In October 2006, Reader’s Digest interviewed Billy Graham and asked him if he could live his life over, what would he change. In addition to spending more time with his family and more time studying the Bible, Billy Graham answered that he would have spent more time in … prayer.
It seems that as a nation, the only time we really pray fervently is during a crisis. On Sept. 11, 2001, America woke up and prayed, but then hit the snooze bar and drifted back to sleep. During Katrina, America prayed until relief came, then it was back to Mardi Gras.
Crisis Christianity has become the norm. We’re really good at seeking a “visitation from God,” as long as He stays only until the problem is fixed. You know the drill. When company comes it’s nice. But when they stay longer than a few days, it starts messing with our plans. We like going to the big events with the big names to get a glimpse at God, but run for cover at the thought of Him actually taking up residence. We have sought visitation, not inhabitation. But that flies in the face of what God wants. John 15 makes it clear: He wants to abide. As He told Israel in Leviticus 26:12, He tells us: “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”
But we’ve turned away, far away:
- The blood of more than 50 million innocent children has defiled our land.
- Marriage has been corrupted, and that counterfeit is now being exported from both our coasts in California and Massachusetts.
- Only 17 percent of Americans attend church on any given Sunday.
- America has become the third-largest mission field in the world.
The list goes on, but you get the idea: We are in spiritual decline and in need of revival – a great awakening that lasts more than 10 minutes.
In a Faith2Action interview with Billy Wilson of Awakening America, I learned that American history wasn’t exactly as I had envisioned it. I thought of American as being good from its foundation, through the fight to end slavery all the way until about the 1960s. But Wilson said it wasn’t so. He pointed to several places in history where America was so far off track that recovery looked impossible. Sound familiar?
He pointed to the time of prosperity following the Revolutionary War where Americans lost their grounding and focus on the God who gave them the victory. That preceded Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield’s revivals with an estimated 50,000 converts.
Things were so bad by 1794 that Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in a letter: “The church is too far gone to ever be redeemed.” That preceded the Second Great Awakening.
Preceding a move of God’s spirit in revival through Charles Finney, it was said that one in five in Rochester, N.Y., was a drunkard. Wilson said claims were made in the 1790s that “there wasn’t a Christian to be found in the formerly godly institution of Yale.”
A Rochester convert, Charles P. Bush said following this movement of God in revival, crime fell, the churches were filled, and the jail was nearly empty for years.
But how do we get another great awakening? D.L. Moody said, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” Finney, in his book “Lectures on Revival,” lists “repentance” as a key factor.
This morning I woke up convicted. I had mentioned the need to pray on the air and had suggested that people consider fasting every Tuesday until Nov. 4. But then, I didn’t do it. Because that’s hard. That’s long. That’s a commitment that gets in the way. A listener on my Faith2Action radio program last week called me on it: “It’s great we had that prayer call on Tuesday, but when’s the next one?”
And so, without the big names, without a big event, we’re going to have a conference call with the Creator of the Universe to pray together every Tuesday through Nov. 4 right after my radio program at 3 p.m. Eastern, 2 p.m. Central, 1 p.m. Mountain, and 12 noon Pacific time. And I am inviting you to join us by dialing today:
1-712-432-1690 with the access code: 499061#.
But remember, it’s the prayers of faith that lead to the move of God. And as Billy Graham said in his interview, we also need to be studying the Word of God. After all, faith comes from hearing, not from having heard. And rather than a “flash in the pan,” if we’re going to see lasting results, we need to pray fervently and consistently for God to move in our land. Humbly, with a heart of repentance, we’re going to seek God’s face, His heart, and not just His hand. Ask him to intervene and help us to turn from our wicked ways, because apart from Him we can do nothing. But with God taking up residence, all things are possible – we’ve already seen that in our American history.