I am in attendance this week at the 2017 FUSION Conference, presented by Heart-Cry for Revival. Nestled in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina, the attendees have come “to discuss, dream, and pray about revival,” according to conference materials. I am here on behalf of AFA, which is happy to be a co-sponsor of the conference.
Some people might be surprised to hear that AFA is co-sponsoring a conference on prayer. After all, isn’t AFA one of those organizations that believes politics is the key to turning America around? Don’t we believe that government can save us?
Absolutely not. I have been at AFA for more than 21 years, and in all that time, I have never heard anyone utter either one of those canards. Instead, we recognize the fact that only revival can turn this country around and only God can save America.
The key to those things happening, of course, is prayer. To be perfectly honest with you, that is a word that has troubled me all my life. It’s not that I don’t pray; it seems as if I talk to God constantly throughout the day. Most mornings, I try to rise early to set time aside to read Scripture and pray in a more focused manner. I feel as though I have the walking-with-God-and-talking-to-Him part down pretty well.
Ah, but now, feeling as if I am accomplishing things in prayer – that has always been a struggle for me. And what is the purpose of prayer if not to – at least some of the time – accomplish things? We are called to move mountains, but I have little faith in the face of such obstacles. (Again, I said I was being honest.)
When I first went to Bible college, I dismissively passed up classes on prayer. I was a very new Christian and subject-oriented, hungry to learn theology. If there was a class on a particular book – such as Romans or Hebrews – I was signed up. But over the years I began to recognize the futility of trying to minister without the anointing of God – and the prayer that grants it.
Now I hunger for it. I have a piece of artwork in my AFA office that probably many of you have seen elsewhere. It is a black and white drawing of a man draped over a chair, his head bowed and hands clasped in desperate, passionate intercession. I want to be that man. I have to be that man. I cannot spend one more day ministering without God’s holy fire.
My favorite book on prayer is “E.M. Bounds on Prayer.” It is a compilation of everything Bounds (1835-1913) wrote on the subject, and it is truly anointed. A Methodist Episcopal minister, prayer was his life.
Speaking of the link between prayer and desire, Bounds said, “Desire is not merely a simple wish. It is a deep-seated desire and an intense longing for accomplishment. … The deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is a meaningless mumble of words.”
Of course, he goes on to say that we should always pray, even if we do not feel like it. But the way Bounds describes desire as the fervency that drives our intercession resonates with me.
Jesus says in the Beatitudes, for example, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” But I ask myself, do I really hunger and thirst for righteousness? Is that really a cry of my heart – that I must understand, practice, and grow in God’s righteousness? Those words of Jesus Christ describe a passion that most of us do not understand, precisely because most of us do not understand true hunger and thirst.
It is this way with desire and prayer, too, I think. Here is the danger of luxury and affluence. They sometimes dull the soul to true pain and thus deep desire. Our souls are satisfied with minor pleasures. Our lives are a succession of these smallish joys, moving from one to another. However, satisfying these counterfeits does something else; it drains away deeper desires for God, like a slow leak can empty a sink of its water. With these small opportunities for little pleasures, we live in a fog of sleepy drizzle. We know neither the blazing life of a full, bright sunshine nor the torrential power of a raging storm.
In the end, we become shallow and hollow beings. We have become spiritual weaklings, like sedentary men who spend their lives in a chair, muscles atrophied, lungs incapable of sustaining energetic sport, with heartbeats that are slow and frail.
We cannot have any more of this. It is a travesty that America is filled with so much spiritual nourishment but so little spiritual accomplishment. I am here at FUSION to hear the heartbeat of God. I want to know that if those who know Him implore heaven for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, He will do it. It is the only thing that can save our nation.
Editor’s Note: Opportunity permitting, Ed will continue writing about the 2017 FUSION Conference.