During the first week of January, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma staff meet together each day for worship, information, and training. During this time, I have the opportunity as their leader to share my heart. I try to lay before the staff thoughts God has placed on my heart that will direct our work among the churches during the year. I have determined it would be worthwhile for me to share those thoughts with you.
The theme for my messages with the staff was “IT’S TIME.” There comes a point when the thinking, praying, planning, and preparation must give way to action. I believe it’s time for Oklahoma Baptists to stop preparing and start acting in two critical areas. Let me address one topic this week and the other in the next edition of the Baptist Messenger.
IT’S TIME to move past generalized and perfunctory prayer into a new level of intense prayer. James 5:16b says, “The intense prayer of the righteous is powerful” (HCSB). James uses a Greek word that we get our English word “energy” from—a full body, soul, and spirit engagement in prayer. It’s time we move from light prayer to prayer that consumes us.
What would cause us to abandon flippant prayers for deep prayer that marshals our whole being in petition and intercession? I would suggest three extraordinary times of prayer.
First, intense prayer is birthed out of life experiences that are out of our control. When a doctor uses the “C” word (cancer) about you or someone you love, prayer steps to a higher level. If you lose your job, prayer is no longer perfunctory. Let a child go astray, and you no longer generalize in a call for God to bless your children. You cry out to the Only One who can restore your child with groanings too deep for words.
Second, this intense prayer is also ignited when God allows us to have spiritual insight and sensitivity to the spiritual realities around us. Consider times when God places His finger in the middle of your chest and makes clear the blackness of your sin. Your prayer is no longer, “Lord, forgive me of my sins.” In those moments, you come to see your sin as God sees it. Your sin is no longer a small sin, but a black, vile act that nailed Jesus to the Cross. Intense prayer of repentance bursts from your chest and breaks your heart.
The same is true when we pray for people without Christ. Too often we pray a lifeless and often meaningless prayer for God to save those who are lost. Intense prayer weeps over people by name, recognizing their lostness. Intense prayer realizes the eternal end awaiting those without Christ. I have no doubt church aisles would have a steady stream of people coming to Christ if the righteous prayed fervently and intensely for the lost.
Third, intense prayer is birthed in the throes of spiritual warfare. God is in the business of calling His righteous ones to enter the battlefield in prayer. Elijah walked onto the battlefield with the pagan prophets and priests on Mount Carmel. Be assured, his prayer was not general and nonchalant. Elijah called down fire from Heaven through intense prayer!
IT’S TIME for intense prayer by the church. I find it interesting that James declares that intense prayer is to come from the righteous. My first thought is that none of us can pray! Ah, but Christ is our righteousness. Our entry and standing before God in prayer comes because of our justification by the blood of Christ. When we enter the throne room to pray, we do so clothed in the righteousness of Christ and take our place before the Lord as children of the King.
God’s promise is clear. Intense prayer offered before the Father is very powerful—it accomplishes much.
My intense prayer before God is that Oklahoma Baptists will step out of shallow prayer and dive deep into intense prayer. Then, I invite you to stand back and watch the Hand of the Lord at work!