Greg Laurie - Prayer and Revival
So I found my old Bible from those days. I don't know if you can really see how old this Bible is. If you can get a shot of it, it's literally falling apart. It had a leather cover. Wait a second here. I used it so much pages were coming out of it. That's a well-used Bible. They say a Bible that's falling apart is usually an indication of a life that isn't. Okay. So I like to see beat up Bibles. I like to draw in my Bible, too. I don't know if you can see all the little notes I took. Try to get in kind of tight there but I would just you know draw in the margins. Underline everything.
And then of course I started out drawing cartoons. My sole aspiration in life was to be a cartoonist and when I became a Christian I thought well now I'll be a Christian cartoonist. Maybe I'll draw for you a little bit next time. But I was just doodling the other day. I invented this little cartoon character called Ben born again. Get the play in words? Ben born again. Right. So this is Ben born again. I drew this just the other day. Here's your camera again. So this is his dog with him. "Calling all Jesus people," he's saying. And so obviously I wasn't a very good cartoonist, but I was a cartoonist, nonetheless. So just a little trip down memory lane.
So we're talking about the Jesus revolution. You know, it's interesting in the days of the Jesus movement we didn't call it the Jesus revolution. It was Time Magazine that came up with this idea. They called it a revolution. We didn't call it that, but in many ways it was a revolution. What is a revolution? Generally we think of upheaval radical change like the French Revolution. But the word revolution also means turning around and returning to something. I think that's really what we need in America. We need to turn back to God. You know, I can't think of a time in our nation's history for the years I've been alive and maybe even before and studying history when America has been more divided than we are right now.
And we love to point our fingers. You know we point our fingers at Hollywood and all the junk they churn out and they do deserve some blame of course. Or we point our fingers at Washington D.C. Or at the White House but you know when a nation is breaking down, God does not point his finger at the White House. He points his finger at his house - at the church - because revival, as we pointed out last time, is what the church needs to experience. "A spiritual awakening is what America needs; A revival is what the church need". I quoted this verse last time. 2 Chronicles 7:14 it's really God's prescription for revival or restoration and it applies to any person or any nation where God says "if my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked way then I will heal their land. Forgive their sins and heal their land".
So I want to talk in this time about prayer and revival because that's really what needs to happen. We need to start praying like we've never prayed before. Revival is getting back to the christian life as it was meant to be lived. Revival is sort of like being in love for the first time or in the bloom of first love. In fact, the Bible even compares our relationship with God to that of two newly weds or someone in the first love relationship. In fact, in the book of Ephesians Jesus talks to the church there and says, loose paraphrase: I know you guys are active. I know you're busy. You're doing a lot of great stuff, but here is my issue with you. You've left your first love.
Now how many of you are in love with somebody right now? Raise your hand. You're in love with somebody. Okay now how many of you are married? How many of you are in love with your spouse? I better see the same amount of hands go up. I kind of feel there was a few less hands actually. How many of you are not married yet, but you're in love somebody? You're in love with somebody. It's okay. Okay. Are you with them here? Have you told them yet? Do they know or is this the first time they're hearing it? When I was in kid in school, I was always falling in love with girls that never knew I existed. I'd have crushes on girls. Right. So maybe there's someone you think, "I wonder if that's the right one for me". So you write their name and your name together. And you play around with their last name as your last name if you're a girl. And you know that's the kinds of things that people that are in love do and you've got the butterflies in the stomach and you're nervous and your mouth goes dry and all those things that speak of a new love. And then you get married, okay, and then things change.
As I've said, marriage is a three-ring circus. There's engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. No that's a joke. But sometimes it's that way, but I bring this up as an illustration because this can be like our relationship with God. You know, when you first come to Jesus you're all excited. You're all fired up. You want to go to every church service. You can't go to too many church services. You can't wait to get up in the morning and hear what the Bible has to say to you. Prayer, man, you just love to pray. You're always praying. In fact, sometimes you pray too long which isn't the worse thing a person can do. Sharing your faith - that's just natural. You're always initiating conversations about Jesus Christ, but the thing is as time passes we start taking these things for granted and it's possible to sort of leave our first love. You don't lose it, but you can leave it.
So speaking to people who've left their first love, Jesus says, "Remember from where you have fallen, repent, and do the first works quickly". So the three R's of getting right with God or we could say the three R's of revival are remember. So if there was a time in your life as a Christian when you thought you had more fire for God, you had more passion for Jesus, Remember it as a point of reference. Then Repent. Literally repent. Change your direction. That's what repent means. It means go in the opposite direction and then Repeat. Do the first works quickly.
Listen to this, if you want to see a revival then do revival-like things. So instead of overly mystifying it, just get back and do those things you used to do. Don't wait for some emotion to overcome you. Just start your day reading the Word of God if you feel like it or not. Take more time to be with God's people in worship. Take more opportunities to pray. Leave your comfort zone and share your faith. You know, when things are going well, when the economy is good like it is right now, we might say "We don't really need God all that much". Trust me. We need God. We need God badly. But maybe we're just not willing to realize how desperate the situation really is.
What is revival? Charles Finney who is part of one of the Great Revivals said "Revival is nothing more or less than a new beginning of obedience to God". Billy Sunday, a great evangelist, he talked about revival and he said this: "They tell me a revival is only temporary. So is a bath, but it does you good". So it's a good thing when it happens. So revival is not only returning to one's first love in Jesus but it's also waking up from sleep. Often in the Bible, lethargy, laziness, and sleep is used as a picture of a person that is complacent in their relationship with God. In Romans 13:11 it says it's more urgent right now. The day of the Lord is closer than it's ever been. Time is running out so wake up because our salvation is so close.
You know the funny thing about going to sleep is you don't always know that you're asleep. Others do because you're snoring, right. But sometimes when my wife and I are dozing off she likes to watch, how do I put it delicately...? Boring things on TV which actually helps because I watch things that get me too stimulated and she'll say "Turn that off"! And she likes to watch this show called - I don't know if you've ever seen it - "The Great British Bake Off". You ever seen that show? So it's like these two people, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Now they have another lady they do it with and all these people compete from around England and they are given the challenge to bake this or make that and then he tests all the things after they bake them and to me it's like so boring so I fall asleep. Cathe will say, "Are you sleeping"? And I don't know why, but I deny it. "No, I wasn't sleeping".
Why do we deny it when we're sleeping? Someone calls us at three in the morning, "Were you sleeping"? Yeah! And you just woke me up thank you very much. So that's how it can be sometimes spiritually. You don't realize that you're spiritually asleep. Revival is getting back to the Christian faith that was lived out in the first century. You know, it's been said that revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented, he shows up himself. I want to say that again. Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented he shows up himself. Periodically we have to rescue Jesus from modern day Christianity. It gets all caught up in religious stuff and ritualistic stuff and all kinds of things that have nothing to do with Jesus. This is why we called it the Jesus Movement and the Jesus Revolution. Everything is about Jesus. When we're focused on Jesus everything seems to find its right place. So God wants to send a revival.
One person wrote it down this way "If all the sleeping people will wake up, if all the lukewarm people will fire up, if all of the dishonest people will confess up, if all the disgruntled people will cheer up, if all the estranged people will make up, if all the gossipers will shut up, if all true soldiers will stand up, if the dry bones will shake up, if all the church people will pray up, then we can have a revival". I like that. I wish I wrote it but I didn't. It's very well stated.
So here's point number one if you're taking notes: If you want to see a revival, you need to confess your sin, humble yourself and pray. Okay so all these folks sitting up on the stage, they're not just potted plants you know. They have lots of things to say and we love having them up here. So we're talking about prayer, you guys, and I'll tell you one person on this stage that is always the quickest person to pray that I know of. Her name is Allie Laurie. Right there. And you know why? Whenever we have a meal we say, "Okay, who wants to pray"? To the grandkids, Allie's always "I do, poppa"! And she prays great little prayers. I love that. We should always be eager to pray. Why do you think it is that we don't always want to pray? Is prayer painful? When you pray, is it like getting a root canal? No. But yet, "I'll try this and I'll try that. Oh, I guess all we can do now is pray". That's the first thing we should do because doesn't the Bible say pray about everything. Don't worry about anything and the peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus. Tim, I think some of the young people up here had some questions. Go ahead.
Tim: So earlier you talked about waking up from your sleep and so my question was, what is it? What are the things that we can be doing in our lives that are hindering to our prayer lives without us even realizing?
Greg: Well, that's a message all by itself, you know. Here's something to think about with sleep. You know, when I get sleepy is when I overeat. I get real tired. Think about thanksgiving when we all commit the sin of gluttony nationally, right. So we eat turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy and sweet potatoes, maybe with melted marshmallows - at least we do that - and then you have biscuits or cornbread or muffins or you know rolls or something like that and then of course pumpkin pie. I think it's a law you have to have pumpkin pie on thanksgiving but I don't know about you, but I want to go into a coma afterwards and then you wake up and what do you do? You go have a turkey sandwich or something like that. But so here's the funny thing about sleep, you know, it's not always just a bad thing. It can happen when you've been fed really well.
So you know you can come to church and be fed the Word of God and study the Word of God and actually, how shall I put it, I don't want to say overeat because I don't think you can over study the Bible, but let me say it this way, you can study the Bible without any application in your life or putting it into action. See if you just eat and you don't exercise, you're just going to become spiritually obese. You'll be a real holy roller. We'll have to roll you out of the church right. So I think there has to be a place for understanding we need to give out what God has given to us. We're blessed to be a blessing. But there are things that can hinder our prayer life. The Bible says that if we have idols in our heart the Lord will not listen to us.
So what's an idol? Well, for Tim it's his guitar and it has been for years. No I'm kidding. It isn't. Well I don't know. It might be. But you know an idol can be anything. It could be a guitar. It could be a car. It could be a house. It could be your body. It could be some device that you have - a phone or whatever else. It could be a career. It could be so many things that you're more passionate about than God. So the idea of not having another God before him is make God number one in your life. The first commandment is put God first. "Have no other Gods before me". And then he says don't make any graven images. So if we have an idol in our heart, God won't hear us.
Another thing that can hinder our prayer is unconfessed sin. You know, because the Bible says if we have inequity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us. So I think it's really important for us to confess our sin. In fact, that kind of brings us to the text I want to look at. I should've told you to turn there earlier. It's Nehemiah chapter 9. This is a story of a massive prayer meeting that happened and this prayer meeting took place after the people of Israel who had been held captive in Babylon for 70 years were freed, talk about idols! They were like in idol central. There were idols everywhere. In fact, the reason they ended up in Babylon is the Israelites kept taking God for granted and turning to these stupid false Gods so the Lord said, "Okay, you guys want false Gods and idols? I'll send you to a place where you'll have more than you can shake a stick at".
After 70 years in Babylon, they were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They were led by Nehemiah. So after the walls were rebuilt and everybody was back in the land, a prophet priest named Ezra gave a powerful message, and after he was done speaking, the people prayed. So Nehemiah 9:1-4. I'm reading from the New Living Translation.
On October 31 the people assembled again, and this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors. They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them. Then for three more hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God.
So don't talk to me about services going too long. I mean check this out. For three hours they confessed their sins and worshipped the Lord. For three hours they stood in place hearing the message. So that sounds like revival to me. So what did they do? They prayed with passion and they confessed their sins. The Bible says if we will confess our sin he's faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The problem is people will say today, "I don't really think that's a sin. My opinion is this is not a sin and that is a sin". Well it's really not up to you or me to decide what a sin is. We determine what sin is by what God says and actually the word confess means to agree with God. The way we know what God thinks about things is by reading the Bible. So they read the Word of God. They heard the mind of God. Then they knew what sins to confess. I think sometimes we think of sins as just breaking a commandment, and sins are that when you step over a line or you do a thing that the Bible tells you, you should not do like break one of the commandments.
Some preacher recently said he doesn't think we need the 10 commandments anymore. I could not differ more from that. God gave us the very 10 commandments. They're written by the finger of God. Now he wants us to go beyond them because in the commandments, Jesus pointed out in the sermon on the mount, "You've heard it has been said, 'you shall not murder,' but I say to you if you're angry with your brother without a cause it's the same thing". Or "You've heard of the law 'you shall not commit adultery'" that's one of the commandments, "But I say to you if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you've committed adultery", so he wants us to go further than them but he certainly doesn't want us to do away with them, but they help us know what right and wrong are.
But then there are other kinds of sins. Not just sins of commission but sins of omission. Does anyone up here know what the sin of omission is? If you know, raise your hand. Okay. The sin of omission is when you don't do what you should do. The sin of commission is when you do what you should not do. Again, the sin of commission is when you do what you should not do - break a commandment, cross the line. The sin of omission is when you don't do what you should do because the Bible says if we know to do good and we don't do it, it's sin.
We don't think of sin that way. "I didn't think lustfully today and I didn't cut anybody off in the freeway and I didn't cuss once and I didn't lie and I didn't steal so I guess I haven't sinned," and the Lord led you, "Why don't you go over there and share the Gospel with that person right now"? "There's no way I'm going to do that". Wait. Could that be a sin? Could that be the sin of omission?
If the Lord spoke to your heart and said, "Put down the cell phone and pick up my word," and you said no, could it be a sin to not obey God? Again, to him that knows to do go good and does not do it, to him it is sin. So there's a lot of things that can qualify as sin so think we have to acknowledge that in our life. That is why in the Lord's prayer, which is a template for all prayer, he shows us we should ask God to forgive us of our sin everyday. Go back to it again. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sin as we forgive those who've sinned against us". Just as surely as you need daily bread, and that just means you need everything from God. Bread means food, clothing.
It's funny back in the 60s we used to call money "Bread". "Hey, man, you got any bread"? Okay. So but that's really true. Bread just means everything. Everything you need in life, you ask God for it but then forgive us our sins. So just as surely as I need to ask God for his provision I need to also ask God for his forgiveness. You sin more than you think you do. Let me restate that. We sin more than we think we do.
So they confessed their sins. Number two: they separated themselves from ungodly influences. Verse 2 says they separated themselves from all foreigners. Our modern context would be getting away from bad influences. We all know people that drag us down don't we? And we all know people that pull us up. Some people when you're with them you're just a little bit closer to Jesus. They inspire you to be a more godly person. Other people, they're always mocking you. Challenging you. Arguing with you. Pushing back in anything you say regarding your faith. You need to think about who you hang out with. I'm not suggesting you only hang out with Christians because how can we lead people to Christ if we don't hang out with nonbelievers? But at the same time, the Bible says that we are to flee youthful lust and follow faith, righteousness, and peace, listen, along with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Find godly people. Hang out with godly people.
When I was a young Christian, just a kid like some of you are, I hung around with a lot of older people. I knew some people my age as well, but I found people that were old enough to be my parents who could be good role models for me so I could learn how to be a more godly version of me. I'd recommend you do the same thing.
Thirdly, they heard God's word and they acted on it. That was after three hours of listening to the word. By the way, when we listen to the Word of God, it's not for us to pick and choose what parts we like and what parts we don't like even though I ripped a page out of my Bible. But I didn't really do it on purpose. I just got a little carried away. I'm not sure what happened with that page in particular but you know some people will kind of edit things out. They'll say things like this: "My God would never say that about a person. My God is all loving..."
Well I don't know who your God is but he may not be the God of the Bible. He might just be a figment of your imagination. There's only one God and he reveals himself in the scripture. He says "Lo in the volume of the book I have come. It is written of me". So you want to know again, the mind of God, the nature of God, the will of God, open this book. In fact, everything you need to know about God is found in the Bible. You don't need to look anywhere else, so they did those things.
You know, Jesus said "You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you". He didn't say you're my friends if you do whatsoever you agree with or whatsoever you find easy or whatsoever is culturally cool. He said you're my friends if you do whatsoever I command you. So it's very important for us to understand the Bible is a packaged deal as is the Christian life and we do it God's way or we're not doing it the right way.
Listen to what God told Joshua in Joshua 1. He says, "Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Don't deviate from them. Turning to the right or the left", then God says, "you'll be successful in everything you do". Study this book continuously. Meditate on it day and night so you'll be sure to obey everything written in it and then you will prosper and succeed in all that you do. Do you know what it means to meditate in the word? You know, we use the word meditation in an Eastern sense it means to empty your mind.
When you use the word meditate in a biblical sense it means to fill your mind, but it's not just jamming as many chapters in it that you can get in there. I've heard people say, "I've read 10 chapters from the Bible today". Fantastic. What chapters where they? "I have no idea. I remember nothing". You'd be better off to read 10 verses with comprehension than 10 chapters without it. So you read it. You think about it. You chew it over. You meditate on it. You consider it throughout the day.
This is not rocket science on how to be a strong and growing Christian. Revival doesn't have to be overly mystical. It's just getting back and doing those things we should've been doing all along. Here's a really interesting statement from a man that worked very closely with the great evangelist known as D. L. Moody. This guy was named R. A Torrey. Back in those days they liked to use initials instead of names. So R. A. Torrey who worked with D. L. Moody made this statement. He says, "I can give a prescription that will bring a revival to any church or any community or any city on earth. Number one: let a few Christians, it doesn't have to be many, get thoroughly right with God". Again, let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God. He says, "This is the prime essential. If this is not done, the rest I say will come to nothing".
Number two: he says, "Let them bind themselves together in a prayer group and pray for revival until God opens the heavens and comes down". Number three: let them put themselves at the disposal of God for him to use as he sees fit in winning others to Christ". Then he says, "That's it. That is all. It is sure to bring a revival to any church or any community. I have given this prescription around the world. It has been taken by many churches in many communities, and in no instance has it ever failed. It cannot fail".
So we need a revival. Lord, send a revival. Why don't you just do the things we just talked about? Remember from where you have fallen, repent, do the first works quickly, as I said earlier. Get right with God. Pray with others. Pray for revival till you see it. Let it start in your home. Let it start in your life. It starts with you. The Jesus Revolution starts right here in my heart.