What in the World Is God Doing?
Idon’t know about you, but I want to be in on what the Lord is doing. I don’t want to be a spectator. This means, of course, that I must pay close attention to His work across the planet. I must become like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times in which they lived and knew what Israel must do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
As one who stands on the wall looking out over my own nation, watching and praying, I would suggest to you that God is clearly doing at least three hopeful things today. There may well be more than these three, but giving yourself to these will take every bit of your strength and focus. The three are tied closely together: God is calling His people to prayer, revival, and finishing the task of world evangelization.
Without doubt, the Lord has always wanted His people to pray. However, there are seasons when prayer seems to be highlighted by heaven itself. We seem to be living in such a time.
Since the 1980s, prayer has become more and more the focus of churches, ministries, and events. One of the best trends I’ve noticed in this regard is that the Lord’s people are turning their prayer focus from themselves and their own needs and beginning to pray kingdom prayers. We are shifting from our agendas to God’s agenda. Across the globe, the church is praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!
As we pray the Lord’s will, we find ourselves naturally moving toward the next of the three areas: revival. This is close to God’s heart! He wants His people spiritually awake, filled with zeal, eager to do His will.
One of my favorite definitions of revival comes from Pastor Ray Ortlund Jr.:
When God rends the heavens and comes down on His people, a divine power achieves what human effort at its best fails to do. God’s people thirst for the ministry of the Word and receive it with tender meltings of soul. The grip of the enslaving sin is broken. Reconciliation between believers is sought and granted. Spiritual things, rather than material things, capture people’s hearts. A defensive, timid church is transformed into a confident army. Believers joyfully suffer for their Lord. They treasure usefulness to God over career advancement. Communion with God is avidly enjoyed. Churches and Christian organizations reform their policies and procedures. People who had always been indifferent to the Gospel now inquire anxiously. And this type of spiritual movement draws in not just the isolated straggler here and there but large numbers of people. A wave of divine grace washes over the church and spills out onto the world. That is what happens when God comes down. And that is how we should pray for the church today.
Such a vision for revival should bring us back to prayer again and again. It is critical for us to understand the role of prayer in revival. Whether you look to the great revivals in the Old Testament or to revivals down through the centuries of church history, one thing is consistent: Prayer precedes revival!
A. T. Pierson makes this point:
From the day of Pentecost, there has been not one great spiritual awakening in any land which has not begun in a union of prayer, though only among two or three. And no such outward, upward movement has continued after such prayer meetings have declined. It is in exact proportion to the maintenance of such joint and believing supplication and intercession that the Word of the Lord in any land or locality has had free course and been glorified.
As we pray and long for revival, it is critical to understand that revival isn’t just for us. It isn’t about the church having better meetings or boosting its budget. Revival readies us for the third thing God is doing today: the completion of the task of world evangelization.
South African pastor and writer Andrew Murray said it this way:
There is need of a great revival of spiritual life, of truly fervent devotion to our Lord Jesus, of entire consecration to His service. It is only in a church in which this spirit of revival has at least begun, that there is any hope of radical change in the relation of the majority of our Christian people to mission work.
Time and again, a major fruit of revival has been evangelism. An awakened church begins to move in the power of the Spirit to share the gospel in fresh ways. The radically changed lives of believers attract attention and draw unbelievers to Jesus.
This outreach is not confined just to the neighborhood of a church, but crosses cultural and national barriers with the intent of reaching nations for Christ. The Spirit of God today is clearly calling Christians to extraordinary prayer, focusing on revival, toward the completion of the task of world evangelization.
What’s next, when these three things occur? Well, the timing is in the Lord’s hands, but look carefully at what Jesus promised: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 NIV).
We pray, preparing the way for the Lord to revive His people. A revived people, moving in God’s power, share the gospel until the whole world hears. Then, at just the right moment, the Lord Jesus breaks through the clouds to gather His people and to reign forever.
The radically changed lives of believers attract attention and draw unbelievers to Jesus.
What is so exciting is that the Lord has graciously allowed us to be participants in His eternal plan and purpose. And all of this begins with prayer!
Dr. Robert Coleman has powerfully described the day in which we live:
Something great is on the horizon. You can almost feel it in the air. Though forces of evil are becoming more sinister and aggressive, there is a corresponding cry for spiritual awakening. Across the world never has there been more yearning by more people for spiritual reality, nor has the Church ever had the means it now has to take the glad tidings of salvation to the lost, unreached peoples of the earth. What a day to be alive! Certainly this is not a time for despair. The King’s coming is certain. And in preparation for His return, we may be the generation that will see the greatest revival since the beginning of time.