Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Powerful Prayer

From the Journey Blog (
When asked, Christ gave his disciples an outline for praying powerfully. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. I learned it at an early age, surprisingly enough, while playing sports. Several different coaches I had would end practice or pre-game speeches by calling everyone in close to recite the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew, Jesus warned us not to “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” in the verses just preceding the prayer, showing us that it is to serve as an outline, not a vain repetition, as if there is some mystic power in the very word combinations themselves.
There are a lot of good devices to help us pray. One that is very well known is the A.C.T.S. method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). But the one that has served me very well for the last 15 to 20 years is Christ’s model prayer. Here it is in five steps:
1. Acknowledge your privileged position. He is your Father! He loves you and wants to hear from you. You are never interrupting him! You have his ear.
hallowed be your name,
2. Affirm his “Awesomeness.” Tell him of your love and awe for him. This is a great time to both praise him for who he is and thank him for what he has done.
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
3. Align your priorities with his: his Kingdom is first. The heart of Christ’s outline is that we pray that God’s rule and reign be realized and that his will and way be accomplished. Don’t miss this. This is where we pray for God to revive his church and awaken people to be born again. This is where we pray that God will pour out his Spirit and transform our culture! Imagine in your mind what God’s “will be[ing] done on earth as it is in heaven” might look like! Long for this in your heart! Ask him to do it!
Everything else we pray should be “according to his will” with the advancement of his Kingdom in mind. Jesus said, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (John 5:14-15). That’s the kind of prayer God WILL answer!
Give us each day our daily bread.
4. Ask him to provide for needs. This is where you pray for God to provide for our physical needs: food, shelter, clothing, health, etc. Christ came to this physical earth and knows that we have these needs. He cares for us and will provide! Also pray for others you know who have needs.
5. Address sin. Even though Jesus lived without sin, he told us to spend a good portion of our prayer dealing with our daily struggles with it.
Forgive us our sins, Confess your sins to God.
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. Forgive others’ sins.
And lead us not into temptation. Ask God to guide you away from sin.
We’re going to make some cards available for you to pick up at church with this outline. But if you know the Lord’s Prayer, you already have it in your heart! Take your time and walk through these five steps with your Father. I can hardly do it in 30 minutes—in fact, it usually takes me a full hour! Try it and see for yourself. God moves when his people pray.
Chad Sparks

Passionate Prayer

From the Journey Blog (
Today is the National Day of Prayer. I started the day (as I do each Thursday) by going to the church to pray. I’m convinced that we will not see a great movement of God in our time until Christians pray for God to pour out his Spirit.
As I write this morning, there is a group of women gathering in the church to pray. I thank God for them. Last night at our elders meeting we began (as we always do) by praying for our church and people in our church who have needs. Each week dozens of small groups pray together. A group of people have met for the past five weeks to learn about prayer in a workshop put together by our Journey Prayer Team. Are we a praying church? Yes. Do we need to pray more? Yes. More specifically, passionately, and persistently.
Start today. Just take some time and get alone or get with another Christian to pray. Pray for God to pour out his Spirit to revive his people, awaken unbelievers to faith in him, and change the culture of our region and nation and world.
God wants you to do this. He waits to answer.
It occurred to me several years ago that I tend to pray too little, too small, and too weak.
We pray too little: 
We simply don’t pray enough. William P. Wilson, M.D., 
Professor Emeritus at Duke Medical Center and Director of the Institute of Christian Growth found that “the average churchgoer in the US prays one minute a day. The average pastor prays three minutes a day.” That’s really sad and really telling. Perhaps that’s why sermons are so weak and so few people respond. Perhaps that’s why so many pastors succumb to temptation and become a public scandal, shaming the name of Christ. Perhaps that’s a reason our churches are so empty and powerless. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell the difference between Christians and their unbelieving neighbors.
When we don’t pray intentionally and consistently we are, in effect, displaying one or more of the following attitudes: I don’t need God, God doesn’t listen, or God can’t change things. All of these are lies! When I take time to pray, I spend time with the One who loves me and happens to run the entire universe. He has asked me to pray. I need him. By praying, if nothing else, I acknowledge my dependence on him and prove my belief that he hears me. If that were all my prayers accomplished, it would be enough. But of course, that is not all. My prayers move God to action.
We pray too small:
We tend to pray for less significant things. “Let me have a good day.” “Keep my kids safe.” “Let me get a raise.” “Let me have a new car.” “Help me to feel better.” “Let the food we are about to eat go to the nourishment of our bodies.” “Give me a good night’s sleep.” Come on folks! It’s not that these things are not important, but can’t we do better than that?
I have been around many Christians, some of them were people I would call exceptionally godly (of course, these are people who would never call themselves that!). These people tend to pray for BIG things. They ask for God to awaken thousands to the truth of the Gospel and for God to change our culture. They pray for God to use their time, bodies, resources, intellect, etc. for the sake of his glory in this world. They ask for God to raise up godly men and women with passion for his church and his Word. They pray for God to change the hearts of people in government. They pray that their kids will love Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength; bring their friends to Christ; and impact their schools for Christ’s sake. They pray for God to bless them financially so that they can give generously to their church and people in need. They pray for God to stop the advancement of Islam and other false religions through the power of Christ and set ablaze the church against whom “the gates of hell cannot prevail.” They pray that God will let them suffer any negative thing (sickness, sorrow, persecution, poverty) as one joyfully sharing in the sufferings of Christ for their own growth and the sake of his glory. That’s praying BIG. God is big. He likes for us to pray for big things.
We pray too weak:
Our prayers sometimes lack assurance and passion. We can come across like this: “Lord, thank you for this day. If it is according to your will, please be with John Doe while he is feeling bad, and please help our church do what you’ve called us to do. And I pray that I will not face difficulties today.” When we pray weakly, not with conviction expecting results, we waste our time and a great opportunity! We are told to “boldly approach the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) and to pray expectantly. Jesus made this crystal clear in Luke 11:5-8:
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
It is the urgency of the friend wanting the loaves that moves the groggy sleeper to action. Christ (who is not a groggy sleeper, by the way) is telling the story so that we will show urgency in our prayers! He follows his parable with this (Luke 11:9-13):
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
We have a Father who wants us to have…not just good gifts…but the Holy Spirit when we ask! An outpouring of God’s Spirit is what we need more than anything. That’s when we will see revival.
Therefore, a strong prayer will be bold and will “remind” God (or, more accurately, remind the one praying) of the promises he has made in his Word to revive his people, that his will will be done and his kingdom will come! It will be desperate. It will be expectant.
I want to pray often. I want to pray big. I want to pray strong.
Chad Sparks

Praying for Revival

From the Journey Blog (
Oh, how my heart longs for God to do something big. There have been a few times that I have seen him move unusually. I know that there are places in the world where he is at work mightily even now. But here? For the most part it can seem our nation is, in the words of Robert Bork, “slouching toward Gomorrah.”
So many Scriptural references could be seen as speaking to our time. Are we experiencing a great “falling away” and is our love growing cold (2 Thes. 2:3, Matt. 24:10-12, 1 Tim. 4:1)? Are we being “given over” by God “in the lusts of [our] hearts to impurity,” “dishonorable passions,” and “debased mind[s]” only to “receive the due penalty for [our] errors” (Romans 1:18-28)?
Truly our culture resembles the last verses of Romans 1, as people are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (vv.29-32). We also look a lot like what’s described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Wow. It’s easy to be doomy and gloomy, isn’t it? I know some Christians who seem to relish the decline or at least see it as an excuse for attempting little to change the downward drift. “After all,” they opine, “We’re in the last days.” But I refuse to acquiesce. See, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back. He could come tomorrow…but he could wait. And until he comes, the four horsemen in Revelation 6 (the expanding church, war, famine, and death) continue to ride through human history. Don’t forget, Christ has given us a commission: “Go make disciples of all nations…I am with you always, even to the end.” He promises, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail.” We should look at the world like Christ did: aware of the evil (and incensed about it), yet determined to bring light. Our job is to advance God’s kingdom.
Sure, we’re in a downward drift. But I choose to believe, as did Jonathan Edwards, that revival was just around the corner. He wrote:
That infidelity, heresy, and vice do so prevail, and that corruption and wickedness are risen to such an extreme height, is exceeding deplorable: but yet, I think, considering God’s promises to his church, and the ordinary method of his dispensations, hope may justly be gathered from it, that the present state of things will not last long, but that a happy change is nigh. We know that God never will desert the cause of truth and holiness, nor suffer the gates of hell to prevail against the church; and that usually, from the beginning of the world, the state of the church has appeared most dark, just before some remarkable deliverance and advancement.[1]
So either way, our decline should drive us to our knees. That alone would be huge! I remember hearing Pastor Tom Nelson say, “Prayer doesn’t just bring revival. Prayer IS revival. When God stirs Christians’ hearts to pray, you’ve got revival, because Christians generally don’t pray.”
The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right. I’ve had my own battle with making time to pray consistently and fervently. But as I continue to study and teach God’s Word in a culture that is running as hard as possible toward depravity, as I grow older and watch the church grow less effective, as I see so many people deceived and miserable when they buy the enemy’s lies, I realize my inability. I realize that God is our only hope. I realize the only alternative to awakening is judgment. That scares me. It drives me to pray. Boldly, desperately, and expectantly.
Dr. J. Edwin Orr was the professor of the history of awakenings at Fuller Theological Seminary. Billy Graham said that he was one of the greatest authorities on religious revivals. At the end of his life he said, “After studying prayer and spiritual awakenings for 60 years I’ve reached this conclusion…whenever God is ready to do something new with His people, He always sets them praying.”
Oh, how I long for this! So I find myself praying not only for awakening, but for God to incite his people to pray for awakening. Renowned commentator Matthew Henry said the following:
When God is about to give His people the expected good, He pours out a Spirit of prayer, and it is a good sign that He is coming toward them in mercy. Then when you see the expected end approaching, ‘then you shall call upon Me’ (Jer. 29:11-12). Note: Promises are given not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer; and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it. When Daniel understood the 70 years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord (Dan. 9:2-3).
Therefore, my most important job as a pastor could be to beckon people to pray that God will send sweeping revival. R.A. Torrey said, “There have been revivals without much preaching, but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty prayer.”
So I will pray. And again I plead with you to pray, too. Will you? You can anytime and anywhere. Every Thursday morning I open the church auditorium to pray from 6 to 8 am. I spend most of that time praying for revival. You’re invited to come.
Chad Sparks

[1] The Works of Jonathan Edwards, p. 294.

Longing for Revival

(From the Journey Blog
When I hear people talk about “revival,” I sometimes wonder if we are talking about the same thing.
It’s a word that conjures up a lot of different ideas. Some people imagine emotional tent crusades with boisterous evangelists; others think of a TBN special with blue-haired women and gospel quartets; and many recall a week of evening church services with verse-after-verse of “Just As I Am” sung during the long invitation.
But that’s not revival.
The word “revive” means to resuscitate, to make alive again something that has died or is comatose. It is to invigorate, to rekindle something that has dwindled, to remember something almost forgotten, to restore what had fallen, to awaken that which has fallen asleep.
Spiritually, the word refers to an unusual outpouring of God’s Spirit bringing a renewed passion on the part of God’s people for him and his work in this world. Revival is an awakening where many are converted, resulting in a sweeping, positive, cultural change to a whole region.
Or as Jesus put it in the model prayer, “Your kingdom com[ing], your will be[ing] done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
It’s happened before.
In our journey reading through the Bible, we’re about to see it in Israel as God brings David to the throne. With him, God brings spiritual awakening and transformation. It happens in Acts after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven when the Holy Spirit baptizes the church. Disciples are empowered and thousands respond to the Good News. Despite severe persecution the revival continued for some 300 years until the Roman Emperor himself is born again and Christianity becomes the religion of the empire! I could mention several more examples throughout history, including the fifth century revival in Ireland led by Patrick and the Reformation in Europe in the 1500s-1600s.
America has experienced revival on both national and regional levels.
Before our nation’s founding, our forefathers’ generation was profoundly influenced by an event called “The Great Awakening.” God used men with names now a part of our cultural heritage, like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. Again in the first half of the nineteenth century, a movement swept across our relatively new and quickly expanding nation, resulting in an explosion of new churches and schools. The nation’s morality changed. It was called “The Second Great Awakening.”
After a stock market crash and recession during the politically toxic climate just before the civil war, hundreds of thousands in many large cities met during the lunch hour to simply pray. It was called the Layman’s Revival of 1857-1858. There were no preachers or leaders, yet more than 100,000 were saved.
Sometimes God has used great speakers like Billy Graham, D.L. Moody, or Billy Sunday. Sometimes God has moved among students in a high school or college. Sometimes he has moved in a church or a small town.
The point is…God sometimes moves people’s hearts. Significantly. God’s people are revived and whole segments of the population are “awakened” to him and changed by him. GOD is always the one who is responsible, and all of these movements are preceded by extraordinary prayer and longing for revival.
We’re long overdue for another awakening. However, if we can’t engineer it, what are we to do? There’s only one thing. Pray. I’ve been praying for awakening for 25 years. For the last three years, I’ve been praying more boldly, desperately, and expectantly. Oh, and more regularly. I think even the desire to pray comes from God. “God give me more desire to pray. God give others a desire to pray.”
Is revival something you desire? I’m praying that you do. I am praying that you will join me as we pray together for God to pour out his Spirit on us and our whole region.
Chad Sparks