logo of this website


The Interceders Encourager No. 53

The Need For Desperation In Prayer

All those used in revival have had to pay the cost through absolute honesty with God; admitting their weakness and inadequacy, and crying out to God in desperate and persistent prayer. Many have tried in their own strength to halt the enemy and awaken the Church, but failed. Only when, in desperation, they have fallen on their knees, acknowledged that they were powerless, and cried out to God to work, and continued praying into the night, have they begun to see success. Nicholas Zinzendorf, the leader of the Moravian community at Herrenhut in Germany, pleaded with God all night before the Spirit came down, and the divided community was broken, humbled and united at the foot of the Cross. David Brainerd in North America, agonized in prayer through the night, with the sweat dropping from his forehead, before the Holy Spirit came down on the Indians he had unsuccessfrully sought to win. The four young men in Kells in Ulster, continued in prayer every night for months before the river of God started to flow. The seven men in the old barn cottage in Barvas, Lewis, prayed through the night twice a week for months before the Lord answered.

We all want to see revival, but do we want it enough to pray as these people prayed? As Brian Edwards wrote, "Praying for revival is not enough. We must long for it, and long for it intensely. We have our revival prayer meetings, but we are neither confident in God's willingness to answer, nor desperate for the answer." God longs to send the Spirit, but He cannot do so unless and until our hearts are right before Him, and we are crying out to Him day and night. It is not that God does not want to answer our prayers, but He is waiting to see how humble, how broken and how determined we are and whether we can be entrusted with revival and awakening. For only those who are totally dedicated and selfless, who are not concerned about their reputations, and who are willing to accept unjust criticism and opposition, can God entrust with His powerful presence.

Arthur Wallis wrote of Dr Charles Goodell, who "was sent to a rundown Methodist Church in New York city. The people there said to him, 'We don't expect a revival here now. We had them years ago, but times have changed.' On his first Sunday, Charles went into the pulpit, and looked into the faces of his people. "My brothers," he said, "they tell me that you don't expect a revival here. I am telling you this morning that there will be a revival here, or there will be a funeral at the parsonage!" A few people gathered with him to pray. The revival came and the whole life and priorities of the church were altered. Such an inflexible determination, inspired by the Spirit, is what lies behind the intensive praying that prevails with God.

1.Deep Repentance

Frank Bartleman of the 'Azusa Street' Revival wrote, "I received from God early in 1905 the following keynote to revival: 'The depth of revival will be determined exactly by the depth of the spirit of repentance. And this will be true for all people, at all times."

Andrew Strom has pointed out that "deep repentance is one of the keys to personal and corporate revival, but what is often true is that Christians have turned away from 'obvious'sins, such as lying, stealing, adultery, etc., but there are other things that they are aware of in their lives that are not right. It is dealing with these "other things" that can be the key to going on with God.

"God hates all sin, and when we get close to God then our hearts will hate sin just as He does. What we need to do to deal with all sins at a deep level. You need to get away by yourself with God, and spend a couple of hours or more in a quiet place alone with Him. Then plead with God to shine His light into your heart and show you any unclean thing, whether it be unforgiveness, lust, speaking against people behind their backs, holding grudges, little white lies, etc. Ask Him to show you how He feels about sin, and what things you need to confess and renounce and ask forgiveness for. In some cases, you may need to go to a brother or sister and apologize to them or even make restitution. Make sure the repentance goes to the deepest level possible. Confess each sin specifically to God, turn from it and ask Him to cleanse you. With a lot of people it is these so-called "minor sins" that are holding them back.

Evan Roberts, as is well known, also spoke about this. "First, is there any sin in your past with which you have not honestly dealt, not confessed to God? On your knees at once. Your past must be put away and cleansed. Second, is there anything in your life that is doubtful , anything you cannot decide whether it is good or evil? Away with it. There must not be a trace of a cloud between you and God. Have you forgiven everybody, everybody? If not, don't expect forgiveness for your sins."

"This issue of truly forgiving those who have hurt you," continues Andrew Strom, "can be a major issue. It is important to be brutally honest with yourself. Is there still any bad feeling deep inside you towards certain people? Is there a trace of bitterness when you speak about that person? We all need to repent and renounce all unforgiveness from deep within us. Going through this whole "deep repentance" process is the first key to complete honesty with God.

2.The Spirit of Prayer

The old revivalists used to speak of having 'the spirit of prayer.' They spoke of weeping, agonizing, pleading, wrestling and 'travailing' in prayer. The whole reason that these revival preachers were so anointed and saturated with the presence of God was because they had truly broken through, right into His very throne room in prayer, and had spent much time communing with Him there. This type of praying has always been one of the most important keys to true revival."

'The praying men of Barvas' broke through into the throne room. That was why their prayers were so effective. Charles Finney said, "Unless I had the spirit of prayer I could do nothing... I found myself unable to preach with power and efficiency, or to win souls." George Whitefield said, "Whole days and weeks have I spent prostrate on the ground in silent or vocal prayer." Frank Bartleman wrote, "At night I could scarcely sleep for the spirit of prayer. Prayer literally consumed me." D.M. McIntyre wrote: "Before the revival in Gallneukirchen broke out, Martin Boos spent hours and days and often nights in lonely agonies of intercession. Afterwards, when he preached, his words were as flame, and the hearts of the people as grass." John Wesley asked: "Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down."

These examples, wrote Andrew Strom, "show us that the church can only expect true revival when a remnant of God's people get really desperate about the backslidden state of the church, desperate about the lukewarmness within them and all around them, desperate about sin and compromise, desperate about the fact that God is not glorified, that He is not truly Lord of His church, that His words are mocked and largely seen as irrelevant by a dying world. Revival will come when God's people truly humble themselves; when they replace their 'positive imaging,' ('Rise up, you people of power", etc), with the reality of James' lament: "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." (Ja 4:9-10).

It was said that Evan Roberts would break down, crying bitterly for God to bend the people "in an agony of prayer, the tears coursing down his cheeks, with his whole frame writhing." And we know how God answered his prayers.

So ask the Lord to lead you on in your praying until you get into a frame of mind where you will not be denied, but will persist in faith until God answers or gives you a clear assurance that your prayer is heard, so you can thank him in advance for hearing and answering your prayer, as the students at Asbury College did, the night before the Spirit was sent in 1970.

3.Wrestling in Prayer

We need to realize that this type of prayer is not just for "special" people or leaders. The promise that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" is for us all. In Todd and DeAnn Burke's account of the revival in Cambodia in the 1970s, they told the Cambodians of how Jacob wrestled with the Lord until He blessed him. "If we expect power and blessing from the Lord," he told them, "we are going to have to be willing to wrestle with Him in prayer and fasting, in self-denial, in taking up our cross. Then I shared with them from a devotional book by Hudson Taylor, 'An easy-going, non-self-denying life will never be one of power.' With that, everyone gathered together in prayer groups and began to wrestle with God in prayer as Todd had taught them. The result was the Holy Spirit descending upon whole groups of Christians, with incredibly powerful results. These Christians were taught to wrestle with God in this way. They simply went and did it, and God answered. We need to 'wrestle' with God to see such an outpouring occur in our day.

Before we can 'wrestle' in prayer, we need to:

(a) Become desperate to see God glorified on the earth. Our motives for seeking God must never be selfish ones. They must never be for our church or our denomination. They must be centred on God. We need to be appalled at the way God and His word are not honoured. We should be seeking Him for His own sake, not for what He can do for us. Our whole desire must be centred on seeing Him glorified.

(b) Ask God to cleanse your hands and your heart, so your heart is really pure in God's sight, and your hands are really clean. Then you can "ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place."

(c) Plead with God to pour out the spirit of prayer on you;

(d) Nurture His "fire" in your heart, so that you can 'agonize' in prayer before Him.

(e) Be very specific in praying for God to pour out His Spirit upon you, your group, your area and the whole country. One of the secrets of the 1859 revival in Northern Ireland, (and also of Wales in 1904 and Lewis in 1949,) was that the young men met for the one great object of praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon themselves and the surrounding country. This was the one obsession of their prayers, which they held to, and were not deflected to seek anything else. There has to be concentrated prayer for God to pour out His convicting and life giving Spirit, in order to achieve a breakthrough.

Wrestling in prayer has three aspects.

i) We need to wrestle physically against our natural tiredness and wanting to give up. We are not to be "sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit 4 the promises." Remember the praying men and women of Barvas in 1949. " For long, weary weeks, undeterred by the cold and discomforts of their situation: undeterred by the seeming 'silence' of God; undeterred by the fact that no one else seemed so concerned about revival, and the world seemed to be as godless as ever; they travailed before God. Kneeling on the rough floor, or upon their faces before the Lord in agony of soul, they cried unto the throne. And their prayers were not the half-hearted, sentimental, selfish, half-doubting prayers to which we are accustomed today, and which accomplish so little. As these men and women wrestled with God, drawing into the spiritual conflict every power and energy they possessed, we are reminded of the prayer of the Master: 'Who, in the days of His flesh...offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.' They had covenanted to stand in the gap for revival, so they prayed until they travailed, and travailed until they prevailed, until God answered. Travail must always precede prevail. 'When Zion travailed, she brought forth.'"

ii) We need to wrestle or struggle against our spiritual foes, the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

iii) We need to wrestle with God, like Jacob at Peniel. God appeared as a man blocking Jacob's way, for Jacob could not enter the land until his pride had been broken. He had to be brought to an end of himself and to submission to God. The victory was not achieved easily. Jacob struggled all night until daybreak. The angel not only fought him, but also sought to discourage him. But Jacob would not be put off. Then the angel touched the socket of Jacob's hip, so that his hip was wrenched out of joint. Still, Jacob held on and would not let the man go until he had been blessed by him. But God had not finished with Jacob. He asked what Jacob's name was. Of course He knew what Jacob's name was, but he wanted the deceiver and the cheat to admit his name and his character. Once he had admitted that, God could then give him a new name, Israel, one who strives with God, or one who prevails with God. Thus the contest cost Jacob his pride, his reputation and his health. He was now a crippled man, but a God blessed man. So God's sun shone on him, to show His favour. Hosea tells us that Jacob sought the favour of God (Hos. 12:4); and he got what he asked for, the blessing of God and a new name, because he had struggled with God and had prevailed,((Gen.32:28-29).

God calls us to the same struggle, to be willing to be broken and crippled if necessary, so that we receive His blessing. But, like Jacob, our self-reliance has to be broken. We have to be brought to the place where we acknowledge we cannot win in our own strength, and where we have to ask for His blessing and not give up until He answers. This is the blessing that is promised to those with clean hands and pure hearts, and who truly seek His face, (Ps.24:5-6). Jacob sought that blessing. He sought the face of God, and his prayer was answered. He paid the price in honesty, in confession and in brokenness. As a result, he saw the face of God, enabling him to call the name of the place, Peniel, (the face of God). Our God is still the same. A thousand years are but a day to Him. He remembers Jacob wrestling with Him as if it was this week. He answered Jacob's prayer, and He is waiting to answer our prayers, so that we see His glory.

Charles Finney summarised the essence of prevailing prayer. It must start not just by confessing and repenting of your sins, but actually renouncing all your sins. You must walk every day with God, in obedience to Him. You must ask for the spirit of prayer. "He will give you as much of the spirit of prayer as you have strength of body to bear." It must be offered in the name of Christ. It must be definite and specific. Tell God exactly what you are praying for. This must be in accordance with the revealed will of God in the Bible and the desires that He puts in your heart. It must be persevering prayer. It must be prayer with holy boldness. It must be offered from right motives, the glory of God. It must come from intense desire and travail of the soul. You must pray in faith, expecting to receive; exercising a child-like confidence in the Lord, and persevering until you receive.

Do not delay. Get into a quiet place and give yourself to heart-searching repentance and "agonizing" prayer until you see the answer to your prayers, a real spiritual breakthrough in your walk with the Lord, and His Spirit working in and through your life.

3.Corporate Prayer

A.T. Pierson wrote, "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 declined."

But such spiritual awakenings will not come about just through people meeting together in prayer, but through revived Christians praying together. When God has had His way with us individually, and brought us through deep repentance, given us the spirit of prayer, and enabled us to wrestle in prayer, He can then use us to bring revival and awakening to others. What God needs is to find groups of 'revived' Christians as channels through whom He can pour His Spirit; as He has done with so many other groups since that time.

Charles Finney wrote that when we pray according to the way as outlined above, it makes the church able to receive converts without any pride, knowing that whatever is accomplished is done by Him, and the church is here humbly to help Him.

Duncan Campbell wrote of the prayer meetings in Barvas in 1949, "As the prayer meetings for revival continued, upon a few men and women of the parish of Barvas came an unquenchable spirit of prayer, with new vision and a passion for the glory of God and the salvation of the people. As prayer was intensified, faith was born, deepening into assurance that God would come."

William Williams wrote about a church in Wales that in 1762 set itself to pray earnestly for revival. They prayed together for many months, and, because no breakthrough had been made, decided to stop the meetings. At what they thought was the last meeting, one of the brothers felt "stirred in his spirit to truly lay hold of heaven powerfully, as one who would never let go. He pleaded and cried to God. He struggled and wrestled in earnest like Jacob, in an agony of soul. The fire took hold of others, and the spirit of wrestling and struggling fell on them, and they all laid hold on God, His attributes, His word and His promises, resolving that they would never let go until all their desire was satisfied." The Holy Spirit was poured out, and the awakening that followed "spread powerfully throughout the land. It healed divisions, restored to Zion the beauty of holiness, spread far and wide the glorious majesty of the Saviour, transformed communities, and secured for Wales a Christian presence that was to last well into the next century." (Eifion Evans)

Isn't that what we all long for? Then let us get down on our knees, join with others and plead day and night for God to rend the heavens and come down.

Oswald Smith wrote, "We expect extraordinary results, and extraordinary results are quite possible, but only through extraordinary efforts in the supernatural realm . Nothing short of continuous, agonizing, pleading for souls, hours upon hours, days and nights of prayer will ever avail."

As the prophet Joel said, "Rouse yourselves and lament, you priests; howl, you ministers of the altar. Come and lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God. Set aside a time of fasting. Call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry to the Lord." (Joel 1:13-14)Our forefathers wept and prayed and agonized before the Lord for sinners to be saved, and would not rest till they were slain by the sword of the word of God." (Samuel Stevenson) "Where is the soul anguish of bygone days, the wounded conscience, the sleepless nights, the groans and cries, the sobs and tears of the lost? Would to God we might see it in this generation." (Oswald Smith)

"If we are desperate in prayer, it means we will pray through, no matter how great the difficulties. It means fighting against the opposing forces of tiredness and wickedness. It means praying more earnestly as Jesus did, and seeking Him until He comes and reigns righteousness upon us," (Hos. 10:12). (W.C. Moore)

This means that not only do we need to determine to go on praying until He answers; not only do we need to make a sacred vow before God that we will not give up before He answers, not only do we need to put it into practice, and go on praying until He answers; but we also need to tell God so, to tell Him that we will not let Him go until He blesses us, to tell Him that we will give Him no rest until He restores the Church and makes it a praise in the earth; and to tell Him that what He has promised He must keep, and we are not going to stop asking until He fulfils them. We have every right to claim this. This is the kind of faith demonstrated by Jacob, who was renamed Israel; by the people in Barvas in 1949, and by the people in that prayer meeting in Wales in 1762, who all saw the Lord work in miraculous ways.

I am 'suggesting,' as the two old sisters 'suggested' to their minister, that as many of you as possible, agree to meet and pray together, at least once a week, preferably twice a week, as they did in Barvas, pleading with God to come down on your local area.

I 'suggest,' just as the two old sisters 'suggested,' that you meet at 10 pm, or later, so there is no clashing with other meetings, and nobody can excuse themselves that they can't attend because of other meetings; and that you continue for at least a half night of prayer. I am also 'suggesting,' just as the two old sisters 'suggested,' that you meet in your places, while I will meet with others here.

It only needs two people, just as there were only the two old sisters plus the others elsewhere, meeting at the same time. Even if you are confined to your home, invite at least one other person to your home. Let us show the Lord that we mean business.

If you cannot find even one person to meet with, then find out when and where a group is meeting, and pray at the same time as them, in your own home, just as the two old sisters did.

"Be ready to cut off everything that would hinder, and cast it from you. Be ready and willing to suffer the loss of possessions, of friends, of health, of all things on earth, so you may enter into the kingdom of heaven." (John Wesley)

"We can not please God by what we do for Him in our own human effort, we can only please Him by surrendering and letting Him work in and through our lives." (John Mulinde)