Prayer Targets: Desperate Prayer; Bright Spots; Gov-Church Limits; Barna Biblical Worldview Survey
April 01, 2020
Dear Praying Friends,
Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) left a legal career at 29 to become the best-known evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening. He won an estimated 500,000 to one million people to Christ (or roughly 4-8 percent of the American population at the time) during his ministry without amplification. His methods of evangelism, such as local church revival meetings and use of the altar call, persist in modern evangelicalism. This excerpt on prayer is from Finney's autobiography:
When I first went to New York (1832), I had made up my mind on the question of the need to abolish slavery and was exceedingly anxious to stir public interest in the subject. I did not, however, make a habit of diverting the attention of the people from the work of converting souls. Nevertheless, in my prayers and preaching I often alluded to slavery and denounced it, so that considerable interest in the subject came to exist among the people...
On my homeward passage my mind became exceedingly occupied with the question of revivals. I feared that they would decline throughout the country, and I also feared that the opposition against them had grieved the Holy Spirit. My own health was failing, and I knew of no other evangelist that would take the field and aid pastors in revival work.
These thoughts distressed me so much that one day I found myself unable to rest. My soul was in utter agony. I spent almost the entire day in prayer in my stateroom or walking the deck in anguish at the state of things. In fact, I felt crushed with the burden that was on my soul, and there was no one on board to whom I could open my mind or say a word.
It was the spirit of prayer that was upon me -- that which I had often before experienced in kind, but perhaps never to such a degree or for so long a time. I asked the Lord to go on with His work, using whatever channels were necessary. It was a long summer day.
After unspeakable wrestling and agony of soul throughout the day, at night the subject cleared up in my mind. The Spirit led me to believe that all would come out right and that God had yet a work for me to do, so that I might be at rest; the Lord would go forward with His work and give me strength to take any part in it that He desired. But I had not the least idea what the course of His providence would be.
On arriving in New York, I found... the general agitation on the subject of slavery very intense. I remained but a day or two in the city and then went into the country to the place where my family was spending the summer. On my return to New York in the fall, Mr. Leavitt came to me and said, "Brother Finney, I have ruined the Evangelist [newspaper magazine]... my subscription list is rapidly falling; we cannot continue its publication beyond the first of January, unless you can do something to bring the paper back to public favor again" [Finney had helped birth the magazine].
I told him my health was a concern, but I would make it a subject of prayer. He said if I could write a series of articles on revivals, he had no doubt it would restore the paper immediately. After considering it a day or two, I proposed to preach a course of lectures to my people on revival, which he might report on in his paper... In the next issue of his paper he advertised the course of lectures. He soon told me... [the paper] was increasing more rapidly than it ever had decreased.
I began the course of lectures immediately, and continued them through the winter, preaching one each week. Mr. Leavitt would sit and take notes, sit down and fill out his notes and send them to the press. I did not see what he had reported until I saw it published in his paper.
The lectures were wholly extemporaneous... [Leavitt condensed Finney's 1¾ hour lectures into articles that could be read in thirty minutes]. Later published as Finney's Lectures on Revivals, twelve thousand copies sold as fast as they could be printed. And, to the glory of Christ, they were reprinted in England and France; translated into Welsh, French and German, widely circulated throughout Europe and the British colonies [they could be found wherever the English language was spoken. The Congregational ministers of Wales appointed a committee to inform Finney that a great revival had resulted from his Welsh translation]. According to a London publisher, his father published eighty thousand volumes.
The revival lectures, meager as they were in themselves, promoted revivals in England, Scotland, Wales, Europe, Canada East and West, Nova Scotia, and in some of the islands of the sea.
But this was not man's wisdom. Let the reader recall that long day of agony and prayer at sea that God would do something to forward His work of revivals and enable me, if he desired to do it, to take such a course as to help forward the work. I knew then that my prayers would be answered. I have regarded all I have since been able to accomplish, in a very important sense, an answer to the prayers of that day.
The spirit of prayer came upon me as a sovereign grace, bestowed upon me without the least merit and despite all my sinfulness. He pressed my soul in prayer until I was enabled to prevail, and through the infinite riches of grace in Christ Jesus, I have for many years witnessed the wonderful results of that day of wrestling with God. In answer to that day's agony, He has continued to give me the spirit of prayer. (Charles G. Finney, The Principles Born of Prayer from his Autobiography, edited for space.)
Finney's revolutionary preaching was used to win hundreds of thousands to Christ and helped pave the way for the end of slavery in America. But it was prayer that was most important in ending slavery: desperate, fervent, all-consuming prayer. An imperfect lawyer, a God-given prayer burden, and the anointing of God led to a mighty move of God. We need an even greater move of God in America and around the world today. Would you ask God to give you a prayer burden to intercede for the spiritual needs of a church and world in need of repentance and faith right now?
Pray for Bold Faith to Arise Among Pastors, Churches and Laymen Across America and Around the World -- God is Sovereign, and He knows all about the coronavirus epidemic. Christ is the answer to America and the world's current desperation -- which we understand will grow worse based upon what the best scientific and medical experts say. Immediately after 9/11, when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were hit, church attendance shot up -- but only for a few weeks. The crisis did not lead to repentance and revival in the church or awakening in the nation. Now is the time for the church to arise and shine (Is 60:1-3; Gal 6:9-10; Eph 5:14-20), not to shrink back, and to reap the fields that are ripe for harvesting. Repentance, prayer, faith, and obedience must be at the forefront of our minds. The eyes of the world are on the church of Jesus Christ as men and women are aware of their very real vulnerability and mortality. We all hope and pray for the best. But the church must take our cue to be what we have been called to be by the Lord himself! (See NDP; Call2Fall; The Return)
Bright Spots: The Gospel IS being Modeled and Preached -- It has been a joy to see God's people and his churches arise to the spiritual opportunity amid this worldwide pandemic.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves led his state's citizens in a beautiful, scripture-filled prayer on his Facebook page last week in a straightforward, unassuming way. Such prayers by leaders in every sphere of life are wholly appropriate, and the fruit of such prayers point hearer's heavenward, even if they have no serious religious inclination. The fruit of days of prayer called by American patriot leaders, including presidents, governors, and other public figures has been to inspire men and women, boys and girls toward God, and they are a wonderful part of our nation's history. God has heard and will hear such prayers offered in sincere faith. The spontaneous public prayers and testimonies of businessmen, doctors, lawyers, and everyday Americans are inspirational and life-giving even if they are not overly eloquent. There will always be naysayers, critics in the liberal press, and organized atheists, agnostics, and advocates of lifestyles that are condemned by Scripture, but now is not the time for believers to shrink back or bow to liberal progressive political correctness. Christ alone has the words of eternal life.
When President Trump invited the ubiquitous MyPillow founder, Mike Lindell, to say a few words at a nationally televised White House briefing, Lindell took the opportunity to boldly testify to his faith. He urged Americans to take time during the coronavirus stay-at-home guidance to read the Bible and to use common sense precautions amid the epidemic. And he encouraged Christians by saying we are experiencing God-sent revival. Lindell was a crack cocaine addict for many years (even as a businessman) before he yielded his life to Christ just a few years ago. (Hear Tony Perkins' interview with Mike Lindell; Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves' Prayer)
- May God move upon all of us who know him to take every opportunity to share the light of the gospel with our fellow countrymen who need Jesus more than anything else during this virus crisis and for eternity! May we be strong salt in our culture while misguided liberal activists seek to advance their causes amid the crisis. (Ex 15:26; Ps 23:4-6; Mt 5:13-16; 2 Tim 4:1-4)
Churches: Good and Bad Publicity Amid the Coronavirus Crisis -- Figuring out how to hold church services is a challenge for everybody amid this viral pandemic, but thousands of churches have risen to the occasion with creative ways to keep church going, collect essential offerings, and to obey the guidance of federal and state governments that are doing the best they can to control the spread of the virus. Some churches are doing more harm than good in the community by their reaction to reasonable government regulations, and some of our government leaders are likewise overreacting in how they are enforcing these regulations. Now is not the time for pastors or churches to wear a chip on their shoulder, but to serve and minister the best we can with the many tools that are available to us. Meanwhile, many small businesses, despite short-term government help, will not survive this crisis, many people may lose their jobs permanently, and many will die from the virus. Meanwhile some government officials have clearly overstepped their bounds, either in their rhetoric or their actions demonstrating hostility toward churches who are still trying to find their way. (See DeBlasio; FRC's How to Think About Shutting Down Churches During Coronavirus)
- Lord, help pastors, the faithful, and Christian ministries demonstrate the humility, faith, and compassion of Christ. Help us to subject ourselves to the governing authorities, most of whom are not singling out churches for unconstitutional bad treatment, but rather calling businesses, schools, and churches, alike, to embrace sacrificial actions in order to protect the public welfare and save lives. Help us to forgive when we are unduly mistreated but to stand for our constitutional rights when they are violated, just as Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, and many, many others have done during the past several years. Please strengthen and protect Christians in China and elsewhere whose churches are being destroyed, their congregations scattered, and their pastors jailed by their communist and Islamist regimes. May every church in America receive help from God to take advantage of the many resources available to them that can make church life rich, fruitful, and even enjoyable as we all go through this together. (Mt 5:40-42; Acts 25:11; Rom 13:1-7; Col 4:6)
Finally, read these links if you are able and pray over each matter: 1) Every Crisis an Open Door; 2) George Barna and the Christian Research Center headquartered at Arizona Christian University have released the first in a series of studies that show that only 6 percent of Americans possess a biblical worldview. That may be a greater threat to the United States than the coronavirus. We currently have a wide-open door to reach our countrymen for Christ. Let's walk through it boldly and prayerfully.
As always, thank you for praying!