Earlier this year, I attended an all-day gathering of evangelical and Catholic leaders to discuss ways in which the church should address some of the tough moral and cultural issues affecting our society today. Everyone agreed theologically, and I heard many insightful ideas brought to the table. I felt challenged and stirred by the strength and compassion of these leaders, and was grateful for their commitment to reach people for Jesus and see this nation impacted by the gospel.
Yet on the second day of our discussion, I realized that among all the strategies discussed, no one had mentioned the most important strategy of all.
We had neglected to discuss prayer as a serious strategy for impacting culture and society for God.
I think it’s safe to say that when prayer becomes an afterthought in facing the darkness in our world, something is off. It’s evidence that we, the church, have forgotten who we are and what we’re called to do. We’ve forgotten that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual and powerful. We’ve forgotten how God moves in history, and the role His people have played in those moves since the church was born at Pentecost.
As many prophetic voices have said, much of the church in America is asleep. Wherever we find a sleeping church, we will see—as we are seeing today—a darkening world. But God has an answer for a darkening world, and it is always the same: an awakened church.
Believe it or not, when I look at the massive issues in American culture today—from racism to political strife, corporate greed, sexual and family brokenness, drug addiction, and much more—I am filled with hope. I see our nation poised for a great spiritual awakening. Like every awakening in history, it will begin with the people of God, and will involve four stages:
Every revival begins with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in which the presence of God tangibly manifests on people. Typically, an outpouring comes on those God has already been awakening with spiritual hunger to pray. From the 120 praying in the upper room on Pentecost to the Moravians praying in Herrnhut, John and Charles Wesley praying in their Holiness Club in Oxford, Evan Roberts and his friend Sidney praying in a bedroom in Wales, and many more, history shows that God loves to pour out His manifest presence on a hungry few, who will then take the outpouring to the rest of the body.
In the presence of God, people’s lives are dramatically and permanently changed. Addiction and disease fall away, hearts are healed, lies are broken, demons are cast out, and souls are restored to joy, peace, and hope. More can happen in a moment in His presence than in years through merely human efforts. When God pours out His Spirit, His people come to life.
As the people of God come back to life, their hearts are reawakened to Jesus. They become possessed by fresh zeal and devotion to Christ and His cause in the earth. Their small ambitions give way to a vision of eternal purpose and present urgency to make Jesus famous. They burn to see their family, friends, cities, nations, and generation swept into the kingdom.
In every revival or awakening, the gospel is preached in power, conviction falls on those present, and people are powerfully saved. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, many of those who have been previously opposed to Christianity are powerfully converted. Spiritual ears and eyes are opened to hear and receive the truth of the gospel.
4. Kingdom Culture
Lasting, positive, life-giving cultural transformation has always been, and always will be, the fruit of spiritual awakening. As people come alive in Jesus, they stop doing evil and start doing good. They start to expose and confront systemic injustice, corruption, and oppression. They care for the poor and vulnerable. They replace bad laws with good ones. Culture is changed by people who have been changed from the inside out.
As a student of Scripture and church history, I’m absolutely convinced that the awakened church is the hope of the world. And I’m also convinced that prayer is the catalyst that awakens the church. Prayer can’t be an afterthought; it must be our number-one strategy. Specifically, in this season we must pray for:
· A fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God on the church
· A new zeal and passion for Jesus and His cause in His people
· A great harvest of the lost
· A complete transformation of culture in our land
Again, I believe we are poised to see God move in a way that we have never seen. Now is the time to pray for Him to awaken His church in our nation.
This post also appears as a resource on the Jesus Culture Encounter 2018 website – visit now and register for the conference, March 8th-10th in Manchester