Throughout the world countless millions of believers are involved in prayer initiatives, many crossing national, cultural and church denominational barriers with the purpose of laying before Yahweh the plight of the nations of our world.
Such commitment to prayer is both commendable and essential if we are to see all that Yahweh wants to do in our world before Yahshua returns. In a sense we can never pray too much, indeed we are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV). Prayer is essential to the fulfilment of Yahweh’s plans for the world; to quote a prophecy by our late Elder Peter Warsop: “…It is true that men are saved by the foolishness of preaching, but without prayer, preaching is foolishness.”
What concerns me, however, is that some use prayer as an alternative to simple obedience to the great commission. Yahshua did not commission us just to pray but to preach the gospel and make disciples. We can study many examples through history of revivals and awakenings that have begun as a result of earnest prayer. The result of such responses has always been effective evangelism, sometimes on a community transformation scale.
I fear, however, that there is a premise that if we pray long enough and loud enough, Yahweh will respond with a queue of people outside our church asking us what they must do to be saved. This is not strictly what Yahweh is promising. When Yahshua saw the plight of the multitudes of people around Him, He was moved with compassion for they were like sheep without a shepherd, wandering aimlessly on the hills of life and heading into a lost eternity.
He identified the world as being ripe for harvest and His response was, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38 KJV, emphasis mine). Here we see the true purpose of prayer - it is to ensure that the work of reaping the harvest is effectively done. The natural result of prayer must therefore be effective evangelism (coupled with effective discipling of new believers). For this to be done we must become workers for Yahweh and we must be willing to be sent by Yahweh.
On the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, one hundred and twenty followers of Yahshua prayed and waited in an upper room. When the Spirit visited them, they were empowered and began to declare the praises of Yahweh and to share the breaking news of Yahshua with the crowds around the temple area. The result of this evangelistic activity was that many of the listeners were cut to the heart, and were powerfully transformed by faith in Yahshua, baptism in water in Yahshua’s name and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-41). Yahshua had explained that the primary purpose of the in-filling of the Spirit was that they should be effective witnesses (Acts 1:8) and this was their ultimate focus.
Not long after Pentecost, the Church began to experience significant persecution and opposition to the message of Yahshua. Their response was once again to enter that prayer closet – but for what purpose? This was the substance of their prayers: “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel…” … “Now, [Yahweh], consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant [Yahshua] (Acts 4:27-30, emphasis mine). The result of this prayer: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of [Yahweh] boldly” (v31, emphasis mine).
It is interesting to note that their experience on this day was similar to that on the first day of Pentecost - a single filling of the Spirit was not enough, there was a need for the Church to meet together and be empowered for service once again. As believers, we need times of refreshing - this is one of the main reasons Yahweh calls us to meet together regularly. Many would call what happened on Pentecost and on this subsequent prayer event revival, yet really what we see here is ‘normal’ church life as Yahweh intended it. The result of ‘normal’ church life was and should be today boldness in sharing the Good News of Yahshua, with signs, wonders and miracles following. Such things will not happen, however, unless the Church involves itself with Yahweh in the business of making them happen.
I have come to the firm conclusion that it is not the world that needs revival but the Church. What the world needs is evangelism by a revived Church. The very word ‘revival’ denotes the bringing back to life of something that is dead or dying. It is the Church that has experienced the life of Yahshua and it is we who must go back to the Source of Life and be empowered once more to reach lost people. We need to reclaim Yahshua’s passion for the crowd, but this should do more than drive us to pray (though it certainly should do this) it should galvanise us into action.
I am sure that not one of us would disagree with this comment. The problem that many of us have is that we struggle to know where and how to start. Many of us are not altogether sure quite what to say and who to say it to. Some of us come to the conclusion that evangelism is probably best left to the minority of anointed and gifted specialists in the body of Messiah, whilst we busy ourselves with other important activities in the church. In thinking this way, we are in danger of completely missing the fullness of Yahweh’s purpose of our life on earth, our call to mission and to be witnesses in the world.
So what should we do? I believe that the first step has to be personal renewal - as the songwriter says: “Send a revival Yah, start the work in me…” When his many sins were revealed to him the psalmist recognised his need for personal renewal, before he could be used by Yahweh in any significant way. “Create in me a pure heart, O [Elohim], and renew a steadfast spirit within me” … “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, ...Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you” (Psalm 51:10-13, emphasis mine).
In the late 70s our own national church began to pray fervently for revival, the result of which was what one might describe as an anointing for holiness. I remember becoming very dissatisfied with my own walk with Yahweh at this time and felt convicted about the many failures in my life to live according to Yahshua’s high standard as revealed in His Word. Our senior pastor had come into a new experience, having felt the same about his own life, which he began to preach about - a work of the Spirit he called ‘sanctification’. Suddenly, through faith in Yahshua, he was able to walk the pathway of holiness. I knew this experience was for me, and I can remember being prayed for to receive this gift. I can honestly say that my life has never been the same since. I experienced a great level of victory in my life and closeness to Yahweh that I had never known before. Yahweh lit a fire in my heart that day, and that fire is still burning.
The prophet Isaiah had a similar experience when he saw Yahweh. He was immediately convicted of his own sinful nature. “Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, [Yahweh] Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). Yahweh’s response was to send His angel with a burning coal from the altar and to touch Isaiah’s lips with that coal. “…See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (v7). Now he was ready to be Yahweh’s mouthpiece to Israel: “…Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” “Here am I. Send me!” (v8)
Yahweh did not save us just to ensure that we would live a godly life and go to heaven at the end - His plans for the Church and the world are far more ambitious than this. He commissioned His disciples to go into the world and make disciples. If we want the fires of personal renewal and personal revival to have their intended effect in the wider world, we need to fully embrace Yahshua’s call to go. Just recently we have completed a six week course with our church groups in Aylesbury and Hitchin; it was written by J. John, one of the UK’s most anointed evangelists, and entitled ‘Breaking News’. This helpful course has enabled individuals to identify practical ways that we can share the wonderful message of life with people around us, not just in word, but in actions and lifestyle. It has been a source of tremendous encouragement to me, to see longstanding believers begin to realise how presenting the message of Yahshua to their family, friends and work colleagues is not an insurmountable and fruitless task. One lady in our congregation, a care-worker who took to heart all the helpful teaching given, asked for prayer for one of her elderly clients who was very despondent. The following Monday Yahweh answered that prayer and she was able to identify and take the opportunity to offer to pray for that elderly woman and lead her to Yahshua. If we have the Spirit of Yahweh, we can rest assured that He has sent us. We do not need to go to the uttermost parts of the world (though Yahweh could call us to this at any time); we can start where we are in our ‘Jerusalem’. We can trust Yahweh to give us the direction, wisdom and boldness we require in our every day existence and contact with non-believers, IF we ask for it and wait for it.
Asking for wisdom and boldness however is not enough. We must act upon it, as Yahweh commanded Gideon to “…Go in the strength you have and save Israel…” (Judges 6:14).
Sometimes we are waiting and praying for ‘another Pentecost’, when what Yahweh is really saying to us is, “Go with what I have already given you.” It was as Gideon went and was obedient to the instruction of the angel of Yahweh, engaging in social and spiritual reform by tearing down the altar of Baal and rebuilding an altar to Yahweh in its place (an act that could have cost him his life) that the Spirit of Yahweh later came upon him in a mighty way (Judges 6:34). Yahweh said as much to our own senior pastor in the early sixties as he began to pray for revival in the tiny church of which Yahweh had just made him pastor. He began to realise that what was required was not another Pentecost but for him to move in the power of the anointing and apostolic commission that he had already received. It was as he began to preach in obedience to this commission that Yahweh began to anoint his words and hundreds were saved, healed and filled with the Spirit and a new church was born.
My point is this. If we want revival, then we need to embrace the call to go. It is obedience to Yahweh that will be the catalyst for what we all so long to see, the healing of our nation. Yes, we need to be empowered, but this should be a regular occurrence in our church gatherings. For some of us, it is the church service itself that is the life. We feel great at church but on leaving the building we hide ourselves away, avoid as much contact with anything or anyone that might rob us of our joy or cause us to sin. We come back the following week as an empty vessel ready to receive another blessing and be coaxed back into life. (This was the general pattern of my life for many years!) Here is the problem: it is hard to be good when you’re not doing anything.
The true Christian life is what we live every day of our life, not just once a week. The Gospel of Yahshua is not what we come to church to hear but what we go from church to tell. The meeting place should be a training place for the market place. The gifts that we exercise in church can and should find expression in the wider world. People need what the church has to offer. As I have begun to embrace mission as a lifestyle, I have found a greater source of blessing and power in living my life every day. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). Being involved in winning others for Yahshua is a source of life in its own right; it is truly a recipe for revival!