THE SOLUTION CAME FROM ONE OF OUR STAFF MEMBERS during a heavy discussion about the next step in the development of our ministry. Darin Gibbs said, matter-of-factly, “I think we should pray.” To that point each suggestion revolved around initiating some new program, constructing an additional facility, or creating another staff position.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, and with little warning, we were confronted with a spiritual remedy. Prayer? Why does that always seem to be our last resort? We set to work organizing a prayer revival for our church. Eventually, the discussion evolved into A Hundred Days of Prayer and Praise.
The goal of the prayer revival was to call the entire church into a season of prayer. The program included a Saturday evening prayer vigil during which we would introduce the need for prayer, the transformation of our Wednesday evening service (for eight weeks) into an old-fashioned prayer meeting, and the preparation of a devotional guide to challenge the congregation to engage daily in the spiritual disciplines of prayer and praise.
We didn’t know what to expect as we arrived for the first Saturday evening prayer vigil. I preached a message the preceding Sunday on Christ’s Gethsemane experience and challenged members to watch with us one hour the next Saturday night. To our amazement nearly 200 people came to pray, and from the beginning we felt an overwhelming desire to connect with Heaven.
Using the simple acrostic for the word ACTS, I led the congregation in a time of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. As we worked our way through each letter, I challenged them to share openly and honestly their inmost thoughts and deepest needs. The testimonies were powerfully expressed and the confessions moving.
A collective groan filled the sanctuary as we knelt to pour out our hearts to the Lord. I did my best to keep to the promise of watching one hour, but folks lingered at the altar long afterward. I quietly slipped out believing something significant had occurred during prayer meeting.
The next morning I met briefly with the Pastor’s Prayer Partners, then grabbed my Bible and shook a few hands before going into the service. The worship choruses and hymns rang with vibrancy and passion, and an air of expectancy filled the sanctuary.
Then it happened. While the choir sang the first of two scheduled anthems, a young father made his way to the altar. Some men surrounded him and their praying and sobbing mingled with the voices of the choir as an offering of worship to the Lord. Before that season of prayer ended, a lady nearly ran forward and fell across the altar, followed by another, another, and then another.
Instead of following the pre-set agenda, I lingered, sensing that this day would not be like others. When everyone returned to their places, and before I could offer words of explanation, a man in the back asked if he could say a word. He expressed one of the most heart-felt confessions I ever witnessed. He turned to his daughter and confessed his failure as a father, as a Christian leader, and as a man. With great sobs he begged her forgiveness and then moved from his pew to embrace her.
While they held each other, a lady stood for confession, followed by another who offered a prayer request, then others. Time stood still. We wept, and waited, and worshiped. When it was time for the congregation to be dismissed to Bible study classes, I didn’t feel we should hinder what God was doing. I sent ushers throughout the building inviting those arriving for Sunday School and the second service to join us in the sanctuary.
Everyone scooted closer and soon the room was filled to overflowing. Those just joining the service sensed something powerful happening. And so it continued through the Sunday School hour, through the second worship time, and long past noon. The service that began at 9:00 that morning didn’t conclude until early afternoon. At one point, the presence of the Spirit seemed so real and so daunting that I felt compelled to encourage the folks not to fear.
Continuing to Seek
Clearly, the Hundred Days began with an explosion. However, the next three months were filled with similar moments during which we celebrated the answer to many prayers, the salvation of souls, and the movement of God in almost every life. We are left now wondering why, in His marvelous sovereignty, the Lord would choose to bless His people with such a visitation?
An equally relevant question would be, why He doesn’t choose to do so more frequently? The answer to that question seems clear. He withholds Himself at times to keep us hungering for more and to make sure that when He does make Himself known, we are able to evaluate such a moment as extraordinary. Believe me, it was, and I am left praying, please Lord, do it again!
This article reprinted by permission from Contact Magazine.
Randy Sawyer is the pastor of First FWBC, Gastonia, NC.
As a result of this experience, Randy has written a book entitled Finding Your Balance: 91 Days of Prayer and Praise.
this 91-day devotional journal to
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REGAINING BALANCE: 91 Days of Prayer and Praise
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Download the free, online Leader’s Guide at www.randallhouse.com