A Few Thoughts on Our Need for Prayer

Just a few posts I’ve put on Facebook. There’s so much talk about this in that about our world’s chaos, but not a lot about our desperate need for prayer.

“So much talk about pro-this and anti-that, but so little talk about praying for revival.”

“So many lament the lack of prayer in schools while so many churches no longer have prayer meetings or altar calls.”

“Prayer cannot be both important and unimportant. It either is or isn’t.”

“While I value my 2nd ammedment rights, but if I had a choice between it or revival, I would choose revival. And that is what I long for!”

“If the church isn’t serious about prayer, then neither is the church serious about the need for change.”

“‘What’s going to happen is going to happen,’ some say. No! God calls us to seek His face and pray. This can make all the difference in the world!”

Intercession and Standing in the Breach

The people of God – followers of Christ – are to be a praying people. The apostle Peter says of us that we are part of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). When we consider the priests of the Old Testament, one of their tasks was to be intercessors on behalf of the people. Today, as members of the priesthood of believers, this holy and sacred baton has been passed onto us. Are we being faithful, or have we been fumbling it?

We are told by the apostle Paul,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-6

I don’t profess to understand prayer. I only know we are called to pray. While I know God is sovereign and doesn’t need our help, I also know that He calls you and me to pray. While our prayers do not change God, in some mysterious way God has decreed that He will only do certain things in response to the prayers of His people. For example, after telling him about the corruption of the false prophets, priests, and political leaders of the day, God then tells His prophet,

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God. ~ Ezekiel 22:30-31

Did you catch that? God sought for persons to intercede for the nation, for someone to ask Him to turn away His wrath and judgment, but He couldn’t find anyone. God implies that He wouldn’t have sent destruction if He could’ve simply found someone to stand in the breach on behalf of the nation. Beloved, do you believe our nation and world aren’t experiencing the judgment of God? If not, read Romans 1. We are told of three judgements which occur as God begins giving a people over to their sins. With each judgment, there is a deeper, darker, and more dangerous pit. Beloved, whether we admit it or not, America is in the third phase of judgment. Yet, WHERE are the people of God? We’re so busy playing games in church, we don’t have time to take intercession seriously. You don’t believe me? When was the last time your pastor spoke about revival? How often do the television and radio preachers talk about it? We hear people all the time saying how crazy our world is becoming, but how many of the same are saying, “Come with me, we must pray and seek God’s face”?

How many churches today still have prayer meetings and altar calls? Of those that do, how many are filled with people pleading to God for His mercies on behalf of our nation and world? How many people truly plead to God to send revival? There is no lack of evidence for the urgency of such prayers, but where, oh where, are God’s people to be found pleading?

Beloved, let me ask you something. Why do people need the Savior? What is the eternity awaiting those who die without Jesus? These are not trick questions. And if you’re born again, you’ll know the answers are that those who die apart from the saving grace of Christ will die in their sins and be forever condemned to hell. There are no second chances or do overs. Do we believe this? Tell me, DO WE BELIEVE THIS??? Then how can our churches not be burdened? How can we not be on our faces pleading before God?

Beloved, I don’t care about your theological camp. What I care about is the heart of God. And He tells us as He speaks through His prophet, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin…. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the LORD God; so turn and live” (Ezekiel 18:30, 32).

Churches and pastors, lest we continue in our religious fun and games, and remain focused on building our empires in our own names and for our own glory, God also speaks through His prophet this warning:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. ~ Ezekiel 33:7-9

Beloved, our prayers matter. And our hearts matter. And to God our Father, the people all around us matter. The question is, do they truly matter enough to intercede and stand in the breach for them. If not, then let us be clear that our religious activities are nothing but sheer garbage.

Exchanging of Glory and Broken Cisterns

Throughout history there have been instances of revivals and spiritual awakenings, but not a single one of them came apart from God’s people praying. If there has ever been a time when there’s been a desperate need for revival, it is now. Yet, in a time when God and His mercies are needed, not only is secular society becoming more resistant toward Him, so also, many Christians are more interested in receiving warm fuzzies, and many ministers are more interested in building their churches.

Despite the increasing chaos our world is facing, where are the desperate pleas for revival being sounded from the pulpits? Where are the voices on social media stating our desperate need for God’s intervention – not in an accusingly fashion, but an honest plea?

We could learn a lot from the Old Testament, if we’d stop listening to Bozos who say it’s irrelevant to the people “under grace” (the writers of the New Testament declare that we have these writings for an example). Speaking through on of His prophets, God declares to the people of old:

But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. ~ Jeremiah 2:11-13

The people of God committed two evils: 1) forsaking God, and 2) pursuing and putting trust in other things other than God. Are we not guilty of this today? We claim to come to God in our churches and concerts, but is it truly to pursue God or to experience some form of manifestation? Is it truly about God and surrendering to Him, or to experience some kind of miracle and experience? Still, isn’t it, in many cases, just something we do out of habit? In this, are we not guilty of forsaking our God? Added to this evil is another evil of simply pursuing our own agendas (e.g., bigger congregations, bigger buildings, more programs, etc.). It’s not that these things are necessarily wrong in themselves; however, in many cases these come at the cost of genuine pursuit of, and surrender to, God. The whole counsel of God is neglected, lest the people are “offended” and leave, etc. So, are we not left with many wonderful buildings, many wonderful programs, yet a biblically illiterate and spiritually malnourished people?

Later, God says through His prophet:

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their discretion; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ~ Jeremiah 6:30-31

Can we honestly say the church today isn’t experiencing this? If this is not true, then why are many churches, conferences, and concerts filled, despite the fact God’s Word is neglected, denied, or is said of “needing to comply with the times”? How is it many televangelsists continue to have their bank accounts expand, and “Christian” authors remain bestsellers, despite their teachings stand in opposition to the teachings of the Scriptures?

Still, God’s message to us is the same as His message to the people of old:

Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you with anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 3:12-13

I believe God wants to heal our land. He wants to bring revival. But instead of pleading for revival, our prayers are often filled with “bless me, bless me, bless me,” while secular society screams, “Leave us alone! We can handle this on our own!” And all that keeps happening is our world is spiraling further out of control.

Instead of trying to defend our positions, whether “liberal” or “conservative,” when will we humbly and honestly acknowledge, “God, You are right and we are wrong! Have mercy, for we have sinned against You greatly! Have mercy on us and our lands. Bring revival! Bring awakening! We are helpless apart from You! Have Your way in us!” Will we ever return to the fountain of living waters, or will we continue to trust in broken cisterns which cannot hold water, then only to continue to wonder why we remain thirsty while the world becomes increasingly barren spiritually?

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).”

A House of Prayer 

Jesus says explicitly, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’” (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Therefore, not only is He stressing the importance of prayer, but it is to be of highest priority of any congregation gathering in His name—from the vocational ministers to the attending laity. So we should ask ourselves, how did churches become houses of worship? Understand, this is not simply a changing of terms. These are not synonymous. No, this shift is quite consequential.

“My house is to be a house of prayer,” the Lord declares. Yet, consider the emphasis of most churches. Is it prayer? No, most churches emphasize the preaching, worship, or missions/outreach of some kind. Yet, typically in any service prayer is given only a couple of minutes. Certainly the preaching of God’s Word, worship, and missions/outreach are all important. However, it is through prayer churches show their dependence on God and seek His directives. Furthermore, it is through prayer these other things are infused with the power of the Holy Spirit versus man’s ingenuity and activity (there is a distinction). Incidentally, it is by the lack of prayer churches reveal their trust in themselves (rather than on God) and seek after their own agendas instead of God’s will. Oh sure, in many cases buildings are erected and congregations grow numerically—but not infused with the power of God and a deeper knowledge of Him!

Henry Blackaby writes this haunting observation, “Those who know they can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ will cry out to God continually (John 15:5). People who become self-confident and proud will find they are too busy to pray.” How much do you and I, as well as our churches, genuinely cry out to God in total dependence and with abandonment of ourselves?

We say that we follow Christ and that He is our Teacher and example—that we want to be like Him. But is this true? Do we follow His example? Do we really want to be like Him? Oswald Chambers is right when he says, “Prayer seems like such a small thing to do—next to nothing at all in fact. But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything.”

Consider how many times in the Gospels we read of the Son of God rising up early in the morning while it was still dark or staying up late into the night for the purpose of praying. Before calling His disciples, He prayed. So devoted was He to prayer that His disciples (who no doubt were familiar with prayer) requested that He teach them to pray. Before His passion, knowing the cup of suffering was being given to Him to drink in its entirety, He pleaded that there was some other way; nevertheless, He wanted the Father’s will to be done. Is this our mindset—our desire—to seek long and hard after God, to enquire of His guidance in every decision, and to surrender our desires and agendas in order to align ourselves with His? This is difficult. In fact, this is impossible if we are not being infused with His Spirit. Cheryl Sacks rightly notes that this cannot happen apart from fervent prayer.

Please understand, I’m not speaking as one who is some great prayer warrior. But I see so much powerlessness of the church as darkness spreads further and many people falling away from the faith. We have Christian literature and media galore, but where is our influence? We have plenty of nice facilities and events, but where is the power? Is not our lack of influence and power simply a result of our lack of prayer?

The purpose of this article is not to shame the church or put her down. Rather, I am simply wanting to encourage you, and that we may encourage one another, to seek passionately after the heart and face of our Father—just as our Savior exemplified. By the moving of the Holy Spirit within us, may our church buildings be restored to houses of prayer instead of houses of worship. May we become completely dependent on God rather than our own abilities, and may we learn to sincerely pray patterned after His, “Your will be done.” From here, only God knows what incredibly positive effects this would have in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, and our world. We won’t ever know, except churches becoming what God has willed for them to be—houses of prayer.