Awakening to Pray

by Dr. James Willingham

Our one great need today is for an awakening to prayer.  Yes, there are many calls to pray, and there are many who pray.  However, we have yet to see a movement of the Spirit of God commensurate with what we seek.  That is why I would like to recommend Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt, a tract which inspired William Carey and others to begin praying for the spread of the Gospel to other lands.  The Baptists in England began their prayer meetings in 1785.  Seven years later, 1792, Carey went to Egypt, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The interesting factor in the whole effort, however, is the work by Edwards.  His tract lists nearly a 100 prophecies and/or promises which can be pleaded in prayer as reasons for God to hear and answer.  I have been praying and pleading these promises, since the Fall of 1973 after I addressed the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association on the subject of  A Great Awakening.  I would speak to that group on the fifth and tenth anniversaries.  My subject on those occasions was, A Third Great Awakening.  I cannot say I prayed every day, but I made it a policy that became entrenched to ask for such a visitation as often as possible.  Today, I seldom say grace even without asking for another awakening.

What we need is an organized effort, a day appointed where ministers and members can gather to pray for this blessing, pleading as promises the prophecies concerning the prosperity of the Messiah’s kingdom.  Consider just one, the prophecy of Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45.  The stone,  smiting the old image in its feet of iron and clary, destroys the whole of it.  It breaks in pieces and consumers all the kingdoms of this world and continues for ever.  Such promise represents the others that were pleaded in prayer by Carey and others for the spread of the Gospel.  The answer to such pleadings stand before us today with the Gospel present in many nations of the earth.

Just today a friend sent me report of how the number of churches in Boston, Mass. have doubled since the late sixties.  Since I am not the only one who prays or has prayed or will pray for such visitations, it is better not to claim credit.  However, it does give one hope and encouragement that better things are coming.  I might mention that I have read where D. Martyn Lloyd Jones and G. Campbell Morgan prayed all of their lives for a revival or awakening.  Mr. Spurgeon has recorded in his devotional work, Evening by Evening, two times in which he prayed for every last soul on earth.  God grant that we might see that we have joined a long line of intercessors who have sought this blessing for the whole earth and, perhaps, even more.  Deo volente, I hope to address other aspects of this subject of a Third Great Awakening which begins, as far as we can tell, with an awakening to pray.

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3 comments

  1. jimpemberton

    Good article, Dr Willingham,

    It occurs to me how visceral our motives to pray are. This is seen in the Bible time and again. During times of plenty the people often forgot God. During very difficult times the people remembered God and prayed to him. It is this pattern that gives the unbeliever fuel to accuse believers of being no different than superstitious people of the past. In one sense the unbeliever is correct in this. God’s people, enlightened as we are, are often spiritually immature and God uses that very lack of maturity as the means by which he gets our attention.

    This can be seen today that people will gather in large numbers to pray who are seeing great persecution and need. Many Christians in the West who have seen relative ease and comfort in the past few decades unfortunately see little value in coming together for periods of prayer. The most prayer many do is in between the music and the preaching on Sunday morning. It’s the opportunity for the music team to leave the stage or the ushers to come forward with the offering plates. Never mind that few Christians would show up for a Sunday evening prayer meeting or gather in someone’s home for no other reason than to petition God. On the other hand, put on the big game and people will bring food.

    But I have to say that perhaps people have a sense that praying to God won’t work. That begs the question of what we expect prayer to work for. I have to note that the Exodus was God’s response to his people praying. It was difficult, toilsome, fraught with rebellion, and ended up with everyone, save for two, dying in the wilderness. Only their children entered the promise. That doesn’t seem like a desirable answer to prayer for many Christians. Perhaps people sense that such is the kind of answer they will get from God. I have to say, however, that our answer should be “so be it.” We should pray anyway. Our hope is not in this world but in Christ. We should gather expecting affirmation that we are in him, only tangentially through some occasional provision of comfort, but especially that we might see the kingdom shine through the fallen shadows of this world. If this world appears bright enough, we haven’t seen the true light.

    May the numbers of true believers increase who have seen this light and pray for the lost souls of others to be found.

  2. dr. james willingham

    Well, Jim, I think you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes, I can’t say how often, all our prayers lead only to more and greater difficulties and trials. I remember reading of the case of one man who prayed to have a good death in order to win his four sons to Christ, but when it came time for him to die he had a terrible death, one filled with fears and apprehensions of condemnation. You would think such a death would drive the sons away who were present for his passing. However, their response was this: If our father whom we know was a godly man died in this manner, what will happen to us when we die? They fell under conviction, and it led to their conversion. I can’t speak with authority as to the reliability of that event, but it was from an old work and seems to be of a truthful nature. Not all praying, however, leads to such an outcome. There are those times, appointed of God, surely, when He answers clearly and powerfully. The Awakenings and the Modern Missionary Movement are cases in point; they involved prayer, agonizing prayer, but prayer that was successful. Our guide in our difficulties is to believe that our defeats and disappointments are but stumbles, miseries, on the road to the blessing. Like Abraham we are look for a city whose builder and maker is God.

    We need to get past the problem of letting our eschatology control our prayers (in the sense of limitations) or of letting the world’s success intimidate us into thinking that God can not work as He did back in the 1700s and early 1800s. As the song goes, “The half has never been told.” When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Lord will raise up a standard, a counter flood against him, a flood greater than the evil. Where sin abounded, grace superabouds. As sin reigns unto death, so grace reigns through the righteousness of Christ unto life eternal. That is why we speak of Sovereign Grace,. Even when saints seem to lose by dying, they win for the Lord’s sake. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. I hope to say more about the future for the Christian Faith, if God is willing.

  3. Pingback: Awakening to Pray | shawngregoire

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