Saturday, October 22, 2011

Praying: The price


I looked for a man among them who would stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. (Ezekiel 22.10)

Intercessory prayer can only really flow out of a deep level of personal identification.

Compare the way we pray for a starving child in Africa to the way we would pray if it were our own child. The difference is not so much the scale of emotion as the level of intimacy.
When distant strangers become intimate neighbours our prayers for them find passion.
The Bible is full of such identification. Jeremiah identified so strongly with Israel's pain that he wrote: "Oh my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart the whole land lies in ruins." (Jeremiah 419)
Hosea was even called to identify with Israel's unfaithfulness to the extent of marrying an adulterous wife.

When Nehemiah heard about the disgrace of Israel,

"I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: O Lord... I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you.
Sins of the nation

As we seek God for national revival, we have a priestly duty to confess the sins of our nation.

In scripture this is never a detached theological exercise, but a heart-cry, often accompanied by fasting, mourning and the wearing of sackcloth and ashes. In such prayer, we acknowledge that the filth of society infects and affects us too, and we cry out that in God's perfect anger, he would remember mercy and spare us.
Daniel prayed a remarkable intercessory prayer for Israel, owning its disobedience as his own, although he himself was "highly esteemed" by God (Daniel 1011).

"While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill Gabriel came to me in swift flight." (Daniel 9.21)

Sins of the church
Sadly, we must also own the sins of the church since no one part of the body can detach itself from the rest and claim purity. The terrible truth is that Christ's body is riddled with sickness. There is institutional inflexibility, disregard for scripture, a quenching of the Spirit, gross materialism, sexual immorality and division. No local expression can ignore the bigger problems, nor can any denomination, network or group achieve theological purity and holiness by separating off. Unity means loving one another enough to appreciate our differences, share our successes and even carry the shame of each other's sin.


Charles Finney said that the two prerequisites for revival are prayer and unity.

Without a commitment to work with other churches and bless other traditions, we cannot expect our prayers for revival to be heard. Unity must be our top priority, therefore, for at least three major reasons: God commands unity.

Remarkably, Jesus only ever commanded us to do two things:

"Preach the Gospel" (Mat.28.20) and "love one another" (John 13.34).

It is the depth of our love for each other, not our doctrinal purity, that marks us out as Christians.
Jesus' final prayer for the church was "that all of them may be one... so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17.20-21).
I suspect he knew that Satan's strategy against us down the years would be to "divide and conquer". He definitely knew that God bestows blessing wherever "brothers live together in unity". (Psalm 133)

Revival requires unity

 Ed Silvoso, for example, lists unity as the primary step in "preparing an atmosphere for effective evangelism".
As we pray for revival, therefore, it is essential that we allow God to convict us of any trace of competitiveness, jealousy or sectarian prejudice against other flavours of faith.
Unity is good for your health!

Unity does not require uniformity and it is actually a good thing that the church is made up of so many different denominations, streams and traditions. How sad it would be if we had to worship like clones, when God has made us all so different! The unity that "commands God's blessing" is relational, it involves loving - and liking - one another. We will never achieve unity around doctrine and I suspect God doesn't want us to all believe exactly the same things about everything anyway!
 Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards are excellent role models for us in this. They worked together wholeheartedly, spoke well of each other unreservedly and agreed to disagree on points of theology and practice. Fellowship with those who think differently is good for us, just as cross pollination is always healthier than inter-breeding.
The  prayer that prepares the way of the Lord goes far deeper than saying "please send revival" in a thousand different ways.

It is moved by passion for the church and compassion for the lost. It identifies with the wounds and the sins of others and it wrestles, like Jacob, with God for the blessing. Jacob identified with Israel so completely that God gave it to him as his name. From that moment onwards his identity was utterly, perhaps terrifyingly, caught up in the promise of God for a nation. We too should embrace the name, the identity and the destiny of our communities. But priestly identification at such a level can cost a very great deal; having wrestled in prayer, Jacob limped for the rest of his life.

Praying the price
Prayer warriors will often carry scars that are righteous trophies of battle, the wounds of the faithful.

I'm not talking about hurts and insecurities, which relate to the selfishness of others and need to be healed. I'm talking about the intercessory pain and anguish often experienced prior to breakthrough. The enemy will often target intercessors as they lead God's people into battle, and although they know the joy of breakthrough, they may also carry the scars of the fight.

Moving house is never easy. Lorraine Fenner, who heads up our church's intercessory team, has successfully prayed a number of people into houses that they had been struggling to buy. It is as though her prayers can cut through interminable legal red tape. But ironically, Lorraine's own family lived in cramped conditions for a number of years, unable to move as potential houses fell through at the last moment with depressing regularity.
The apostle Paul experienced such frustration on an even bigger scale. Having been used to perform remarkable miracles, he lived his life with a 'thorn in the flesh' that God would not remove.

It is no coincidence that many prayer warriors have known a great deal of personal pain and this has somehow refined their faith and focused their eyes on eternity in a way that makes Satan tremble.

Such intercessory warriors should be honoured and protected by the church because their ministry is probably the most sacrificial service Christians can give themselves to. That is why the church thrives in the blood of martyrs: martyrdom is the ultimate sacrifice, unlocking the purest power of the cross.

The price paid by those in revival is little compared to that of those who prayed it in and I suspect that particular honour awaits these faithful forerunners in heaven. "It may be that in the eyes of God it is a greater honour to be chosen prior to the outbreak of revival, to be an emissary and a channel of the living God in the preparation time, in the harder time, than in revival time itself. Masses of people then will benefit from the flooding of the rivers of God, but the honour of the battlefield, I suggest, is given to the pioneers who prepare the way for the later flood tides. It may be that you now live in the hour of greatest opportunity from God's standpoint. What an hour in which to be alive!"
Source: Extract from 'Awakening Cry' Pete Greig

Are you praying for Someone?
He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor." Isaiah 59:16 NKJV

"The Spirit himself makes intercession for us…" Romans 8:26 NKJV

"I will pour out…the Spirit of grace and supplication…" Zechariah 12:10 NKJV

In the early '70s, my family moved to California from Kuala Lumpur. My oldest sister was in her first year of college. I was an idealistic 14-year-old, enamored by the romantic notions of the hippy movement.

One night, I tagged along with my two sisters to what we thought was a concert in the student lounge. Before the music began, we sat on the lawn of the campus, getting high.

Three people walked over to our little huddle and began to talk to us about God. Something strange and unfamiliar stirred in my heart for the first time.

We wandered into the lounge, listened to some rock band play, and heard a testimony followed by a simple gospel message. I alone stood up to pray, heart pounding, so self-conscious among the seated college crowd.

That was the night I gave my life to Christ. Some 40 years later, I'm writing this in gratitude to that someone who prayed.

Someone had a burden for students.
Someone booked the lounge that night.
Someone invited a preacher and musicians to whom I could relate.
Someone put up posters and invited kids like me to come.
Someone cared about four girls sitting on the college lawn getting high.
Someone spoke simply and clearly enough for a 14-year-old to get it!
Someone sat with me after the concert to follow up after I prayed the sinner's prayer.
I was given a small gospel of John that someone else had paid for.

And three days later, someone wrote a letter and made a phone call, inviting me to go to church that week. My life was changed…forever.

Every facet of that evening was an important link in the chain of events that transformed my life and, later on, the lives of my sisters, my brother, and our family.

This is the first time in 40 years that I have wondered, who was it that prayed for me?


Now I feel the Holy Spirit asking me, whom are you praying for? Is it a loved one, a friend, a neighbor?

Just think what God would do if more of us prayed, and invited, and brought someone to hear to gospel.

Source: Kathe Laurie website: