It takes consistent, diligent work to seek God wholeheartedly. The prophet exhorted King Asa, “Take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV). For King Asa, working hard to seek God meant ridding the land of idols, repairing the altar of the Lord, gathering people together to offer sacrifices and seek God with all their hearts, and deposing his mother from the position of queen because of her idolatry.
What kind of hard work must we do? Here’s what our team has found to be critical:
1. HUMBLING OURSELVES—confessing our pride and acknowledging our dependence on God (Isaiah 57:15; James 4:6). One biblical methodology designed to help Christians humble themselves is the practice of fasting (1 Kings 21:27-29; Ezra 8:21-23; Psalm 35:13). We know from early church documents, such as the Didache, that Christians fasted every Wednesday and Friday until dinner, which amounted to approximately 18 missed meals per month.1
2. DEVOTING LARGE AMOUNTS OF TIME TO PRAYING FERVENTLY. In the first century, Christians prayed and engaged the Scriptures two or three times daily at set times (usually morning and evening, for a total of one and a half to three hours per day).2 This is also the pattern throughout Scripture (Nehemiah 1:4-6; Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; Luke 18:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:3).
In his reflections on prayer and revival, J. Edwin Orr states, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”3 We seek God wholeheartedly by praying fervently and frequently. And those of us in ministry must seek Him even more in prayer (perhaps imitating the apostles’ pattern of set prayer times, plus engaging in seasons of other extraordinary measures of prayer).
3. SPENDING SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF TIME IN GOD’S WORD. The importance of a thorough knowledge of Scripture cannot be overestimated—it is absolutely essential for living a righteous life and attracting God’s presence (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). God instituted the pattern of taking in the Scriptures two or more set times every day (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3).
4. BEING BROKEN OVER OUR SINS, REPENTING, AND SUBMITTING TO THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST. Unconfessed sin grieves the Holy Spirit, blocks our experience of God’s presence, and brings chastening; whereas repentance brings forgiveness, blessing, and the presence of God (2 Samuel 21:1-14; Jonah 3:10). Fasting and praying are critically important, but they can never be separated from genuine repentance.
5. OBEYING THE LORD MOMENT BY MOMENT, PRACTICING HOLINESS.
God gives special attention to those who walk with Him blamelessly over time (Jeremiah 15:1). On the other hand, God disciplines Christians who do not wholeheartedly obey Him by following His commandments closely (1 Peter 4:17; 1 Corinthians 11:29-34). We know that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:14).
6. PERSEVERING IN SEEKING AFTER HIM—day after day, year after year. We must repeatedly ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:5-13), persevering daily in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). We must also persevere in living righteously so that God hears our prayers as He did Elijah’s (James 5:16-18). We cannot expect God to draw near if we only draw close to Him briefly or sporadically. But if we seek Him continuously, we should expect Him to draw near. It would be extraordinary to see what would happen if we committed even a year to seeking the Lord in this fashion.
7. GATHERING WITH OTHERS TO SEEK HIM. Seeking God wholeheartedly necessarily involves the practice of energetically calling others to seek the face of God (Zechariah 8:20-23). And gathering with other Christians for days of corporate prayer for spiritual zeal and power should not be neglected (2 Chronicles 30; Nehemiah 8:13-18).
Christian leaders at every level of the church and society must lead the way. If we as leaders don’t return to the Lord with our whole hearts, how will we lead the way to revival?
1 P. Jounel, “Sunday and the Week,” in A. G. Martimort, ed., The
Liturgy and Time, vol. 4, The Church at Prayer: An Introduction to the Liturgy (Collegeville,
MN: Liturgical Press, 1983), 26.
2 Paul F. Bradshaw, Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office(Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1983), 26.
3 J. Edwin Orr, “The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening.” Lecture given at the first National Prayer Conference, Dallas, TX, 1976, sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. Accessed from www.JEdwinOrr.com.
Content first published in Revive, Fall 2013.