This article is a re-post from November of 2012; the original title was “The Church in America is Waking Up!”. I want to point out that all I expressed then is alive and well within me. Although there is an ebb at present time, I have learned that God works best through ebbs and flows. One thing that caught me off-guard in reviewing this article is the inspired description of the heart of prayer. I really cannot take credit for the words that follow, they were recorded as the Spirit moved me. I was blessed by reviewing the article and hope you are blessed by reading it!
All across the nation, congregations of Christians have been coming together to pray and worship together. The impetus for the gathering of Christians is the American election. What is abundantly clear is that the church realizes that who is elected is of little importance. The prayers are concentrated on pleading with God in intercession for our country. The prayers are centered upon asking that Christ be placed above all of our denominations, above our politics, above our own agendas, and above our personal lives. This is refreshing and is also a Biblical model. This is a prayer of ownership: Ownership of our failings and ownership of our role as the “body of Christ”. In order to be intercessors, we have set aside our denominations, our traditions, our race, our social status, and our pet doctrines; we have set all of it on the altar of God and asked Him to burn them up. There is a surge for unity in the Church that I have never seen before. There have been attempts in the past founded on the Scriptural mandate for unity, but never has the message of reconciliation reverberated so clearly and widespread! There is a tangible hunger for unity and the call to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one another as fellow children of God. We have begun to see in Technicolor just how petty the walls that divide us truly are, how man-made and flawed these constructs are, and how detrimental the effects have been.
At some point, a clarion call was put out by many churches around not only America but also the world. Nobody planned this. The prayer initiatives seemed to come to fruition without any human effort. From David’s Tent in Washington D.C., to the 40 Days of Prayer initiative, to a plethora of local movements, they all just appeared. In fact, you can’t “swing a cat” without hitting an initiative for prayer and worship based on this theme! The overwhelming theme is miraculously the same: putting God first and everything human second. Personally, I am involved in an initiative here in Knoxville, Tennessee called Gathering Knoxville. The beauty of Gathering Knoxville is that we float from church to church, all denominations are invited and welcomed, and it is magnificent to stand united and just be together! What I have seen and heard and participated in over the last month or so is quite frankly…amazing. Amazing in so many ways, it will be difficult to express in words. But I will try.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies, Paul tells us to pray for our leaders, and God says that the “people called by His name” should humble themselves, pray, seek Him, and turn away from evil ways. Here is the beauty within these Biblical statements: when praying for anyone, it is impossible to harbor any ill-will toward that person (or institution). We may start a prayer of this nature with the wrong heart, but it is impossible to progress through this type of prayer and still harbor those sinful feelings! When we place God above all, including ourselves, He gives us a true heart of prayer. You see things differently. We sing, “Give us clean hands; give us pure hearts”. He is willing and able to accomplish this request. The kicker is that a pure heart is one of love. You can’t hold onto grudges, pet doctrines, prejudices or offenses when you come from a heart of love. All of a sudden, you begin to have your heart broken for what breaks His heart. This is a profound moment. When the Spirit of God descends onto an assembly of believers, He washes our eyes and lets us see with His eyes. I cannot overstate how incredible and humbling this “new vision” is in its power. What skeptics must understand is that we cannot do this ourselves by “mustering up” a loving heart. When you stand in the presence of an almighty God, you become aware of your pettiness, you become cognitive of your absolute powerlessness, and you realize that the only way to have this heart of love is to have it given to you…you can’t earn it, you can’t fake it, and you can’t be spiritual enough. It is by His hand only; we are incapable of such love.
What we can do is pray and worship. The atmosphere changes when you take the emphasis off of your life, your church, your city, your state, your nation and your world. Something incredible happens when we lift God to His rightful place. It goes in line with the teaching of Christ when He tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and all the rest will be added; if we place God alone in His rightful place on the throne of our individual hearts, He will add our families, our churches, our cities, our states, and our nation. When people assemble together and focus on the beauty and majesty that is God and begin to implore Him for forgiveness and mercy, His glory falls on us like a drenching rain. You cannot help but to be changed. Sometimes the change is immediate and overwhelming; sometimes the change is subtle and incremental. Regardless of how it happens, the fact is that it does happen…every time. In a “normal” church service, there is about 20-25 minutes of worship, a few minutes dedicated to prayer, and a 30-45 minute sermon, followed by a closing prayer and/or worship song, and various forms of closing regimens. I’m not trying to be critical here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that what I have experienced over the last 30-40 days completely overshadows, in its power, what is “performed” all over America on a typical Sunday morning. I think the power in these assemblies comes from the focus: we focus on God, we focus on praying for everyone but ourselves, we focus on worshiping our Lord, the attention is squarely on God, and there is no mention of doctrine, no mention of Him blessing us personally, no mention of who is right and who is wrong. When God is worshiped and He is addressed in a humble way, He hears us and bends His ear to our sincerity.
You know, selfish me wants to applaud this effort and pat myself on the back; selfish me would say to the whole of Christendom, “Hey, why aren’t you involved? Why are you sitting at home and not joining this movement?” But simply by attending these assemblies, I have become aware of my selfishness and pettiness. Now, my attitude is simply this: It breaks my heart that those not attending aren’t receiving the blessing they so desperately need! Any Christian would readily admit that they want a closer walk with God. We have survived (the best word choice) our lukewarmness and distance from our Lord’s heart, and many people are now seeking hard after an authentic relationship with their professed God. In America, we have reduced God into a 250-page book, a 30-minute cable show, a once-a-week Sunday performance, an emotional worship song that plays on our favorite radio station, a 7-step plan for a blessed life, a YouTube video showing a “glory-cloud”, a big-haired preacher giving a motivational speech, and an ideal that, if we are honest with ourselves, is unattainable and quite frankly, self-absorbed. Every believer wants to shout out the words of the father whose daughter was dying, “I believe….help my unbelief!” The glaring problem here is that God wants desperately to answer our deep desire to know Him more. He waits patiently for us to really turn towards Him. In modern Christendom, there is an evil construct that has woven its way into our lives that we have become blind to. The best way I can describe this evil construct is by this statement: We have tried to fit God into our busy lives instead of searching out how to fit our lives into His!
So this prayer and worship initiative accomplishes a glorious task. The effectiveness and beauty of this movement is that we are finally gathering together to fit our lives into His, we are imploring God to step in and steal the show, we are begging for forgiveness and mercy, and we are confessing to God and one another that we have been in reality worshiping our idol of religion and not the true God. I can tell you this much, God is pleased! God loves it when we throw in the towel; it blesses God when we finally trim the white flag and lift it over our heads in defeat; and God derives joy when He sees His children drenched in the tears of repentance. Why does this bring Him joy? Because now all the walls have been removed, all the hindrances are wiped away, every human construct is obliterated, and now He can truly bless His children. You see, God wants desperately to bless us with His peace, love, joy and victory over the enemy, but we have blocked His blessing from coming because we have sunk to a whole new level of apathy, lack of love, lack of a true spirit of worship, and lack of sincerity. I know it is hard to hear sometimes. I don’t want to offend anyone out there. But I do want Christians to wake up to what God is trying to speak. God is a jealous God and desires intimacy with His people. He could give a flying fig about how large your church is, how awesome your drummer is, how great your child-care center is, how much is tithed in the pretty plates…all He cares about is an intimate relationship with you and me. An offshoot of this relationship is one of brotherly love. By loving one another, we affectively love Him back! I’m not sure why this fact alludes so many. Only God knows what true love really is; He must fill us with that love, not to just make us feel loved, but so that we can share that love with others. He fills us so we can fill others. So you can take these facts and deduce the following: if you do not love your brothers and sisters, then you do not love God! Don’t shoot the messenger; if you don’t believe me, then you haven’t read the book of 1 John.
I know that what we are doing is what God wants. I am convinced that this prayer and worship initiative is exactly what “the Doctor ordered”. You might ask, “How are you so sure?” I would point you to the evidence. Hurricane Sandy just whipped into the Eastern seaboard. Have you noticed the Christian response? The response has been truck after truck of supplies, an outpouring of support and prayer, and a spirit of heart-felt sympathy. This in and of itself is not unprecedented, but the lack of the “God is judging America” statement is conspicuously missing! You see, there has been a change of paradigm. The change is ownership. It is less about “us” and “them” and more about “we”. The church is starting to understand their roll in America: we are her intercessors, we are the heart of the nation, and we are the ones responsible for covering our nation with love and prayer. We are not here to make grand statements, we are not here to point fingers, and we were not called out to be the judge and jury. This is “our” country…this is about the comprehension that your pain is my pain! When one suffers, we all suffer. When one is crying, we cry with you. When one is celebrating, we all celebrate. When one’s life is swept out to sea, we all lose a little of who we are. Do you see the difference? Last night, as we prayed for the nation, we began to pray for the people in the Northeast that are suffering. As we prayed this prayer, people were crying, people were truly moved, and the supplication to God was REAL. We were not going through the motions because we were sincerely hurting. God broke our hearts for what breaks His. This brings me full-circle to having a pure heart of love. Again, we cannot produce this heart of love, even if we try awfully hard to achieve it. It is a gift, an answer to a plea, and a divine outpouring. “You receive not, because you ask not” and you “ask for the wrong things” are themes echoed in the book of James. I can say with all confidence that if the people called by His name will humble themselves and pray for a pure heart of love by seeking Him and setting aside their own agendas…God WILL answer THAT prayer! (2 Chronicles 7:14) He will hear and He will heal the land; He always has and always will heal through love. We as Christians must come to grips that love is HIS answer to the prayer of healing. It starts with love, is nursed in love, comes to fruition by love, and ultimately ends in love. GOD IS LOVE. As His children, we are ambassadors of His love…nothing more, nothing less.
The process I have been witnessing is unprecedented in my lifetime. The process is one of the Church being corporately willing to be broken, the realization that we as a body have been selfish and unloving, and the understanding that things MUST change…and that change starts with each person as an individual, accountable Christian. The blame is not something to be doled out; the blame resides on each of us and compels us to take ownership of our personal failings. From here it works its way outward to affect the family, then to the local congregation, then to the community, the city, the state, the nation, and ultimately the world. To express all that I have learned would require a book, and I promise that book is forthcoming! But I cannot write this book until the Author is finished writing the words on my heart. I only know that this process is His timing and not my timing. This much I know: God is preparing us for an awesome move of His Spirit, God is laying the foundation with our hands, a revival to eclipse all revivals, and the “signs and wonders” are right around the corner! For almost 4 years, He has burdened my heart with this message of a coming manifestation of His glory, and I am now beginning to see, hear, and taste just what this glory will be like. In the book of Daniel, he speaks of a generation doing “great exploits”; I sense these exploits are an impending reality. God is assembling a remnant right before my eyes and it is overwhelming to see the pieces fall into place. The last 30-40 days of prayer and worship seeking to enthrone Christ in our hearts, our church, our city, states, and nation is the first step (the most important step in my opinion) in the right direction. I simply cannot express the magnitude of what is happening this very moment in history. I implore each person who reads this article to join the party! Find a prayer initiative, take a weekend to saturate yourself in His presence with fellow Christians, or just open your heart and ask God where you can jump in. It is to your benefit not to miss this time of refreshing. If you don’t believe in such things, I challenge you to put my words to the test. This generation has been chosen for a special and profound movement of His Spirit; don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself!
So I will end this article with a final thought. I have never in my life had this much hope in my heart! I sense a people yearning for God’s intervention in their lives. I sense that Christians are finally waking up to the fact that the status quo has been failing us. I see people throwing themselves on the mercy of the Lord and asking Him to take control: take control of their lives, take control of His church, and take control of this nation. The hearts of His people crave and hunger for His love and His attention! We say “God loves you”, but dangerously few have ever experienced that love. We want to be loved by Him and worship Him; He wants to express His love toward us but also demands that we share that love. That is what we haven’t done; therein defines our failure as a Church. The Church, or “body of Christ”, or the “bride of Christ” is called out to be His hands and feet and heart. Without love it is all a sham. Without love for one another, for our fellow countryman, for the ones suffering, for the ones that don’t agree with us, for the ones that hate us, then we are nothing more than another religion. But, adorned in the love of Christ, we are a glorious, effective, powerful and lovely bride. It is what we have been waiting for…it is what He has been waiting for…