A Call for Corporate Prayer and Fasting at Bridgeway1
Starting this morning at 9:00 a.m. we began a three-day time of corporate prayer and fasting at Bridgeway. Friday night at 7:00 p.m. the fast will end and we will host an all-church worship service. If you’re in OKC, please join us.
You may wonder, Why are we doing this? There are several ways of explaining this. Let me begin by citing several texts:
“Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:6).
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory” (Psalm 63:1-2).
“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8).
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).
“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (Psalm 143:6).
There is no escaping the focus of these texts. The object or goal or gain that the individual longs for is God himself. “Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh faints for you (Ps. 63:1). “My soul clings to you” (Ps. 63:8).
Simply put, the “good” that God’s people seek in prayer is God himself. It isn’t so much that we seek particular blessings from God, although we must certainly do that. I’m saying that the highest and most glorious blessing we seek from God in prayer is more of God himself.
Now, that calls for some explanation. By saying we seek “God himself” I mean greater manifestations of his presence, a tangible sense of his nearness, deeper and sweeter fellowship and communion with him, a heightened capacity to hear his voice, a movement on our hearts to feel and enjoy his affection for us, and an expanded power in us to enjoy and adore him with greater fervency. In seeking “God himself” we long to know him better, to understand his will and ways with greater clarity, to go deeper and deeper into the character of God, to be set on fire with a more passionate commitment to him and adoration of him. In seeking “God himself” we long for a satisfaction in our souls that is so rich and powerful that it drowns out the alluring and seductive appeal of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
This repeated exhortation to seek God's face refers to an insatiable hunger and unquenchable thirst for God. During the revivals under Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:6 and under Josiah in 2 Kings 23:25 it is said that they “cleaved” unto God (cf. Gen. 2:24; Deut. 11:22; 30:20). Thus what we seek in revival is God himself, his presence, his blessings, his manifestation in our lives, union and communion with him.
And how do we get more of God? We get him, we lay hold of him, we experience more of him, by asking relentlessly in prayer. Yes, we must repent of our sin. Yes, we must immerse our minds in Scripture. Yes, we must set our wills to obey his will. But before all this, during all this, and beyond all this, we must pray.
Many of us at Bridgeway have felt the tug of the Holy Spirit on our hearts to set ourselves to seek the Lord in prayer; but not just as individuals. Our sense is that God is calling us as a local church to commit ourselves in visible and vocal union to seek him in prayer.
Now, why in prayer? This focus on prayer is not in any way to be put in competition with our commitment to study God’s Word or to sing God’s praises or to encourage one another in community or to evangelize the lost. In fact, these are among the many things that we will ask God to do in our hearts, to awaken us and empower us that we might more faithfully devote ourselves to all the things that are essential to the Christian life. But our focus this week is prayer. Why? The answer is simple.
“You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b).
“Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you” (Isa. 30:18-19).
“For thus says the LORD: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile’” (Jer. 29:10-14).
Don’t be bothered by the fact that these two OT texts apply directly to Israel and God’s plans for her. I cite them here not because they apply directly to us but because the principle in God’s character and his ways is as true for us today as it was for them during the time of the OT. In other words, these texts all point to one abiding and eternal truth: God delights to bless his people with his presence, power, and blessings when they ask him to in fervent, frequent, faithful prayer. That is a truth that transcends time, covenant, and history.
So, why are we calling for a church-wide, corporate time of prayer, fasting, and seeking the Lord? Two reasons.
First, because we have a sense that God wants to pour out on us an abundance of the presence and power of his Spirit. How do we know that God wants to do this? We know because he has put it in our hearts to ask him for it. Let me explain. When God wants to bless his people in an abundant and extraordinary manner, he puts it on their hearts to ask him for it. In other words, the fact that we feel a desire to ask God for these things is, in all likelihood, an indication that he wants to give them to us.
Jonathan Edwards put it this way: “When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence as to shew his church their great need of it, and to bring 'em into distress for want of it, and so put 'em upon crying earnestly to him for it” (Some Thoughts, 517). Consider the following texts:
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night; they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:6-7).
“Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer. 33:2-3).
The second reason we are calling for this time of corporate prayer and fasting has already been stated: if we don’t ask God for these blessings, we likely will not experience them. James 4 is clear: we don’t have because we don’t ask.
But some of you may push back against me on this point and say: “But Sam, if God is so good and merciful and abundant and if God wants to bless us with his presence and power, then why doesn’t he just do it? Why does he suspend such gifts on our asking for them?” He does it this way because when we ask, when we confess our utter dependence on him and declare that he alone is able and abundantly rich to provide us with what we need, he is glorified; he is honored; he is lifted high in our minds and in the sight of others.
Look again at Isaiah 30:18. God “waits to be gracious to you” when you call on him in prayer. And he does this because “he exalts himself to show mercy to you.” The visible union of God’s people in prayer is extraordinarily pleasing to God. It displays our dependence and his resourcefulness and abundance in giving to us what we need.
Can I promise you a revival if we pray? No. But I can assure you that there will most definitely not be revival if we don’t.
What specifically are we asking God to do? There are five things in particular that are on my heart.
(1) A greater outpouring and release of his manifest presence. By “manifest’ presence we mean his presence made manifest to us in a tangible way. God is always present. God is always near. God is never distant. But we don’t always sense or feel his presence. He often seems to be distant because we lack the spiritual sense to see and experience his presence.
God’s manifest presence is seen and felt when he pulls back the veil, as it were, and lets us behold and enjoy his presence in new ways. God’s manifest presence is when he opens our eyes in a fresh way and sensitizes our hearts so that we might taste his sweetness in ways that before we only heard about. God, as it were, blows away the clouds in our thinking and in our ability to trust and believe him and let’s us gaze on him as if on a clear day we look directly into the sun.
(2) We are seeking God for an increase in his healing power.
(3) We are seeking God for an increase in generosity on the part of all God’s people and the financial resources that we might expand the work of his kingdom in OKC and around the world.
(4) We are seeking God for a movement of conviction, repentance, and salvation of the lost.
(5) We are seeking for a genuine season of revival. What is revival? “Revival is God stirring the hearts of his people, visiting them . . . coming to dwell with them . . . returning to them . . . pouring out his Spirit on them . . . to quicken their consciences, show them their sins, and exalt his mercy . . . before their eyes” (Keep in Step with the Spirit, 256).
“Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, . . . Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:14, 18-19).
“Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation” (Psalm 85:4-7).
“My soul clings to the dust. Give me life [i.e., revive me] according to your word” (Psalm 119:25).
“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life [i.e., revive me] in your ways” (Psalm 119:37).
“Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life [i.e., revive me]” (Psalm 119:149).
“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:1-4).
“’And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31).
But won’t this call for a lot of change? Possibly. We must all ask the question of ourselves: How much change am I willing to accept in order to reach the point where the Holy Spirit is no longer quenched (J. I. Packer).
Someone once asked me, “Sam, how do I know when I've prayed enough?” It is reported that on several occasions during the Welsh revival (1904-06) that people could be heard crying out: “No more, Lord Jesus, lest I die.” The point is this: You want revival when you pray for more of Christ. You are in revival when you've got so much of him that you're forced to say, “Stop, no more!”
If you think of us here in OKC over the next three days, pray for us, that God would sustain in our hearts this hunger for him, this relentless pursuit of more of him, this yearning that his glory be revealed in our church, our city, our state, our country, our world