Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to Pray for Revival

One of the members of our prayer team emailed me renewing her commitment to pray and asking if there was anything to share with the team - thoughts about our prayer focus for spiritual awakening/revival in our area. Here was my reply (in part), in case any of you are interested

Thanks for your persistence regarding prayer for spiritual transformation (revival) in our area. I thought I might give you an update so you can pray more specifically. From my limited perspective, there are some potentially good things happening, and perhaps some not-so-good.

There are several different "cells" of pastors that are meeting around Knoxville (I am a part of one). This is an interesting thing. The pastors are from many different denominations etc. There is a history of trying to get pastors together, most efforts have had little results overall (sometimes the results have been more negative than positive) as the movements tend to lose their original purpose and can become commandeered by those with suspect agendas/beliefs. This latest effort has been initiated by some pastors who are solid and are determined to keep things focused. I like these guys, and I hope God will use these groups to break down the walls of mistrust, competitiveness, and territorialism that Knoxville pastors/churches are famous for, without degrading into a more liberal ecumenism or "feel-good" symbolism. Many of the Evangelicals in town (including me!) have been asked to be a part of efforts that left us feeling a little burned in the past. I keep hoping!

There is a Franklin Graham crusade coming to Knoxville the last week of April. It's a long story but the Day of Prayer folks in Knoxville had no choice but to move their date from the date the rest of the nation observes (May 1) to keep the events from conflicting. It will now be a week earlier (April 24) and they are trying to put a good face on things by saying that the Day of Prayer is "kicking off" the Graham Festival (even though the Graham folks aren't officially helping the Day of Prayer effort). I think both events could be hurt. It's got some leaders around town a little miffed. I hope both events go well. Stats show that large-event evangelism is no longer as effective, and can even have long-term detrimental effects with unchurched people in general. There is also a terrible rate of spiritual recidivism (people who evidently make insincere commitments to follow Christ and show little life-change later). Don't get me wrong. I love Billy, Franklin, and all the Grahams! I'm praying for many thousands to be saved! And we will announce the Graham Festival and encourage people in our church to go. Just trying to sense God's leading about what to do beyond this. They really ask for a lot of investment (time, volunteers, training, resources) that I'm not totally convinced is worth the probable results. I hope that does not sound pessimistic, we're seeking God's desire for our church's level of involvement. Pray for us in this, and pray that God will bring things together for his glory.

I've told you about our group of cooperating churches called the Link (we have a website now: This fellowship of churches are mostly church plants and are committed to working together for area transformation. The marriage conference is our first cooperative event ( We are making plans to cooperate to begin a stand-alone counseling ministry. This group of Churches is growing both in number and focus. We are currently defining our group and what it means to be a part. We have begun the process of planting churches together! It will take more than one church to see revival in our area—and church planting is a critical part. Pray that this group will continue to grow closer and will be used by God to bring a new spirit of cooperation to our area, and that Bible-believing, culture-engaging churches will take the initiative and lead Christians and churches in our area toward spiritual transformation. I am optimistic! Please pray.

I'm still working with several pastors to bring a seminary to Knoxville to train future pastors, planters, and other leaders. This, I believe, is a big part of sustained spiritual transformation taking place. Getting all these guys together for one meeting is proving difficult, but we will are scheduled to meet on March 18. Pray that the meeting will go well, and that God will bring a seminary to Knoxville.

As things are developing, I think sweeping, sustained, spiritual transformation requires 5 key essentials:
1. An awakening of prayer from God's people
2. A concerted cooperation of many Bible-believing, culture-engaging churches and pastors.
3. Opening an accredited seminary in our city that can serve as a pastor/planter/leader training factory, keeping the best and brightest ministers-to-be here (instead of them having to move far away to go to seminary), and serving as a "resource center" for churches and Christians in our area.
4. Aggressive planting of many new Bible-believing, evangelistic churches.
5. God must supernaturally move in the hearts of people, drawing them to himself. This is, of course, the most important essential (which underscores the importance of 1).

As one who has been praying for and working toward an unusual movement of God in East Tennessee, these are at the top of my list. Thanks for praying with me. Feel free to pass this along. I'm so thankful that God has stirred your heart to pray.

One more thing to pray about. Because she was entering an extremely busy season in her life, our prayer team coordinator has stepped away. Our church desperately needs someone who senses God leading them to head-up this critical ministry. We do not pray as we should. Satan loves this fact. Without constant acknowledgement of God's sovereign control, and persistent petition for his protection, guidance, wisdom, power and supply, we are foolishly attempting to operate on our own power. Please pray that someone will feel led to lead our prayer ministry. We desperately need to move forward in this regard. I am praying for someone (or more than one) who will boldly work to keep prayer on the front burner for our church—motivating, organizing, communicating, and creatively engaging people for prayer. Is there anything more important?

I was really blessed to get to know Lewis Drummond, the president of Southeastern Seminary who was a vocal proponent for spiritual awakening. He was writing a book about Charles Spurgeon while I was in seminary (a great book, by the way). He told a story about how Spurgeon liked to give occasional tours to people who would visit the beautiful new Metropolitan Tabernacle where he served as pastor. He would tell the visitors that they must see the power room of the great church, and lead them down to the basement to a room where there were people on their knees in prayer. "Here is the power room of our church," he would say to the guests.

We've should pray if we want to see God work among us and in our city. We must dedicate ourselves to this purpose. That's why I'm praying for someone who will consider it their mission to pray and encourage others in our church to do the same.
Sounds kind of ironic doesn't it?—praying for God to raise up someone to remind his people to pray so that we can plead with him to do great things—but I'm doing just that! It is that important!

I heard Tom Nelson say, "Prayer doesn't just bring revival, prayer IS revival!" But God's people seldom pray. Why is it so hard? I am guilty in this regard.

O God,
Send sweeping, sustained, spiritual transformation.
And let it begin with me.

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