Monday, April 03, 2006

Longing for Revival in the Presbyterian Church

I received the latest issue of Presbyterians for Renewal’s quarterly magazine, RE News. Mike Walker, the executive director, tells how at a conference he was leading a workshop on prayer. This workshop was competing with only two other workshops – one might have expected a third of the people at the conference might attend. Only three people showed up. Mike points to this as a troubling sign, and I agree. He concludes his article by calling us to prayer and fasting: “…I urge you to extraordinary prayer and public fasting – beseeching God to be merciful to the PC(USA), granting us a time of renewal.”

I’ve ground my teeth at our Presbyterian propensity to pay lip service to prayer. In our circles, I hear the phrase “pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you.” Which I translate to: “pray for three minutes at the start of a meeting, and then spend two hours working out your strategy.” We enshrine process, systems, procedure, strategy and centralized planning, all of which are good things, but not the most needful things. I am chief among all sinners on this one. I know that earnest prayer before the throne of grace is our greatest resource, yet how little time I actually spend there; how little time I actually take our church leaders there.

How far we have come from our antecedents, who saw a vital prayer life as an expression upon dependence upon God. Consider the Moravians who held the longest prayer meeting on record – over 100 years straight. They didn’t shun action – from this ongoing prayer intercession the fires were kindled in hearts that went all over the world. Earnest prayer doesn’t impede action, it submits our action to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

So I join my heart to Mike’s plea – let us pray and fast (an almost forgotten discipline in our circles). I’ll do my best to make the weeks leading up to the General Assembly a season of prayer and fasting. I’ve never been great at fasting (see my previous post on this one). One day a week, I’ll give it a shot – sunup to sundown (which with the long days of summer approaching, should be a sufficient enough stretch for me in this time and season of my life.

I do have one nit that I would like to pick with Mike’s article – he says that we ought to pray for “a time of renewal”. While I admire his subdued tone, I suggest that we be bolder. A time of renewal is something that we reasonably could engineer ourselves – hold a few of the right meetings and events – have a few of the right pep rallies – bring in a few of the right speakers – reorganize a few of the right systems – voila, you have something that feels like renewal.

No, let us be audacious. We do not have because we do not ask. Let us unite our hearts and pray for revival – for that incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit that rends hearts with conviction for sin and drives sinners to the cross. Let us hunger and thirst for a Great Awakening unlike any that has been seen for a century or more. Let us cry out for such a movement of the Holy Spirit that our churches will be humbled, our communities will be healed, and that the watching world will take notice and say “Surely God is in their midst!” Let us pray for such a dramatic transformation that it could only be attributed to God’s almighty hand.

And then let us say together with all the saints….Soli Deo Gloria