The following is from Chapter 8 of The Rogue Christian: Your Most Powerful Weapon
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, “My house shall be called a house of preaching”? Does it ever say, “My house shall be called a house of music”? Of course not. The Bible does say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”. Preaching, music, the reading of the Word – these things are fine; I believe in and practice all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God’s dwelling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.45
-Jim Cymbala, senior pastor, Brooklyn Tabernacle
The man who can get believers to praying would, under God, usher in the greatest revival that the world has ever known.46
Let it be your business every day, in the secrecy of the inner chamber, to meet the holy God. You will be repaid for the trouble it may cost you. The reward will be sure and rich.47
Before the great revival in Gallneukirchen broke out, Martin Boos spent hours and days and often nights in lonely agonies of intercession. Afterwards, when he preached, his words were as flame and the hearts of the people as grass.48
When born again believers stop petty bickering over nonessentials and go to their knees in old-fashioned, beseeching prayer, we shall have revival.49
Jeremiah Lanphier was born in 1809. He was a businessman by trade who came to Christ in 1842 and then joined the Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan, New York. Feeling the call of God, Lanphier gave up his business to serve the church full-time for a salary of $1,000 per year. He visited homes, handed out Bibles and tracts, and promoted the church services…with little response.
In the years leading up to 1857, the United States enjoyed a booming economy. Materialism was rampant, and the country’s youth were becoming disillusioned with a church whose pastors were obsessed with preaching about the end of the world. Church attendance was dropping.
Lanphier was passionate about prayer and decided to hold a prayer meeting for businessmen on Wednesdays at noon for the purpose of crying out to God for a spiritual awakening. To get the word out, he spent several weeks handing out brochures.
The first prayer meeting was held at the church on September 23, 1857. Six men showed up. The second Wednesday, that number more than doubled, and then it doubled again the third week. Their growth continued until the church was filled.
The economic crash of 1857 hit, and 30,000 people in New York immediately lost their jobs. Tension in the US over slavery was rising; in four years, the civil war would begin.
By 1858, the prayer meetings were spreading all over New York. Unbelievers would drop in, encounter a heavy weight of conviction, and ask about salvation. As the prayer meetings multiplied into the thousands, churches and other public buildings were utilized. Momentum built as more people came, confessed their sins, turned to Christ, and prayed for revival. The movement of prayer went nuclear and detonated the last great spiritual awakening in the US.
Other states joined in. Churches were packed, businesses and schools became chapels, and the numbers of converts rose to the tens of thousands. Revival roared through the country with such force that pastors were reportedly baptizing 20,000 new converts a week.50
It is estimated that upwards of one million people were converted to Christ from 1858 to 1859, at a time when the total population of the US was 30 million.
Revival was sparked by one man who decided to hold a prayer meeting. Revival did not come from preaching, praise and worship services, Bible studies, a program, a conference, or having the latest Christian celebrity give an entertaining message. Just prayer.
When possible, I incorporate prayer into the conferences and retreats I lead or when I give a message at a church. During one men’s retreat I led two years ago, we had the guys come together for prayer. They started praying, and then confessing their sins. The presence of God began to fill the room…until one of the elders of the church started praying. His “prayer” was a mini-sermon on what everyone should do as he saw it. Ten words into his heady sermon-prayer, the presence of God vanished. Nothing quenches the Holy Spirit faster than pride.
Last year, I gave the Sunday morning message at a small church in the Midwest. I asked the pastor if it would be okay if I had everyone pray at the end, and he gave me the green light. With 20 minutes to go in the service, I invited the congregation to join me on their knees to pray for revival for our country. Immediately, everyone dropped to the floor and went to prayer. Some were confessing their sins; others were confessing the sins of our country. I love that church and their hearts. You get a bunch of churches praying like that, and we’re taking down the walls of Jericho.
Let’s look at several passages on prayer from God’s word:
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”
-1 Samuel 1:12-15
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
The common thread woven through these verses is fervent, passionate prayer from the heart. Those are the prayers that get answered. After Hannah prayed from the pain in her heart, she conceived and bore Samuel, a man God would use to lead the people of Israel to revival. Jesus prayed in agony and gained the strength to go to the cross. Elijah prayed fervently and shut down the rain for three-and-a-half years.
Let’s visit the garden of Gethsemane shortly before Jesus is arrested. Jesus urges the 11 apostles to pray, but none join Him. They are asleep. The results of their prayerlessness includes responding in the flesh (Peter cuts off a servant’s ear), running away after Jesus was arrested, Peter’s denying Jesus, and, except for John, abandoning the Lord at the cross.
Our church of today doesn’t pray with fervent passion because our porn-addicted, performance-sedated, doctrine-headed church that is distracted by entertainment and other diversions has lost its heart. Praise and worship services fill the sanctuary; prayer meetings are extinct or poorly attended.
I sometimes look at the faces of the people in church; many are numb. Maybe they’re waiting for the performance to give them a boost or for the pastor to hit them with a zinger that will give them just enough of a spark to want God a little more but not enough to where their comfort zone is undone and their pride, selfishness, and lust are speared with conviction. We place the bar of Christianity three feet off the ground when, instead, it should be 20 feet high so we despair of ourselves and cry out to God to do only what He can do. Instead of exalting Him as the all-powerful Creator of the universe who can change the world, we box Him up and pack Him into our neat little theology boxes and pat ourselves on the back because our church has God figured out.
That is not the God I read about in the Bible who terrified people with His presence, and whose only response to Job’s demands for answers to his suffering was, in essence, “I am the One who made everything” (Job 38:4-7). The Lord’s response silenced Job and brought him to his knees in repentance at the power of the living God.
Much has been made of how prayer was removed from schools in the 1960s. It has also been removed from most churches. Most of our churches are not houses of prayer, thus the reason so many have lost their salt. In one church I attended recently, the pastor said four times that “God’s church should be a house of prayer.” I hoped he was going to break us up to pray, but it didn’t happen. We talk about and study the things we should be doing.
So how do we reclaim our hearts? And how do we pray?
It begins with a passionate love relationship with God, as we saw in chapter six. As you go after Him, you will find Him and your heart will come alive. The closer you are to Him, the more you will begin to see life through His eyes. Your heart will break for the things His heart breaks for and yearn for the things He yearns for.
You will have to set aside some of what the church is saying the Christian life is about by its actions (or lack of them) and become a passionate God-seeker. Pray in a way that is a mortal threat to your comfort zone and your flesh. Ask Him to expose your sin to you and reveal anything that is between you and Him. Keep asking the Lord to bring revival to your heart until the hard places are broken up and His love begins to shine like the sun on the morning of a spring day.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Too often we look at the work we want God to do in others’ lives but ignore our own desperate need for revival. I pray for revival for myself because I need it. So do you.
Many Christians are making the foolish mistake of waiting for their pastors to spark revival. Throughout history, God has powerfully used many who spent no time in seminary or Bible college, including Jeremiah Lanphier, Dwight L Moody (another former businessman; his last year of school was fifth grade), Charles Spurgeon, and A.W. Tozer, to name a few. None of the 12 apostles Jesus chose were ministry leaders or pastors. Even when the Lord called Paul, the formerly religious man who had been educated in the seminary of their day, He had to unwind what Paul had been taught.
The happiest person in the world is a young Christian ablaze with the fire of a new faith before he has met too many theologians! The saddest sight I know is a Bible scholar or preacher (often a fundamentalist) who has left somewhere among his books the first love of his Christian youth.
You, my brothers and sisters, are the key to taking back our country. It is not the leaders of our churches. Why would I say such a thing? Because the pastors of our churches would have made them houses of prayer long ago if they believed what they teach us every weekend, specifically that prayer is our most powerful weapon.
A pastor of a large church once said that “Satan laughs when we have our Bible studies but trembles when we pray.” Yet that church rarely, if ever, puts its flock on their knees during their weekend services. I don’t say this to bash pastors; we’re all on the same team. But if they won’t go Biblical we must go rogue, rather than standing by idly while our country collapses.
I challenge you to become a prayer warrior. “Pray without ceasing” is a command for every Christian (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Every day, pray passionately for revival for yourself, for God’s pastors, and for His church. Pray fervently that He will send workers into the harvest in our state and federal governments, universities, businesses, and entertainment industries. Ask Him to tear the strongholds of pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, socialism, and others mentioned in the first chapter. Ask for an abundant harvest of souls in all these areas. God’s heart is not to see them cast into hell but to come to Christ (2 Peter 3:9).
In Acts 16:16, we see Paul and Silas going to a “place of prayer.” Let’s set up outposts of prayer throughout our country that meet during the week where people can come and pray. Do not turn them into Bible studies where everyone can zone out and hide. Stay focused on prayer; confess your sins and pray for each other’s healing as we’re commanded in James 5:16. It doesn’t matter if there are two or 20; don’t get caught up in the numbers. Two is enough to make an impact. You don’t know how God might use your gathering to change the world.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
…If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
-2 Chronicles 7:14