Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Burning the Night Away: Part 3

"The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out..." This verse from Chapter 6 of Leviticus was one of the primary motivations that spurred on the Moravians who started one of the most influential movements of 24/7 prayer the world has ever seen. One of the greatest missions movements exploded from this prayer movement, with hundreds of missionaries being released to the world, including some who sold themselves into slavery in order to take the good news to the slaves! The current ratio of missionaries to laypersons in the Protestant church is 1:5000, but within the Moravians, the ratio was closer to 1:60! This began when 24 men and 24 women covenanted together for 24/7 prayer, a prayer meeting that last at least a 100 years, one source even stated it lasted 120...

120. It is a simple number really in comparison to all the other numbers in the world. 10 times 12, or even 5 times 24. 24. 24 hours makes up 1 day. So 5 times 24 is 120, and 24 hours equals 1 day, so 5 times 1 day equals 5 days, which also equals 120 hours. Is this confusing enough yet?

Well, about a week and a half ago, I sat in the prayer room with several others as we concluded our second prayer burn of the fall. It had been a long, hard, but good week for myself, but it seemed like everyone else who had passed through the prayer room doors had really enjoyed it. My friend Chad had been reading something from the book "Until He Comes" by Billy Humphrey, and he asked if he could share it with everyone. I read it myself, noticed it was about the Moravians, and gave the green light. As he read it after the ending of our 120 hour prayer burn, the excerpt mentioned the 120 year prayer meeting of the Moravians. I had sat there listening, excited about sharing the story of the Moravians with this crowd, but when I heard him say "120 years", it was as if God had winked at me.

This second prayer burn, the 120 Hour Prayer Burn, the 2011 Fall Finals Prayer Burn, or just the prayer room (even I do not know what to call it), was much more of a personal challenge for me than the first one. The idea to hold another prayer burn during finals came in the simple passing of a friend towards the end of the first one: "Hey, we should do this again during finals." I thought it was a great idea, so I pocketed it with the intent on praying about it later. Three days later, I was talking to a friend about the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, telling him about the facility, describing the Global Prayer Room which has the Higher Grounds Cafe right next door. Then I thought, "Prayer room, coffee shop. The bakery, empty room next door. Hmm..." Two days after that, while discussing with Chad about hosting another burn, Claudia, another friend who had joined us in Starbucks, posed this question: "Why wouldn't God want you to do it?" I looked at Chad and said, "She has got a good point."

The prayer burn really did come together easily other than the schedule, and this is where my difficulty came. The first burn's schedule was nearly filled by the time we started. This one took much more effort (especially after some technical difficulties due to my own fault). But that was not the real issue. The issue was in my heart. Instead of looking upon a schedule with 20 of 120 spots filled and seeing 20 hours of prayer, all I could see was 100 hours unfilled. I had lost the purpose, the vision, and it was killing me, even wondering if this was truly what God wanted.

I once heard this quote: "A lover always outworks a worker." God is not looking for a working people but a loving people. He longs to bring us into His sabbath rest, the promise for His chosen people, the one thing the Israelites missed out on when trying to enter the Promised Land. They stood on the borders yet they chose to not enter because of their unbelief that God was big enough to defeat their enemies. They had lost sight of their loving God who had delivered them, thinking they were the ones who would have to take the land themselves, already forgetting everything God had done. I, too, had lost sight, and realizing this was very difficult to face.

I had viewed my times in the prayer room as work, trying to do what needed to be done when all God wanted was for me to come, love Him, and receive His love. With our society being very much performance-based, it is an easy trap to fall into, but we must grasp this truth: there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more; He loves us perfectly! Our sin can never keep Him away, and our performance for performance's sake cannot draw Him closer. What He desires is a people who will choose to rest and abide in Him for His love!

So at the end, after having God work on my heart the entire week, God confirmed His desire for us to pray in those moments while Chad was reading. 120 hours, slightly arbitrarily picked because of the schedule of finals, had turned out to be exactly what God wanted! Even in my doubt and disbelief, He showed Himself faithful. And I learned something important: when pursuing God's vision while not hearing clear direction, there are three things one can ask:

1) Is it Biblical?
2) Is the attitude of the heart right?
3) Is God telling you to do otherwise?

- If one is unsure what to do next, looking to Scripture is going to be a pretty safe bet.
- In performing the activity, one has to make sure he or she is not doing it to gain God's favor (duty-/obligation-based) or to gain favor for one's self (pride of life). Performance should be to purely touch God's heart.
- If "A" is Biblical, but God is saying to do "B", then do not do "A"! Do "B"! God desires obedience over sacrifice! (Check out 1st Samuel 15) And I think disobedence in this question would reveal something within the heart, forcing one to return to question 2.

These questions were not developed until everything was said and done for us, but they will be something I return to later. You cannot force God into a formula, but I think this process could be helpful. And at the end, I agree with what another friend said: "Always seek God on each step. Be at peace if you have made your requests known to God!" Looking back, I failed to be at peace, and I struggled through the week, but by the end, I was confident that it was what the Lord wanted. I believe His heart was blessed through it along with all of those who participated, and I expect to see some incredible things happening in the future here in Starkville and at MSU!

If you would like to see pictures from the 2011 Fall Finals Prayer Burn, then click here!

Return to Part 2!

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