Observations on God’s Spirit Leading Us to Prayer
As some of you know, the Lord has graciously led us in five weeks of spontaneous nightly prayer meetings that have lasted 2-4 hours each. This is a mercy drop of revival, but in over 42 years of ministry, I have never been involved in or observed a moment quite like this, and I am humbly amazed and grateful.
And it is a PRAYER MEETING. The agenda every night has been to hear our direction through God’s Word, open the microphone, and shepherd all that happens into fervent, travailing prayer. Each night the Spirit of God has graciously directed us, through His Word and the needs of the people, into an arena of prayer.
Several pastors have asked me what is happening in these meetings, expressing a desire for God to do a similar work in their church and community. At the great risk of being misunderstood by having anyone think this could be programmed or manipulated, but also in humble recognition that God uses such moments to instruct and direct us, I offer the following observations about WHAT is happening and HOW God’s Spirit seems to be leading in these particular prayer meetings at this particular season.
1. A group of intercessors have been gathering every night—completely un-orchestrated—to pray prior to the meeting. Often they are silently praying around the room. Many times they have entered into spiritual warfare, seeking God’s protection from the enemy for the evening’s meeting. They also pray for direction, the Spirit’s leadership, etc.
2. There is a deep sense and constant awareness that the Spirit of God is the ONLY leader. We are to listen to Him and do exactly as He directs.
3. God has given us a deep faith during these meetings. The more we are led to pray, the more we realize it is God; therefore He has an agenda, a purpose, and we are merely cooperating with Him. Second Chronicles 7:14-15 has become precious to us, as we have been constantly reminded that at this moment, in an unusual way, God’s eyes are open to us and His ears are attentive to our cry. I cannot explain this, but it is wonderful to pray in such faith.
4. The Lord has awakened us, it seems, to pray primarily for our city. There has been deep prayer for individuals, but also prayer nearly every night for the pastors and spiritual leaders and churches in our city. Many nights we have gathered around and prayed over pastors who have been attending.
5. I or another one of our pastors has been "shepherding" these evenings. It seems that the Lord will not tell us what is to happen ten minutes ahead, but He gives direction for each moment as we progress through the prayer time. The Spirit of God is a GOOD LEADER if we will just get out of the way, listen, and obey. He can be trusted to lead us in the "paths of righteousness for His name’s sake."
6. The Lord has led us nightly to begin with simple, short worship in song, followed by simple singing throughout the evening as He prompts.
7. Each day, God has given us a passage to read and comment on at the beginning of the evening that seems to give a context or direction for what He is doing that night. Sometimes this is more extensive and deliberate than others. There is MUCH biblical teaching that occurs every night in one form or another.
8. We are learning at a far more rapid pace than usual because of the peculiar grace of God, the frequency of our gatherings, the teaching of our pastors and people, and our prompt obedience, which solidifies the truth and digests it into our daily lives.
9. In the first weeks there was a need to constantly remind people to not quench the Spirit by despising what the Lord was directing them to do (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21), but to promptly and humbly do what He says when He says it. Whether He told them to come to the altar, go to a brother and seek reconciliation, come to the microphone to seek prayer for a need (James 5:16), or give something, they should obey Him instantly.
10. We have put the four tenants of the Welsh Revival up on the screen nightly as a good reminder of our posture:
- Confess all known sin.
- Forsake all doubtful habits.
- Obey the Spirit instantly.
- Confess [proclaim] Christ boldly.
11. We often begin the evening, after sharing Scripture and exhortation, asking the people to stand and gather in groups to pray for our time together.
12. Nearly every night, the Lord seems to be leading people to the microphone to share. These are often people who would never have had the courage to share, but who realize that they are in a safe and helpful place that is full of God’s grace.
13. As people share a need, a confession, a burden, a Scripture, or a word from the microphone, the Lord seems to give direction to me or whoever is facilitating that night. Some of the things He has directed us to do are as follows:
- Direct the person to go to the side, and ask people who have a burden to come pray over them immediately.
- Call the whole church to prayer over that issue, asking them to pray out loud together or to gather in groups or to join another individual in prayer.
- "Teach off of" that moment. Often several people in a row will share regarding the same issue, and we realize that God is calling us to learn something important. If the Lord prompts, I will take a moment, open the Word as He directs, and give further biblical instruction; or one of our other teachers/leaders/elders will come and do the same as they are prompted.
- Often, when one person shares a deep need, before we send them aside for folks to pray over them, the Lord will prompt us to ask if there are others with that exact need, and we ask them to stand. One night, when a brother shared of the bitterness in his heart and a desire for release, we issued the call to others, and thirty people immediately stood. This has happened many times. We then invite people to gather around them and pray.
14. We remind people every night and in multiple ways that they are not spectators but participants. They are standing before a holy God who is speaking directly to THEM, and they need to respond and not quench His Spirit.
15. It has seemed important to be aware of how God is directing, i.e., the "theme" that seems to be emerging at times, and call it to the people’s attention so that we will not miss what God is saying.
16. There seems to be a natural moment when the Lord begins to indicate that the meeting is drawing to a close, but we do not determine that beforehand. I will admit that I don’t always know when to close! On several nights, we have tried to close multiple times, but people came up and pled to share, so we would continue. We do not hesitate to close if we feel led, though, even if there are people lined up waiting to share.
17. We have realized, as one dear leader who visited from Michigan reminded me, that revival is messy! There are awkward moments, confusing moments, and moments when dealing with a "weaker brother" that call for patience, forbearance, and love. We must embrace these and move through them gently. But we have also been led on occasion to turn off the microphone for a moment and privately give some instruction to the one sharing, such as, "Be brief. Don’t reflect negatively on anyone. Give God alone the glory, not any man."
18. We have opened the nursery for the smaller preschool children, letting parents bring their children there if they agree to serve; but we have also encouraged parents to bring their children into the meetings. These children have been wonderfully moved and often used to speak to us in precious ways. Many children have been saved.
19. We have not restricted those who come to the microphone confessing their faith in Christ and desiring immediate baptism. Sixty-five people have been baptized in the last five weeks.
20. The first weeks of the prayer meetings were consumed with much personal cleansing. Although this has continued nightly, the last few weeks have been less of that and more of intercession for those outside of our church.
21. We are now seeing multiple churches in our area gathering for prayer in this manner. We had over 500 at our quarterly citywide prayer gathering this week, and it was an unbelievable night of worship and fervent, travailing intercession. This is the first year we have called the city to pray regularly in this manner, and we as pastors are talking about increasing its frequency. Other churches are beginning either monthly or weekly prayer meetings. We are also wondering if God is about to call our lay people to start morning or noon prayer meetings all across our city. We will not manipulate this, but the idea is rising in many hearts.
22. Our Sunday morning services are dramatically changed, hopefully forever. There is no attention to the clock. Our first service has, more often than not, merged into the second with ease, and after the preaching of the Word, we have moved into the same ministry/prayer times that we have been experiencing nightly.
"Who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?" is our honest thought. God is the leader and longs to be so—we simply must let Him. Again, I plead with you not to take these thoughts as prescriptive, for God is gloriously creative and can move in whatever ways He desires. But we do feel that these observations at this particular season may be helpful to others.
May God bless all that we say and do to the reviving of His church, the awakening of the lost, and the rapid expansion of His kingdom!
Visit The Summit Church blog for more details about what God is doing in Little Rock, Arkansas.