“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!” Isaiah 64:1-2
Dear brothers and sisters,
With these words, the prophet Isaiah seeks the open display of God’s presence and power. This Old Testament Gospel preacher ministered from around 740-680 BC in the southern kingdom of Judah. He spoke and wrote with elegance and power. The book of Isaiah is filled with literary beauty and spiritual force. Isaiah prophesied during a period of great upheaval and change. The spiritual tone of Jerusalem was changing. Kings acted foolishly. Priests preached falsely. People broke with the true God to worship their own way. Geo-politically, the Assyrian Empire was expanding its borders. God would eventually use the Assyrians to inflict judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Judah’s discipline would come under the Babylonian invasions of 605, 597, and 586 BC. Seeing this cloud of judgment gathering on the horizon, Isaiah’s preaching echoed the verdict of heaven as he called the nation to repentance. To seal the words of his vision, Isaiah spoke with exquisite beauty as he foretold the coming of the Messiah and the glories of the New Covenant.
When Isaiah prays these words, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down…”, he is seeking God’s favor on behalf of his people. He longs to see the heavens ripped open and the mighty God reverse Israel’s spiritual course. This prince of preachers, this agonizing intercessor aches to see a spiritual shaking of his countrymen. He waits to see and feel the earth shattering power of the Holy One of Israel. With great emotion, Isaiah prays that the nations would “tremble at thy presence!”
You and I live in a day of spiritual declension and political upheaval. Many of our leaders act foolishly. Few preachers preach the fullness of Christ in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Families crumble. Marriage as we know it is being redefined. Abortion quenches lives before they take their first breath. The blood of the innocent is shed, people demand what they think they deserve, and the Church anemically retreats into its corner.
What are we to do? We need revival. We need spiritual awakening in our homes, our church, and our land. We echo the longings of Isaiah. We ache to see the power of God come down, for the mountains of pride and self-righteousness to flow down at his presence. What must we do? We must learn to pray like the prophets. We must have what Al Baker calls an “intolerable burden,” an intense grief and alarm over the status quo in our personal lives, the Lord’s church, and the world. When we have that “intolerable burden,” only then will we seek God’s power and presence to blast our apathy and sloth.
What if we in the American church denied ourselves, yielded our lives completely to the Holy Spirit, and trusted in the extraordinary power of his ordinary means of grace? One of our core commitments as a Presbyterian congregation is a heavy reliance on the Word, sacraments, and prayer as the tools Christ uses to build his Church. Let me highly commend to you the writings of Al Baker, a preacher in the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) who has planted two churches and now directs the Alabama Church Planting Network. Baker is also coming to Amarillo November 9-10 to help us evangelize as a congregation. He has written three books: Seeking a Revival Culture: Essays on Fortifying an Anemic Church; Revival Prayer: a Needed Paradigm Shift in Today’s Church; and Essays on Revival: In Wrath May God Remember Mercy. He also has a weekly email devotional Forget Not All His Benefits. I occasionally post these devotionals to our church’s twitter and Facebook page. In these writings, Baker casts a vision for revival that is rooted in Biblical exegesis, the Reformed tradition, and cultural awareness. One of Baker’s specific desires is for every church to have at least one group of 5 people praying one hour per week for revival. I would pick up that desire and set it before you.
Here is the challenge: that we have at least one group of five people praying one hour per week together for revival. We would pray together for 4 things: revival, salvation of the lost, church planting and church renewal, and world missions. If this stirs your spirit, find four other people with the same desire. We can find a time to make it work. We could meet for one hour before work on a weekday, before morning worship or after evening church on the Lord’s Day, or find a weeknight that works. Husbands, if your wife would like to meet with a group of ladies for revival prayer, offer to stay with your children on a weeknight or Saturday morning. This is truly a paradigm shift. By committing to Revival Prayer, we reach back to an older, simpler, more Biblical path of doing church together. The modern church has more than enough planning, organization, advertising, finances, facilities, and administration. But we lack power. We lack true conversions. We lack fervent commitment. We need the Holy Spirit. Oh, that we would learn to pray like the prophets!
May you be richly blessed by the fullness of joy in Christ, who “is altogether lovely.” (Song of Solomon 5:16). May his Spirit blow across his church, stirring our fruits and graces. May the nations sense in us the sweet savor of Christ.
 See Al Baker, Revival Prayer: A Needed Paradigm Shift in Today’s Church, p. 6-13.
Posted on Thursday // April 30, 2015 // 3:00 PM
by Chris Thomas