuity], and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”

All around me I hear people or see what they post on social media what a mess our world is in—even from Christians. Strangely, for all the complaining and anxieties, I do not hear the stressing of prayer and crying out to God. Why is this? We say we depend on God and prayer is so important, but are we not liars? Do we think God is indifferent to the condition of our world, He who declares that He takes no delight in the death of anyone (Eze. 18:32)? Is He who created the universe by the sheer power of His command impotent in bringing revival? He “who desires all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), will He say, “Absolutely not!” if His people genuinely repent of their own wickedness and plead on behalf of those who are perishing?

How have we become so content with mediocrity and spiritualized excrement? How have we gotten to believe we are some kind of miniature saviors, feeding others crumbs from our own ponderings? Pastors, teachers, I don’t care a wit about our degrees or certificates. I don’t care about any personal skills of leadership. All of it is mere rubbish if not infused by the power of God. All of it! I don’t care how good at preaching or teaching any of us are. Jesus tells us explicitly, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, emphasis added). We must ask ourselves, do we truly believe this? Truly?

If we genuinely believe that we can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ and Him in us (for this is what the Master tells us), then we must reestablish the prayer meetings. We must lift our requests to God rather than sharing them with one another. We must cry out to God and ask Him to uproot these trees with poisonous fruit which we have planted and maintained. Oh, that God would grow the fruit of repentance in our hearts and lives. Oh, that we would turn from our wicked ways. No doubt we are guilty as the people of Jeremiah’s day:

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” ~ Jeremiah 2:13  

Oh, that we would reestablish the prayer meetings and rebuild our altars! I close with words from Bounds: “But not all praying is true praying. The driving power, the conquering force in God’s cause, must be God Himself. ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not’ (Jer. 33:3).”