Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"We are going to have to pray!"

A good friend of mine, Darryl Dash took some notes from a message by Tim Keller (See picture) on prayer and revival. These words are worth the time to absorb.

Kingdom-Centered Prayer by Tim Keller

If we are really going to have a city-shaping movement of the gospel, we are going to have to pray.

Every renewal, in the Bible and in history, is different. Methods change, but there is one thing that is always there.

This isn’t just individual prayer, and it isn’t just saying your prayers.

***Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable universal ingredient in times of corporate renewal is corporate, prevailing, intensive, kingdom-centered prayer. So what is that?

FIRST, IT’S PRAYER THAT IS FOCUSED ON GOD AND HIS KINGDOM. We have to pray for our personal needs. But when it comes to renewal of a church or a city, that’s not the prayer that brings renewal. What brings renewal is prayer focused on God and his kingdom.

One old pastor used to talk about the difference between maintenance prayer and front-line prayer meetings. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and totally focused on meeting physical and personal needs. Front-line prayer has three basic traits:

a) It’s a request for grace to confess sin and to humble ourselves;

You have to be incredibly happy to be sad in the right way. When our identity is based on living up to standards, we can’t admit what’s wrong with us because it shakes our foundations. But when the gospel is not just a concept, but when the love of Jesus for you is so real that it can’t be shaken, that gives you the freedom to be real about what’s wrong with you. Repentance becomes sweet. We can get out of denial. Repentance is born out of assurance of God’s love. This isn’t morbid repentance.

b) It is a request for passion and zeal for the church

You want to see the quarrels cease, the lethargy and mechanical worship gone. You want to see the church be what it’s supposed to be.

c) It’s a yearning to know God and to see his face and see his glory

That is the big request: “Show me your glory. I know it may kill me but let me see a glimpse before I die.” We want to sense God’s presence in our midst.

That’s front-line prayer. If you read through Scripture and history, this is what happened in prayer when renewal happened.

SECOND, IT’S BOLD AND SPECIFIC PRAYER. When you read the prayer leaders of the Old Testament, who didn’t have the assurance that we do, it’s amazing how they argue with God. There’s a boldness and specificity.

Supposedly when Alexander the Great had one of his leading generals with a daughter to be married, Alexander said he would be happy to contribute to the wedding, so just ask. The general wrote out a request for an enormous sum. When Alexander’s treasurer saw it, he brought it to Alexander and said, “I’m sure you’re going to be cutting this man’s head off now for asking so much. The audacity of asking for all of this! Who does he think you are?” Alexander said, “Give it to him. By such an outlandish request, he shows that he believes I am both rich and generous.” He was flattered by it.

John Newton wrote a hymn with these words: “Thou art coming to a king; large petitions with thee bring; for his grace and power are such, none can never ask too much.”

LASTLY, IT’S PREVAILING PRAYER. Why can’t we ask just once? I’ve read a few sermons by Jonathan Edwards recently. It’s opened my eyes to why it’s best for us that God waits and doesn’t give us what we pray for until we’ve asked for a long time. If our prayers are sporadic and brief, this shows a lack of dependence, a self-sufficiency. We haven’t really built an altar unless we pray and prevail in that prayer together.

Revival isn’t something we can bring about, but it’s also not something we wait passively for God to do. The best illustration is what Elijah did: he built the altar, laid the sacrifice out, and down comes the fire. You know what’s good about this metaphor? On one hand, God’s fire didn’t come down to the mud. On the other hand, building the altar doesn’t bring about the fire. God has to send the fire.

Let's build the altar and ask God to send the fire.

Darryl Dash

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