By Wellington Boone
Today, we are faced with a culture in steady decline. The number of violent crimes in the United States, for example, has increased 570 percent since 1960, while the population increased only 43 percent. Over the same period, illegitimate births increased more than 400 percent. The U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, and childbirth in the industrialized world. From 1960 to 1993, SAT scores dropped 67 points. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. There’s no doubt that the situation is grim. What can we men possibly do to make a difference?
Well, for one thing, we can pray for revival.
Before you dismiss that idea as simplistic, consider that this isn’t the first time a country has faced such a crisis. In 1735, Wales was in decline politically and spiritually. There was an upsurge of the occult and the renewed practice of divination and black magic.
In that same year, a young man named Howell Harris was converted to Christianity. Soon after, Harris was praying in the village where he was a teacher, and God met him in a powerful way. Nothing seemed impossible to him. He began to travel everywhere, preaching, until all of South Wales was awakened. Even notorious criminals were converted and changed their ways.
The secret of Harris’s influence on the masses was prayer. He understood that nothing would be accomplished, either in himself or in his troubled nation, without prayer–personal, private communion with God.
In every generation, revival has come as the result of prayer. For example, powerful prayer preceded America’s First Great Awakening, which gave the colonists a unified biblical view of the principles of freedom and helped pave the way for the American Revolution. The Second Great Awakening, which preceded the Civil War, brought a conviction from God that slavery was a sin. It was led by men like Charles Finney, who prayed for hours upon hours and days upon days.
God still needs men who, like Howell Harris and Charles Finney, will give themselves to prayer and then go and do whatever the Holy Spirit tells them.
Revival is the movement of the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary way that causes multitudes to be drawn to Christ. That’s what we need today. America needs revival. The church needs revival. Families need revival. Men need revival.
The prayer that sparks revival begins long before the countryside seems to awaken from its slumber in sin. It starts when men fall on their knees and cry out to God. That’s where true intimacy with God takes place and we begin the journey of being transformed into the image of Christ. And as men are transformed, the course of a nation can be changed.
The need for revival to start within the praying individual was brought home to me powerfully a few years ago. I was driving across the country from my home in Virginia on what I call a prayer sabbatical, something I do every year to get alone with God. As I drove along, praying, I asked God to change hearts in the inner city and bring another great awakening. Suddenly, the biblical story of blind Bartimaeus flashed through my mind. He hated being blind, and I was stirred by his zeal. When he heard Jesus approaching, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47).
Then I thought, I’m blind, too, because I don’t know my own heart. I’m praying God would move on the inner cities, but I need Him to move on me. Bartimaeus had more desire for the healing of his physical blindness than I have for the healing of my spiritual blindness.
At that realization, I cried out loud in the car, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Who was I to pray for change in others when I myself remained unchanged? That experience began a revival in me that still today influences my life and ministry.
We need to see our own hearts so God can change us–personal revival–and then use us to improve our homes, our workplaces, our churches, and all of society.
Before I suggest some steps in the process of life-changing prayer, let me warn that one of the greatest hindrances to developing a personal relationship with God is packaged programs that tell you how to pray. A man must be drawn to God alone, there to find his own “how-to’s.”
Moses found God in the burning bush.
David wrote many of his prayers in the form of poetry and music.
Elijah hid in a cave and heard God’s still, small voice.
Jesus met with the Father in the wilderness.
You need to find for yourself the things that keep your prayer relationship with God fresh. However, most people can benefit from a few practical suggestions to help them understand where to begin.
The Holy Spirit leads us into a personal prayer relationship with God through four stages. I believe they are inevitable steps in the growing process where we move from focusing on our own needs to focusing on the privilege of worshiping God. After all, worship, in its truest sense, means giving ourselves to God. It means forgetting about ourselves for the sheer joy of knowing Him.
These four words summarize the four stages of entering into a prayer relationship with God: love, intimacy, privilege, and responsibility. Let’s look at each of them in turn.
The initiative of love is always first with the Father. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16). Even our salvation is a response to God’s love. Scripture says it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance.
The first time we yield to God is when we come to Him for salvation. We acknowledge our sinfulness. We thank Him for giving His Son to be our Savior. He embraces us. We are immersed in His love. And we find oneness with the Father.
When we’re alone with God, there are no more distractions to the development of intimacy. It is just us and Him. The rest of the world must wait.
True prayer is not a rhetorical stream of eloquent words. It is the expression of a deep longing for God that is born out of love. When we’re in love with someone, we always look for ways to spend time with the person. We press through with the development of the relationship in every way.
Finding God is the beginning. Getting to know Him is the journey. Scores of people have found Him in saving grace but have not yet come to know Him in intimacy, the place where He begins to impart a sense of divine separation for His purposes.
Out of the atmosphere of intimacy, trust is born. Where there is trust, there is the granting of privilege. What a privilege to understand and know God! What a privilege to comprehend Him through a living relationship! The greatest privilege any believer can have is access before almighty God with the confidence that He will answer prayer.
If we truly believe Christ is alive, we will do anything for Him because we can believe God for anything and we know He is omnipresent. We know He identifies with us as His body. We recognize He is not only Lord over our lives, but He also takes responsibility for us and gives us responsibilities to carry out for Him.
When God grants you the privilege of knowing Him, He does not do it so you can get your needs met. He does it so He can accomplish His will. Unanswered prayer is a failure to approach God on the basis of His will, because “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14, emphasis added).
Praying for Revival
One thing we know God wants His people to pray for is revival. But if revival is to come, there must be a change in the prayer lives of the men of America. It is time for us to return to our knees and remain there until something happens.
The prophet Hosea said, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12). God is looking for a company of men of courage who are willing to do whatever it takes to bring another great spiritual awakening.
In our ministry, we have an acronym for the type of prayer life that is necessary to bring about change. The word is P.U.S.H., which stands for:
Pray Until Something Happens.
That acronym also stands for four steps you need to take in order to see personal, family, and national revival.
P: Purify yourself.
Search your heart. Repent from any known sin. The prophet Hosea said, “Sow for yourselves righteousness.” Paul wrote, “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
You need to sow the Word of God into yourself until you see that you are a sinner under the searchlight of God’s righteousness. The psalmist wrote, “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Psa. 119:130). When you sin, be quick to turn away from it and cry out for God’s mercy.
U: Understand God’s mercy.
We need to receive mercy from God, and we need to deliver mercy as ambassadors for Christ to a lost generation. “Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 22). Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
Your personal revival awaits your willingness to forgive all who have wronged you and to seek forgiveness of others you have wronged (see Mark 11: 25-26).
S.: Sanctify yourself.
Learn to live a life of personal accountability to God. Regardless of what others consider to be righteous, keep yourself “from being polluted by the world” dames 1:27). Be separated for the purposes of God. “As God has said, I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:16-17).
Separation for God does not mean we leave the world or neglect our families. Just the opposite. It means that our commitment to the living, righteous, holy God becomes evident to all those around us.
Hosea said, “Break up your unplowed ground.” We must learn to immediately obey everything God tells us to do. We never want to have a wrong heart toward Him.
H: Hold fast in prayer.
Pray Until Something Happens. Prayer is work. It is blessed work, but it is work. As in any relationship, it takes effort to give up some of your own pleasures to bring pleasure to another. The chief sin of the church today is laziness. We are lazy about prayer. We’re lazy about changing ourselves. We’re lazy about good works. We’re certainly lazy about praying through for a great spiritual awakening in America.
God has made available incredible power to change this nation, and yet we remain in our dulled state of sin, complaining about the condition of America, crime in the inner cities, and corruption among politicians.
Just think of all the power that could be unleashed if the 50,000 men who attended the Promise Keepers rally in Colorado in 1993 would begin to P.U.S.H. for America. What would happen if each of those men made a commitment to Pray Until Something Happens? Can you see what a serious force that would be?
The Power for Revival
Our problem is that we have no understanding of the great power within us. We’re unwilling to give up our comforts, like morning sleep, for a few precious moments with God. “I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me” (Prov. 8:17, KJV).
We call ourselves men of God, but we are too often men of our own needs. All needs are met on our knees. We must substitute “knees” for “needs.”
America is sick and dying because the people have lost hope and vision (see Prov. 29:18). Even the church is aimless. Why? Primarily because of a lack of faith in God. But why do people lack faith? Because those who say they are men of God are so seemingly helpless to bring about change. They say they pray and study the Word, but their wives and children see little evidence in their lives. Our prayer and study lives should have an immediate, ongoing effect on our families. They should be so moved by our love and mercy that they want to emulate what they see in us of the character and qualities of Christ.
Do we really believe that Jesus has risen from the dead and that God answers prayer? If we do–if we continually develop that perspective through time with God on our knees we will become the source of faith, hope, and vision that the world so desperately needs.
When the world sees men of God overcome with the lusts and pride of the self-life and trying to find a sense of purpose, however, its vision of God is distorted. A passage in Isaiah captures well the futility of American Christian men over the past 30 or so years: “As a woman with child and about to give birth… We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth” (Isa. 26:17-18).
The Next Great Awakening
But by God’s grace, on our knees, that is all changing. Promise Keepers have become impregnated with personal revival. Our changed lives are obvious. Like a woman who is pregnant and nearing the end of her term, we Christian men are about to burst forth with the coming of the Lord in ways we have never experienced.
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17). We have not had our last revival.
” ‘Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God” (Isa. 66:7-9).
I believe that the church is in travail and that God is about to birth the next great awakening. And it will start with Promise Keepers on their knees in prayer.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVEN PROMISES OF A PROMISE KEEPER, AND PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, 1973, PAGES 25-31. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.