Many of us who have been around Christian circles for any length of time have heard our share of sermons on prayer. A favorite saying that many preachers will interject into their message is "... God ALWAYS answers prayers. It may not be on our time-table, but God always answers prayers!" I believe this emphatically. However, I also see how this can be a cop out. It is easy to say that God always answers prayers when nothing demonstrably happens once a so-called man or woman of God pray. How often have we seen a television evangelist pray over someone and then when the miracle doesn't materialize, they simply tell the person being prayed for to keep believing in the miracle and that it will come in due time. They loose themselves from all responsibility of the miraculous occurring by putting the fault back on the one being prayed for if it doesn't happen. After all, the "pray-ee" just didn't have faith to receive the miracle, right? Hogwash! My soul feels revulsion for the lack of power in prayer by so-called healers and workers of miracles, telling those being prayed for that they must provide all the faith for the miracle to manifest. In only two instances in the Gospels were Jesus' healings contingent on the faith of those receiving prayer (Matthew 13:58; Mark 9:23-24). Preachers and healers love to quote these scriptures when there are no demonstrable results from their petitions. However, the vast majority of the time Jesus is chronicled as healing people indiscriminately, whether they had faith or not. Without a doubt, it pleased the Lord when those He prayed for possessed faith. The scriptures show several examples including the Centurion's son (Matthew 8:5-14) or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:23-28) but it was not the determining factor in most instances. The Gospels are clear that Jesus went into areas and did "wholesale" healing, if you will, laying hands on all and healing them with His immediate touch (Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40; Luke 5:15).
Jesus stated in the Gospel of John: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father (John 14:12). His promise to His beloved are works or manifestations of His power greater than what He did as a sojourner on this earth. So what is the problem? Why do we not see more immediate answers to prayer as Christ demonstrated in His ministry? Personally, I believe the answer is much simpler than most would feel comfortable believing. The scripture tells us point blank why God does not hear our prayers ... we STILL have a sin problem! I'm not talking about our position in Christ because clearly all who know the Risen Lord and have trusted in Him for salvation have died to sin, POSITIONALLY that is. Too many, I fear, have not taken Paul's admonition to heart when he instructed us to die to sin CONDITIONALLY, once and for all (Romans 6:11). As our opening scripture states, God has hidden His face from us because of sin (Isaiah 59:2). Most have not allowed God to truly sanctify them, to live lives of 100% obedience which would first mean a time of deep introspection and confession of sin. James the brother of Jesus is very clear on the progression of steps to command fervent, effectual prayer. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16). Beloved, first we must confess our SINS to one another. I'm not talking about SIN which was what we confessed to Jesus Christ when we acknowledged that we were sinners in need of His grace. But James is stating that we need to "clean house" and sweep away every thing that is not of Jesus. It must be destroyed. According to this scripture and many others like it, we can only find healing as we confess our sins to another human being. This will allow the Holy Spirit to come in and fill our hearts and lives as never before. Then, our prayers will begin to take on a power that we never dreamed. It is not by happenstance that James goes on in the following verses to compare effective prayer with that of Elijah. This prophet prayed for the sky to be shut up for three and half years and it happened according to his word (James 5:17-18). The apostle is not merely making a comparison here in the attempt to give a flourish to his writing, but he genuinely believed that those who live clean and obedient lives can invoke heaven in much the same way as the Old Testament prophet.
A remarkable instance of God coming in an extraordinary way through confession happened on February 3, 1970 at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. What was supposed to be a 50 minute chapel service on a Tuesday morning turned into a 185 hour manifestation of God's revival power -- a 24 hour prayer and praise meeting that would be the spark for the Jesus Movement of the early '70s. And, it all started from a deep sense of conviction (John 16:8) and then a confession of sin(s). Before long, students and faculty were lined up to come to the microphone, confessing their sins and testifying of the Lord's goodness through their repentance. (An account of the Asbury Revival is available on video here.) Asbury is just one example. Every revival or manifestation of God's power was predicated by a deep conviction of both SIN for the unsaved and SINS for those who knew the Savior. No matter if it was during the Great Awakening in John Wesley's day, or Charles Finney during the Second Great Awakening of pre-Civil War America, or the more recent Azusa Street Revival of Los Angeles in 1906, these all characteristically began with the Spirit of Conviction regarding sin resting on those God both moved on and through during these momentous manifestations.
Beloved, many of us who desire to see God move in our time as He has done so faithfully in the past can only concur with God's desire to move in like fashion. I say this with an assurance given to me by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and by His holy scriptures that God will move once again on our darkened world when we cry out from hearts that are completely His. What we see in many parts of the world with the Global Prayer Movement is an awesome thing! Many of these prayer meetings have been going strong for years, covenanting with God on a 24/7 basis. God is going to move in a powerful way through prayer as it births world-wide revival. However, there must come a holy conviction first that we have yet to see in order for God's Spirit to be poured forth. Once God grants us the Spirit of Conviction that convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), THEN we will begin to see and hear the fervent and effectual prayers of righteous men and women as they invoke the fire of God upon this dying world. No longer will He be hiding His face from His beloved, but He will be rapturous with expectation along with His Bride regarding the workings of His Spirit within our midst.
Come Lord ... come and bring to us conviction of sin both to the sinner and to the saint. We confess our sins to you, O Lord, and to one another. May You move with a power and an unction we have never imagined. In Jesus' Precious Holy Name, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,