So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:3)
After reading the prophet Jeremiah and having known of the promised return from the exile, Daniel seeks Yahweh with diligence and zeal – fasting, putting on sackcloth and ashes, and making supplication. Paul tells us to pray with supplication (Phil. 4:6). Zechariah records God promising that he will pour forth a Spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look on Jesus, whom they had pierced (Zech. 12:10). We likewise are to make supplications to God. But what does this word mean? It has the idea of urgent, fervent, persistent prayer grounded upon an intolerable burden. We see this in the life of our Lord Jesus who, in the days of his flesh, offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his piety (Heb. 5:7). We see it in Isaiah who with great emotion cries out to the Lord, ‘O that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains may quake at Thy presence’ (Isa. 64:1ff). We see it in David who prayed in like manner in a time of great darkness, ‘Give ear to my words, O Lord. Consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee do I pray’ (Psa. 5:1-2). We see this intolerable burden in Nehemiah who, when hearing that the people were in distress and reproach, that the walls of the city of Jerusalem were still broken down after all those years of dwelling again in the land of Judah, sat down, wept and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Neh. 1:3-4). We see it further displayed in Nehemiah when he heard that after all Yahweh had done for them, the people repaid his beneficence by continuing to give their children to be married to pagans. He contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear to God, ‘You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves’ (Neh. 13:23-24).
My friends – all our ministry activity, all our planning, all our strategizing, all our money, all our buildings will be powerless until we gain an intolerable burden, until we learn to pray prayers of supplication. Business as usual will not work. The church in the west is losing the war. Okay, we have a few oases in the desert of the western church. We have a few bright spots, but we are losing ground. I noted several weeks ago that if things continue as they are we will continue to have a net loss of 3500 churches per year in America and that by 2050 only 11% of Americans will attend church at least twice per month. Your church may be growing financially, numerically, and even spiritually. That is, you may be seeing your people truly growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, but unless you are seeing many, many conversions, unless men, women, and children are joining your church by profession of faith in great numbers, then your church is already dying.2 A married couple which does not produce children will see their legacy die with them. If your church is merely growing through transfer of membership then you are kidding yourself. You are prolonging the inevitable, like many in places of power in our country who think we can continue to spend more than we take in. It is mindless! We are destined to failure. So it is within the church. We have lost the day on the homosexual agenda. Little or no progress has been made in the abolition of abortion. Corruption in government abounds. More and more laws are needed to hold our debauchery in check. Mosques are being built every year in America. Supposedly well-educated and informed people speak of the virtues of Islam, asking us to co-exist, simply to get along; while these same people blindly ignore the degradation of women in the Muslim family. Islam has never been willing to co-exist with any other religion. It is within the DNA of Islam to conquer. Do you want to see your children and grand-children living under Shariah law? Do you think I am writing in hyperbole? Augustine could never have dreamed that his beloved North Africa would be Muslim within four hundred years of his death, and yet it was.
My dear friends, until you gain an intolerable burden over how depraved and godless we are, until you see how powerless and hopeless we are to avert the coming judgment of God on our nation, then you will foolishly continue on with business as usual. You will be like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.
How do you gain this intolerable burden to supplicate with passion, zeal, and persistence before the King of Glory? You must get a fresh glimpse of Christ’s power and authority. You must get something of the zeal you find in Jesus when he cleansed the temple (John 2:13-19), driving out the money changers because they had made the court of the Gentiles, the place where the Jews were to pray for the nations (Isa. 56:7), into a robbers den (Jer. 7:11). Jesus’ actions were premeditated. He had been coming to the temple for years. The action of these greedy men was nothing new. Jesus made a whip and drove them out, turning the tables over as he made his way through the temple, coins flying in every direction, men fleeing from his presence, animals running for refuge. His disciples later remembered what David had said, ‘For zeal for Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me’ (Psa. 69:9). Will you gain a fresh vision of the glory, authority, and zeal of Christ for his kingdom? Will you supplicate with passion and loud crying like the Lord Jesus? Will you learn to pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18), praying until you pray, experiencing the felt presence of God, finding unusual felicity in the speech of prayer, praying with divine eloquence, like a preacher under the anointing of the Spirit as he preaches the gospel with convicting, converting power! Enough of business as usual! Enough of our passionless, Reformed orthodoxy! True Christian faith is lived in the heart, not merely in the mind; and when this occurs it will manifest itself in life. We will pray and live with Spirit power that will tear down the strongholds of the devil; that will see countless thousands in our communities suddenly arrested, convicted, and crying out, ‘What must we do to be saved?’ Do you believe God can do this in our nation again? Do you believe he will? Are you willing to pay the price to see it happen? It shall not come without supplication, without the intolerable burden of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Jesus.
- The fourth of eight core values for life and ministry. The first three are Scripture saturation and meditation, and adoration.
- ‘The DNA of the PCA’, a conference at Ridgehaven, is to be conducted April 25-28, 2012. I strongly urge all ministers in the PCA to attend this conference. You will be challenged and encouraged in our need to recapture our evangelistic zeal. For more information contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at email@example.com.
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