The urgency in my spirit for the Church to arise from its slumber and get up to the front lines of the battle in prayer, repentance, and intercession is persisting…and increasing! I’m afraid that our culture of instant gratification and incessant distraction has so spiritually weakened us that we are ill-prepared for the depth and duration of persevering, prevailing prayer that is needed in this hour. (I include myself in that assessment.) It is a most critical hour, however, and the future course of our nation and of the world ultimately lies in the hands of God’s people, His royal priesthood.
We are also the people who are living in the days of the full and final fulfillment of what was prophesied in Joel 2:
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved;” Joel 2:28-32 NIV
This is what the apostle Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was initially poured out on the Church. (See Acts 2) If we look at the prophecy closely, however, we see that the ultimate fulfillment will take place “…before the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”, i.e, at the very end of the age. Pentecost was an initial fulfillment, but the full and final outpouring of the Spirit is still yet to come. I believe we are living in the very days leading up to this great, last work of God that will serve to perfect the Bride and bring in the final harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God before the end comes.
As with all great moves of God, including the initial outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, there is always a birthing process that culminates in travailing, prevailing prayer. (For the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost, it says of the approximately 120 believers in the Upper Room: “They all joined together constantly in prayer…” Acts 1:14)
If we go back to the original prophecy in Joel, we see that there is a prerequisite to the promise, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…“
That prerequisite is found in Joel 2:12-17:
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”
This spirit of heart-rending repentance and importunate intercession is the travail that births the merciful, bountiful, restorative work of the Spirit that follows by the grace of God. (See Joel 2:18-32)
It is this level of travailing, prevailing prayer that is needed in this hour not only because of what is happening geo-politically, economically, and concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in regards to the Lord’s desire to culminate the age in one last global outpouring of His Spirit to purify His Bride and bring in the final harvest.
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It’s important as we consider this matter of travailing, prevailing prayer, that even this is a work of the grace of God by His Spirit. Charles Spurgeon said, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets His people to pray.” One of my teachers in Bible School further said, “Travail doesn’t bring on the baby; the baby brings on travail.” And so, when God seeks to birth a new work in the earth, He begins the process with conception within His people, leading to the inward formation of what becomes an increasing burden to bear, eventuating in the birthing process of increased spiritual birth pains, travailing intercession, and intensified labor unto childbirth. Paul spoke of this as even an ongoing process when he said to the churches of Galatia, “My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you–” (Galatians 4:19 ASV)
Our part, then, is to give ourselves to the Lord, seeking intimacy with Him that He may conceive within us the seeds of His new work, nurture what is conceived through continued prayer until it is fully formed within, and then cooperate with the Lord in the laborious birthing process of travailing intercession and prevailing prayer. This is the way that God has worked to bring forth every great move of His Spirit throughout Church history, beginning at Pentecost.
It should also be noted that the reason God employs this process is that He wants His Bride fully engaged and fully participating with Him in the work that He desires to birth in the earth. In His sovereignty, He has chosen to work in co-operation with His people in relation to the earth over which He has given them dominion. He has chosen prayer as a primary means of engaging our participation as His royal priesthood and reigning Bride.
He also has chosen this arduous and prolonged process of “childbirth” because it is only by this depth and duration of prayer that our hearts are possibly prepared to become the “new wineskins” that will be able to contain the “new wine” of the outpouring of His Spirit when it comes. Frank Bartleman, one of the main intercessors and instruments used to birth the Azusa Street revival, said,
“There is always much need of heart preparation, in humility and separation, before God can consistently come. ” (Another Wave of Revival, pg. 10)
If God were to pour out the new wine of His Spirit without this deep heart preparation, the old wineskins of our inflexible hearts would not be able to contain it, possibly be damaged by it, and the wine would pour out and be wasted. God knows the deep preparation that is needed within His people before He can do such a new work of His Spirit.
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On a personal note, I can say that I’ve been feeling the “seed” of God’s “new thing” growing inside of me now for months and it is developing now to the stage of increasing birth pains. I don’t believe I am alone in this for it seems there is this same process going on in many in the area where I live, across this nation, and around the world.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19 NIV
As a response to this increasing burden, the day after The Return event on the National Mall in Washington, DC, I made a “little trip” to the birthplace of David Brainerd, the well-known missionary to the native American Indians. His diary, published by Jonathan Edwards, has had a powerful impact on my life for many years. What stands out in his journal above all else is the depth, persistence, and intensity of his prayer life and also of the mighty work of the Spirit that was birthed among the Indians as a result of his travail for and labor among them. As I stood at the memorial plaque marking his birthplace, I committed myself afresh to the Lord for His work within and through me, especially in regards to prayer and intercession. With not a little trepidation, I asked God for even a small portion of the anointing that was on David Brainerd to be imparted to me, knowing I could never begin to come close to what he walked in and the price he paid in sacrifice and faithfulness to the work of God in and through him.
I share this as an encouragement to those of you who may, likewise, be feeling this inwardly growing burden of the Spirit. Sometimes making definite actions and setting up concrete markers can help to ratchet our hearts forward into the purpose of God so that they do not slip back into the old, more apathetic ways. Maybe you have a “David Brainerd marker” that you can visit or some other tangible way that can help establish a definitive memorial to a fresh consecration to the Lord!?!
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As a final piece to this post, I want to share a few links for you to consider that will help to confirm and further express the things that I’ve shared thus far. We need to learn from our forefathers and allow the echoes of their lives to reverberate down through the ages into our hearts today. They have much to teach us of the ways and works of God. I commend the following pieces to you, the Bride of Christ, in whom and through whom God seeks to birth His new great work!
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E. M. Bounds, the great man of prayer, was a Civil War chaplain and in his biography it shares that there were two books he always had with him, his Bible and the diary of David Brainerd. The following is his brief recounting of the life and ministry of David Brainerd.
The following video also touches on the prayer ministry of David Brainerd as well as other leaders of the First Great Awakening.
For a more in-depth look at the life and ministry of David Brainerd, I recommend the following talk by John Piper: “Oh, That I May Never Loiter on My Heavenly Journey – Reflections on the Life and Ministry of David Brainerd”
The complete volume of his life and diary may be found online here:
THE LIFE AND DIARY OF DAVID BRAINERD WITH NOTES AND REFLECTIONS
The Final Call to Repentance and The Return
The Return Is Over…but is it?
The Essentials of Prayer – by E. M. Bounds (free audiobook)
The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)