A Call to Conviction

It seems to almost be becoming more and more part of a “regular” morning routine…

You sit down at the kitchen table, coffee in hand, as the sun streams across the room inviting you to another day. Grabbing your phone, you give a quick glance at your favorite news app, only to discover more depressing stories about economic woes, international conflict, crimes of various varieties, and more political punditry.

But this endless cycle of bad news should not be cause for defeat to the Christian – but rather a call to conviction.

A NEW CALL TO AN OLD CONVICTION

Historically, many seasons of spiritual awakening occurred right in the middle of a time of major crisis.1 Why? Crisis is used by God to bring us to fresh places of humility, repentance, and essential conviction about the things that ultimately matter. Crisis should elevate a believer’s focus beyond just their world to feel a sincere and compelling burden for the world. This conviction spurs a wholehearted persuasion that sets an uncompromising course of action and persistent effort.

Crisis should elevate a believer’s focus beyond just their world to feel a sincere and compelling burden for the world.

This is the point where everything changes in our lives, families, and ministries.

Looking back on my own journey, I now know that the greatest seasons of growth occurred during the toughest of times. It may have been navigating one of numerous church crises, agonizing over a prodigal child, or trying to launch my current ministry during a huge economic downturn when our expenses far outweighed our income. We all look back and know the special grace and profound lessons of crisis, but we are ultimately wise to look around right now and know that God’s school of spiritual excellence is still in session.

A CONVICTION OF RENEWED HOPE

I can’t help it. Even in the hardest of days, I still wake up with a dream of another world-transforming movement of the Spirit. Looking. Longing for those headlines. Do you dream too? Could it happen again? Could it explode in our lifetime? Could unthinkable spiritual renewal supersede unprecedented societal upheaval?

Can we embrace a conviction that we each must participate in a world-changing explosion of faith even in the midst of a world-shaking epidemic of fear? Could you be used of God to see the gospel spread like wildfire and countless lives changed? Maybe your heart is feeling a compulsion, as mine has, that the “next new thing” must be “the first old thing”—especially for such a time as this. As Os Guiness noted, “The church always goes forward best by going back first.”2 Crisis offers a reset for changing the way we pray, live, and influence the world around us.

Perhaps you’ve seen the popular acronym PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens). I define prayer as “intimacy with God that leads to the fulfillment of His purposes.” The early church was commanded by Jesus and convinced in their soul that intimacy (abiding in Christ) would align, unite, and empower them to fulfill the Lord’s purposes for their lives, individually and in community with one another.

  • In the upper room, they prayed together for ten days until the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:14)
  • In their daily gatherings, they prayed in one accord so that Christ would be formed in them as true disciples. (Acts 2:42)
  • On a daily basis, the leaders prayed, trusting to be led by the Spirit into the next unfolding chapter of life-transforming gospel ministry. (Acts 3:1)
  • In Acts 6:4 the apostles uncompromisingly held to the priority of prayer, convinced that the very DNA of ministry must be marked by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Saul, after his Damascus road conversion, instinctively prayed until God brought Ananias to pay for the restoration of his sight and the launching of his ministry. (Acts 9:11–12)
  • The Gentile Cornelius prayed in Caesarea while Peter prayed on a rooftop until God revealed to them the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles. (Acts 10)
  • The church prayed together earnestly when Peter was in prison, until God intervened in miraculous ways according to His will. (Acts 12:5)
  • The second half of the book of Acts is launched as they were united in prayer until the Holy Spirit spoke to them and launched them into all the world with the mission of the gospel. (Acts 13:1–3)
  • When beaten and locked deep in prison, Paul and Silas prayed until God revealed His delivering power to keep them on mission for the sake of His name. (Acts 16:25–34)

Like our spiritual ancestors, we can discover new opportunity in every crisis if we will pray until something happens.

It may appear on my tombstone, I’ve said it so often: “Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God.” Conversely, prayerfulness is my declaration of desperate dependence on God.

When we are confronted by threatening difficulties, we instinctively scramble to find a way out. But God may be calling us to find a way up. He often calls us to passionately look to Him in trustful prayer, submitting to His purposes, whatever they may bring. We tend to strategize a creative way to get over the difficulty, but God is showing us the way down, in deeper humility with roots of reliance nourished in His sufficiency, come what may. John Baillie prayed honestly, “When you call me to go through the dark valley, do not let me persuade myself that I know a way around.”3 When we are confronted by threatening difficulties, we instinctively scramble to find a way out. But God may be calling us to find a way up.

When we are confronted by threatening difficulties, we instinctively scramble to find a way out. But God may be calling us to find a way up.

 

OVERCOMING OPPOSITION—TOGETHER

Jonathan Edwards, having witnessed the effects of the Great Awakening, wrote a now-famous treatise in defense of this spiritual movement. He believed in the undeniable need for united prayer in view of an extraordinary work of the Spirit. The shortened title of the book reads, A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scriptural Promises and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time. Edwards understood and urged the reality that concerted, united, passionate prayer was always linked to revival. This is God’s plan. This is one of the devil’s primary strategies—to keep Christians from praying together.

What could be more crucial for such a time as this? And what opportunity could be better than now to evaluate how we pray in order to align our approach with a biblical, life-giving pattern so that we might pray together better and more biblically?

“When you call me to go through the dark valley, do not let me persuade myself that I know a way around.” – John Baillie

©2020 Daniel Henderson. Adapted from How To Pray In A Crisis (Moody Publishers). Used here by permission. Learn more at https://www.moodypublishers.com/books/current-issues/how-to-pray-in-a-crisis/

  1. See the historical accounts offered by J. Edwin Orr at https://jedwinorr.com/resources/articles/prayandrevival.pdf, where he notes, for example, that just prior to the spiritual awakenings in the late 1700s, the Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.” Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed, “Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.”
  2. 2. Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014), 132.
  3. 3. John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer (New York: Scribner, 1977), 79.