Contemporary America and a Call to Prayer

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In the light of this history of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards and the Scriptures, I would like to call us to new passion in prayer.

Let prayer rise among all our priorities, and permeate all our activities, to the degree that our goals are impossible for humans to achieve. What would that include?

All conversions to Christ are impossible for humans to achieve. Jesus said so, when the rich young ruler turned away: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

All holy living is impossible for humans to achieve. This is because holy living is by definition “walking by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), and “putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13). If the Spirit does not come in power, we cannot live holy lives.

Or another way to say it is that faith is impossible for humans to produce without God’s life-giving power (Ephesians 2:8); and whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23); and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, all God-pleasing, non-sinning life is impossible for mere humans.

God has appointed faith-driven prayer as the normal way for us to receive what we cannot achieve. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).

God’s judgments are already falling heavily on America. “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). Without a deep and pervasive awakening of Christ-exalting faith and holiness, this judgment will climax in a cataclysm of physical and cultural destruction.

There is reason to believe that God’s judgment begins with his house. “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). The call for cultural awakening includes the call for Christian reformation and revival.

This awakening and reformation and revival is impossible for humans to bring about. Only God can turn the hearts of millions of people from the love of sin to the love of Christ.

Therefore, I appeal to all Christians: Let us move to a new level in our commitment to pray for the outpouring of God’s saving and sanctifying power in our day.

  • Set aside new time alone with God to ask him for omnipotent intervention in the awakening of Christ-exalting faith and holiness.

  • Find a few like-minded friends and arrange to meet weekly for 30 minutes or one hour, where you do not discuss anything or share prayer requests, but only pray. Someone reads a passage of Scripture and the other 28 (or 58) minutes are dedicated to prayer. Then get up and go back to your work.

  • Build a season of prayer into every church gathering. Not an opening prayer only, but a “season” of prayer. That is what the first half of our worship services is as we sing our prayers. I am saying let all other gatherings be soaked with a season that says: What matters most here cannot happen without divine intervention.

  • Let every speaker at every Christian conference be prayed over by the conference leaders for at least 15 minutes. Don’t send a man or woman to speak to hundreds and thousands of people without pleading over them that they would be empowered by God that miracles would happen, because the miracle of conversion and holiness is what we live for.

  • Let pastors’ gatherings be transformed, so that there is enough prayer that all feel: We acted as if what we really want could not happen without the intervention of the prayer-hearing God.

  • Let every pastor ask the Lord: Is it time for me to take unusual leadership to summon my people, and the networks I am part of, to extraordinary prayer?

When Jesus looked out on the crowds who “were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), he called his disciples to pray. With Edwards and Whitefield, I am echoing that call.