There is not a serious Christian who doesn’t long for the kinds of results that we read about in Acts 2 and in the ministry of Paul and the early days of the church. People were being added daily to the church.
There was such generosity that there was no more need among its thousands of followers (Acts 4:34-35). Even in the midst of persecution, there was joy and boldness; everyone was telling everyone about Christ. And the gospel spread with dizzying speed.
This is a far cry from what we know in most of our churches … and it’s the reason that 4,000 churches will close their doors this year, while many others are plateaued or dying.
There are, of course, many wonderful, powerful, life-giving churches. But despite all the good that comes through such revived churches, it is not stopping the moral and spiritual free-fall of our nation.
Many throw up their hands and say, “Well, that’s just the way it is! It’s sad.” We somehow think that such commentary will excuse us from any serious thought and labor to see the troubling situation in the churches of America reversed.
Paul would not put up with such lethargy. He knew what would invite God’s manifest presence, and he set himself on a path to aggressively cooperate with God. One of the most foundational elements was unceasing prayer.
“I thank God,” he wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3 NASB).
Timothy became an incredible disciple. But then, he had a man praying for him night and day. Unceasing prayer. Extraordinary prayer. If you study Paul’s life, you’ll quickly see that the most compelling habit was that he was a man of extraordinary prayer.
In 1746, Jonathan Edwards made the connection. He knew that nationwide revival was a sovereign act of God in which God did extraordinary things, bringing course corrections to the whole church and even whole nations.
He understood what Richard Owen Roberts has phrased: that real revival is “the extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God in the lives of His children that produces extraordinary results.” When God begins to move in His reviving work, He “sets His people a-praying,” as Matthew Henry said, and serious believers cooperate.
So he wrote a book that swept America. The title explains the whole work:
An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of God’s Kingdom on Earth
Notice the three components of his call. He was seeking to elicit:
1. Explicit Agreement, in order to promote
2. Visible Union, in order to promote
3. Extraordinary Prayer
He also showed biblically how such agreement, visible union, and extraordinary prayer could lead to:
1. A mighty revival in the church, and
2. The rapid expansion of the gospel
And … it happened.
What Is Extraordinary for You?
I was in a meeting recently with my friend Ronnie Floyd, who said (referencing Edwards’ book), “I don’t know what extraordinary is for everyone else, but I know what it is for me. It means that my prayer life will move to an entirely different level.”
Matt Bennett, founder and president of Christian Union (a ministry that works with Ivy League schools), noticed a lack of fruitfulness on various campuses. God called him and their staff to begin to pray two hours a day, every day … one hour in the morning and one hour at noon or in the evening. Soon, students began to join them.
Over the last three years, they have seen such an increase in their ministry that at Princeton University they now have a waiting list for students who want to participate in their Bible courses. The primary change they’ve made? Extraordinary prayer.
God Is Waiting
Revival ignites in the halls of heaven and the hearts of people. If God is moving you, even through the simple reading of these paragraphs, will you make whatever adjustment is necessary in your personal life, ministry, or church to move to extraordinary prayer?
We look to God, waiting for the revival we so desperately need. Perhaps He is waiting on you to pray night and day. He’s waiting on and calling for extraordinary prayer.