Prayer meetings usually have the poorest attendance of any meeting on the church schedule. It is the meeting most likely to be crowded out by competition from other activities. Many churches have cancelled prayer meeting for lack of interest. What in this world has happened to our prayer meetings, or rather to our prayer life?
As I looked to God for the answer to this question, I discovered a startling insight. I noticed that my own prayers needed a completely different focus. My major emphasis was on a list of things I wanted God to do. I also noticed that this is what most of us usually do in prayer meetings. What does this reveal about our relationship to the Lord?
Have we actually carried this mentality into our prayer life? Are we coming to God Himself primarily to get Him to do something for us?
Isn’t it easy to get so caught up in the fever of “getting things done” that we do not take time to nurture love, to listen and to mend wounded hearts and broken relationships with God and people?
Paul’s missionary ministry was borne in a prayer meeting devoted not to asking God for anything but to ministering to Him through worship (Acts 13:2). God met them and they really got something done. Their love for God and one another overwhelmed the heathen world and threatened to put the idol industry out of business (Acts 19:24-27).
A revolution of our prayer life needs to begin right here. Instead of rushing into the presence of God with a lot of requests, couldn’t we humbly try to find out if our love relationship with Him is alive and well today?
Shouldn’t the first concern of our prayers be to abide in His love? Jesus taught this in John chapter 15. He told His disciples that we are related to Him in a life of love like branches to a vine. A branch has to abide in the vine to bear fruit. Otherwise, the branch will die (vs. 6). Without Him we can do nothing of eternal value (vs. 5). Our prayers may go on but they will be like talking to a wounded mate who is no longer listening.
Our weak prayer meetings can be revived. As Pastor Ken Rogers of Lewisville Bible Church (Lewisville, Tex.) put it: “Revival is the supernatural stirring of God’s people which turns them back to God in love and devotion.”
Jesus had assured them that empowered by the Holy Spirit they would do greater works than He had done. So one hundred and twenty of His disciples spent ten days praying as they waited for the Spirit to come and fill them with power. In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came down and filled them with power. They witnessed to the multitude of Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.
Jesus was preparing His disciples for His return to heaven. They wondered what they could do without Him. He assured them “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) When He had told them that He was going away they were filled with sorrow and they wondered who they could possible continue the good work which Jesus had started while He was with them.
Their witness was so powerful that three thousand were saved in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified less than two months before. In this hostile atmosphere these Jews boldly submitted to baptism in Jesus’ name.
The good news that Jesus had risen from the grave and that thousands of Jews were trusting Him for salvation spread rapidly. By Acts chapter 4 the number of believers in Christ grew to about 5,000 Jews.
Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus and he was converted (Acts 9:1-20). He became a powerful apostle whose ministry spread through the Roman world. Prayer was the key that brought the power of Christ on the throne in Heaven down to Earth where the church and the apostles were laboring empowered by the Holy Spirit.
A huge problem faced the young church that began to be filled with Gentiles. In the Old Testament Gentiles could not come to worship at the temple as equals to the Jews. In Christ Christians of all races are received as equals with the Gentiles.
This threatened to be continued in the church. Read Acts11:1-18 and notice how the Lord intervened and prepared Peter to stand up for the equality of Jewish and Gentile believers.
Read Acts 16:13-40 and notice how Christ was actively working through the ministry of Paul and Silas to witness to the jailer and establish the church at Philippi. The apostles did indeed receive power from Christ on the throne in heaven to establish the young church throughout the Roman world.
At Thessalonica the preaching of the gospel was met with an attack by a mob. They cried out “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6). At Ephesus the power of the gospel set off a riot because so many were being converted and they were getting rid of their books of magic and their idols (Acts 19:23-29). An English bishop said, “When Paul preached the gospel he started a riot but when we preach they invite us home for tea.”
The church is at war with the devil and his huge army of wicked spirits. God has commanded us to put on the whole armor of God and stand against Satan and his wicked spirits “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:10-20). We must fight Satan and his army of demons and never give up. We must defeat them or they will defeat us.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
This is my fear for churches that are not waging prayer warfare against Satan and his wicked spirits in heavenly places.
The first time Jesus spoke about the church He declared that He Himself would build His church and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). The church is a supernatural body. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who has all authority in Heaven and Earth, is the builder. Before Jesus ascended to heaven He told His followers, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Thus Jesus gave His church authority to crash the gates of hell, and all the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to bear witness that Christ who died and rose again to save us has conquered sin, death, Satan and all the forces of evil.
He came “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke. 4:18). Paul was sent throughout the Roman world to lost mankind. His mission was “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ].” (Acts 26:18)
The Gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). It takes power and divine authority to rescue both the folks who are in bondage to drugs, alcohol and sex, and also those so-called “nice religious people.” Pride and selfishness hold everyone in bondage, regardless of their aesthetic, until they are set free by the power of God through the preaching of the cross.
When Paul preached the cross, many new believers confessed their evil deeds and burned occult books worth a fortune. So many citizens of Ephesus got rid of their idols that the idol makers rioted because they feared the powerful message of the cross would shut down their business (Acts 19:18-41). The preaching of the cross made such a powerful impact on Thessalonica that a mob set the whole city in an uproar and some Christians were dragged into court with their accusers crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here, too (Acts 17:5-6).” The new believers “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (I Thess.1:9-10)
The preaching of the cross brings us face to face with the enormity of the guilt of every human being. Many nice people come to our churches thinking they are not very sinful. A man once came to me seeking church membership. I thought I would find out if he knew his need of salvation. So I said, “Do you realize your sin was so bad that Jesus had to die a criminal’s death between two thieves to save you from hell?” He was shocked! He said, “Awwwww!” Then without another word he got up and walked out. He just couldn’t believe he was sinful enough to need a Savior who died a criminal’s death to save him.
To those who hunger and thirst for righteousness the preaching of the cross is attractive and mightily transforms those who believe. Sammy Tippit, an international evangelist, has seen thousands come to Christ in his prayer-backed meetings where he proclaims the power of the cross.
God worked so powerfully through Paul’s preaching of the cross in Thessalonica the news of the believers’ transformation spread throughout the whole region (I Thess. 1:5-10). The church was established and believers attended faithfully “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 1:6). That kind of joyful commitment is rare in our land today.
The Christian community in America has lost the kind of influence on the world that we have noted in the book of Acts. Instead the world is having a profound influence on the Christians.
A 2017 study by Barna Group and Summit Ministries found that, among practicing Christians:
A Gallup poll in 1992 concluded that “While religion is highly popular in America, it is to a large extent superficial; it does not change people’s lives to the degree that one would expect from their level of professed faith. In ethical behavior, there is very little difference between the churched and the un-churched.” Gallup concluded, “From our surveys, we have found that only about ten percent of the population have what we call “transforming faith.”
Think that’s merely the secularism of a generation ago? Think again. According to the same Barna study, “When it comes to views of morality: Almost one-quarter of racticing Christians (23%) strongly agree that ‘what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.’”
Why is this happening? Many are not proclaiming the lost condition of mankind and the cross as man’s only hope. Some are offering services that are basically entertainment, not Christ-exalting worship.
Criticism was rife in November 2022 among both Christians and the more secular online crowds responding to a TikTok video of Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, TX) flying drummers across their auditorium in preparation for their extravagant, Hollywood-ized, million-dollar Christmas pageant. One popular comment quipped, “I simply love in the gospel when drummer boys fly around the manger. It adds a certain dignity to the birth of Christ.”
Let’s get back to our foundations in seeking God. Prayer meeting attendance is often a tiny fraction of the Sunday morning crowd. Prayers are limited to a few requests for the sick, those who need a job or those who need protection while they travel. The cry for spiritual transformation is rarely heard. Consequently the awesome sense of God’s presence is missing. Prayerless congregations drift toward a low vision of who God really is.
A. W. Tozer wrote:
“Always the most revealing thing about the church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God…
“So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God:
“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy Of Him – and of her” (The Tozer Topical Reader, Volume One, Compiled by Ron Eggeit, 1998, Christian Publications, Can]p Hill, PA).
For revival we must unite in prayer in our churches and homes claiming our Lord’s promise to be present among us when we gather together in His name (Matt.18:19-20). Gathering in His name means placing ourselves under His authority and seeking to completely agree with His will so that we truly represent Him. Pray that God will revive awesome reverence for Him in our homes and churches.
You may copy for free distribution this issue of Revival Insights without making any changes. To order The Power Of praying Together; Experiencing Christ Actively in Charge by Oliver W. Price or request a free subscription to Revival Insights email BiblePrayerFellowship@gmail.com. For more studies on prayer visit our web site http://www.praywithchrist.org
America is a divided nation. Nowhere is this more evident than in our churches. According to the Pew Research Center, “Projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070.” (“Modeling the Future of Religion in America,” Sept. 13, 2022)
This is quite the opposite of the early church. In Acts we read, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul…” (4:32).
The spirit of the world is crowding the Spirit of Christ out of our lives. We need to turn around. Palms concluded, “Society’s trend toward individualism is not a pattern for the Body. The eye and the ear, the hand and the foot, need each other. When they don’t function as part of a whole, we know there is sickness. Chaos produced by individualism can create sickness in the Church.”
Every congregation and all believers everywhere need united agreement in prayer and faith. True, we can pray privately, but we must also come together with the church expecting to find one accord in prayer. The church in Acts began in one accord in prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:1). United prayer was a top priority of the apostles and the people (Acts 6:4; 4:18-33; 12:1-25; 15:1-30).
United agreement in prayer is necessary because of who we are.
We are related to Christ and each other like the members of our natural body are. Our head coordinates the life and action of all the parts of our body (I Corinthians 12). Christ is the head over all things to the church.
We are one family. We pray to ”OUR Father.” Andrew Murray said that it is unnatural for the children in a family to always meet with their father separately and never know a shared relationship with him.
Our lives together form one holy living temple for a dwelling place for God on earth (I Corinthians 3: 16; Ephesians 2: 16-22).
We are not lone rangers. We are one army under one commander facing a common foe of great power (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 6:10-20). United we stand. Divided we fall (Matthew 12:25).
The longest recorded prayer of Jesus focused on this. He prayed that believers might be one as He and the Father are (John 17:11). This is a supernatural oneness of spirit. We cannot achieve this by human wisdom. We must look up to God together in prayer and faith to experience this unity.
This oneness is crucial to our testimony to the world. Jesus prayed that we would exhibit this oneness “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21-23).
This prayer was answered in the church in Acts. They had an amazing oneness with God and one another. The entire church was filled with the Spirit (2:4). They were all of one heart and one soul (2:42-47). God and the whole church were in the most intimate communion imaginable (4:31-35). With great boldness and power they witnessed to the world.
Can God do this again? We must answer boldly, “Yes!” Jesus won the right to give His church ALL the blessings of God (Ephesians 1:3). These include:
(1) Sharing Christ’s position of power and favor at the right hand of God (1:15-23; 2:4-6);
(2) Sharing Christ as our Head (1:22-23) who has power to fill our lives with His own lovely character and unite us in His love;
(3) Knowing by experience the love of Christ and being filled together unto all the fullness of God (3: 14-21);
(4) Helping each other perfect holiness until we grow up to share the mature fullness of Christ (4:13);
(5) Receiving by faith the fullness of the Spirit and becoming thankfully submissive to God and to one another in our body life, our home life and our work relationships (5:18-6:9).
To possess these blessings and this kind of gracious life together we must:
(1) Repent of living any other way and believe God for the kind of life He has given His church in Christ.
(2) Get at least one other person to agree with us in seeking to possess all of those blessings together in Christ (Matthew 1 8 : 19-20).
(3) Put on the whole armor of God piece by piece and unite with our brothers in a determined stand against Satan’s attacks (Ephesians 6: 10-20).
(4) Pray for all saints that we might all share these blessings together (6:18) and for boldness for all gospel preachers (vs. 19-20).
By uniting in repentance and persevering spiritual warfare we can become a God – filled church with God-filled families in a world dominated by Satan and sin. This is revival.
Brethren, let us pray that the whole church will unite in repentance, prayer and spiritual warfare seeking the fullness of Christ!
We speak and write often here at Bible Prayer Fellowship about the need for revival in our churches. Of course, revival begins in the hearts of each individual who opens their lives up to the working of God’s true and living Spirit. Here’s the story of one young man, Joshua Lucht (1974-2021), whose path was altered when God got his attention in an unusual way, as told by his widow, Joia Noël Lucht.
Although raised in an Evangelical church where his father was a pastor, Josh wandered from his relationship with God while in college in 1997. However, he was a rather lousy atheist, because he never doubted that God is real. He was simply mad at God. Josh could not shake his anger over what he viewed as God’s indifference to suffering.
On one occasion, as Josh was driving around Chicago as a messenger, he had a variety pack of Jolly Ranchers on the seat next to him. He was grumbling in his head about his perception that God didn’t pay close personal attention to the lives of humans, as demonstrated by the fact that suffering exists. As he inwardly complained, he thought, “Well, if God really paid attention to the minutia in our lives, He’d hear what I’m thinking right now. And if He could hear me right now, I bet the first Jolly Ranger I pull out of this multi-pack will be grape, because I hate grape.”
Sure enough, the first Jolly Ranger he pulls out is grape-flavored. Josh fumed over the odds for a moment, and then thought that it must be a coincidence, because of course he didn’t believe God would be paying attention to one man and his complaints.
“If God really paid attention …He’d hear what I’m thinking right now. And I bet the first Jolly Ranger I pull out of this multi-pack will be grape, because I hate grape.”
“If God’s really listening, then I bet the next Jolly Ranger will be grape.” Sure enough, the next one he pulls out is grape. This went on throughout the evening. Candy after candy that he pulled out of this multi-pack – all of them were grape, a seemingly impossible event.
Josh came stomping in our apartment that night and declared, “Well, God’s definitely listening when I’m complaining about Him. Also, He apparently thinks it’s funny to mess with my head.”
Ultimately, Josh came to the conclusion that God had long wished to be as involved in Josh’s life as Josh would permit. Josh became passionate about this concept, involving Adonai in every step of his day, every worry, every doctor visit, every lost remote control! For God to be infinitely big, He must also be infinitely small. For Him to be faithful in His big covenants with humanity, He has to be faithful in the personal promises He made to Josh alone.
Josh determined that he had been asking the wrong question about suffering. It’s not a matter of, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” It’s, “Why do good things happen to anybody?” We are living on cursed soil. We have rejected God’s endless attempts to direct us down the path of peace. We live in defiance of Him at every opportunity. There are no “good” people outside of God’s grace. Bad things happen because humanity is living in rebellion against God. But even then, God has paid the ultimate sacrifice to permit us to escape the awful consequences of our personal rebellion. How can we be angry at the God of such profound generosity and grace?
It’s not a matter of, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” It’s, “Why do good things happen to anybody?”
Embracing these convictions brought him so much peace. The restoration of his relationship with Christ during the 2000s meant that when he became sick in 2013, and had a stroke in 2014, Josh was prepared to face suffering with a faithful heart. In fact, Josh’s faith became stronger than ever as a result of his suffering. His pursuit of a closer and closer relationship with God means that when Josh stood before Christ on July 2nd, he wasn’t facing a stranger. He was facing the One whom Josh would daily address as, “Our savior, our friend, & our love.”
The Bible uses four beautiful metaphors from nature to describe the relationship between the life within the believer and the church (Christ) and the life without (dying to self and Christlikeness). In each of these images, the church has to be connected to Jesus in order to be transformed and fruit-bearing. Learn more in this week’s video. Don’t forget to check out the Paradigm One blog where Joe unpacks these organic biblical metaphors in further detail.
Perhaps you’ve heard this statement before, or maybe you’ve said it yourself: “I know Jesus will build His church, but . . .” We often say that we believe Christ will do His work, but we then betray that belief with a simple but. If Christ to be trusted as the Lead Pastor of our churches, then His total sufficiency must be embraced by faith as well. Jesus will build His church. End of sentence.
We shouldn’t need to be told to think biblically, yet we sometimes fail to do so. In the busyness of life and ministry, “close to right” thinking or, even worse, flat out lies can seep in. We may then start to make decisions based on emotions, traditions, organizations, politics, etc. rather than the Word of God. Pastors must think biblically and teach their flock how to think biblically because in this way, minds are transformed. Learn more in this week’s video, and head over to the Paradigm One blog to read more about biblical thinking.
A pastor concerned about his church’s evangelistic outreach should steward his flock in their joy. Believers who are overflowing with the joy of their salvation won’t need to be told to go and share the good news of Jesus; they’ll do it naturally. Learn more about this important stewardship in this week’s video. Check out the Paradigm One blog for more pastoral encouragement on stewarding evangelism.
Despite the misconception, pastors are not the lone rangers of ministry. In fact, pastors will see tremendous growth in the life of the flock when he helps the individual believer discover and use the gifts provided by the Spirit. This encourages the flock to encourage and build up one another in love. Learn more about this stewardship in this week’s video. Check out the Paradigm One blog to learn more about equipping your church.