Prayer is a core spiritual discipline for a follower of Christ, and is central to our relationship with God. Without a vibrant prayer life, there is little possibility for an intimate and dynamic spiritual walk. The same can be said of a church—little prayer, little power.
But I am not talking merely about prayer that is perfunctory, rote or routine. I am speaking of prayer that reaches to the heart of God in praise, thanksgiving, passionate petition and, yes, confession.
If we are not careful, prayer in the church becomes an exercise for opening and closing meetings and worship services. While this type of prayer is a good practice, it is wholly inadequate. In fact, I would suggest that there are too few times when the church stops and focuses on prayer. Indeed, in most of our churches, few services are expressly and intentionally set aside to draw God’s people to His throne for protracted times of prayer.
Such an opportunity is before us. On Jan. 26, we are calling Oklahoma Baptists to a night of prayer and repentance. We are calling for solemn assemblies prior to the State Evangelism Conference (SEC). On this night, for those in the central part of our state, we are inviting you to join us for this special service at Moore, First. Many churches in the central part of the state may want to dismiss services and ask people to join in this night of prayer and repentance. The vast majority of Oklahoma Baptists cannot be in Moore, but your church can plan to set this Sunday night service aside to focus on prayer.
What is a solemn assembly? A solemn assembly is a time set aside to come together before God to humble ourselves, confess our sin, and seek His face. Greg Frizzell, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), has a guide for a pastor or church leader to follow in leading the congregation through this time of prayer. You can order this guide by calling the BGCO Prayer and Spiritual Awakening office at 405/942-3000, ext. 4517, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A solemn assembly is the church spending time together where the focus is on prayer. The whole service moves people through a time of coming to the presence of God and staying there. A solemn assembly has at its heart a time of personal and corporate cleansing. Herein lies one of the most significant missing elements in the church. We rarely stop and allow the Holy Spirit to put His Holy Light upon our hearts. Too often, we go months and even years without serious contemplation of sin that so easily besets us. Our prayers, privately or corporately, rarely give great attention to asking God to search us, try us and see if there is any hurtful way in us. A solemn assembly calls God’s people to recognize and confess sin that hinders our fellowship with God and one another.
When I read the Bible and Christian history, it is clear that revival, renewal and awakening does not happen without a deep recognition of sin in the church and believers. Revival comes when the church recognizes its carnality and unholy ways, confesses them and then seeks the face of Holy God. Revival is the crying need of our day. Repentance begins at the household of God.
A clean heart finds freedom in prayer before God. Joy replaces complacency and guilt. As we confess and repent, the joy of our salvation is restored, and the power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us. Our time with God becomes a close intimate time because all hindrances have been removed. We now feel free to petition God boldly for mighty things—that is true for us individually, but it is multiplied when a cleansed church kneels together before the Almighty.
So I invite you to join us at Moore, First, on Jan. 26, if you live within driving distance. But for the majority of Oklahoma Baptists, that date will be a time for the local church to have a night of prayer and repentance. Give this night to prayer at the beginning of 2014 and then follow throughout the year with additional nights of prayer. God’s promise remains. When His people will humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways and seek His face, He will hear from Heaven and heal our land. Now is the time for us to fall on our knees in repentance and prayer for we need His healing in our lives, churches and nation.