Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Spirit of Grace and of Supplication

My Lenten Prayer

Stephen, the church’s first martyr, was stoned to death by an angry mob in Jerusalem after quoting the prophet Amos (who was himself quoting God): “’Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon (Acts 7:42–43 NIV84).” Any study of the Old Testament makes it clear that the people of Israel had a problem with backsliding. They also had a vowel problem. You read that right. They didn’t have any vowels in their alphabet so if they went one generation without pronouncing a word the next generation would not know how to pronounce it. Do you really think they stopped using the name of God (YHWH) because they were afraid to take the name of the LORD in vain? The meaning of that commandment is obvious. It means that if you take an oath in God’s name then you had better fulfill it. Talking about the false prophets Jeremiah said, “They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship (Jeremiah 23:27 NIV84).”

What has the church of the Lord Jesus Christ forgotten? Our Lord told the church in Ephesus: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4–6 NIV84).” I know the church hasn’t forgotten how to pray. I am deeply grateful to God for all the people who have prayed for me. Yet I believe that previous generations of Christians knew something that few of us know about today. They knew how to call out to God for lost souls. They knew how to intercede for the lost. Even as Elijah called upon God for rain, these brothers and sisters cried out to God and when they did men and women turned from darkness to light, from the power of the evil one to the power of God.

Maybe you’re reading this and you think, “What is this numbskull talking about?” Maybe you know how to intercede for the lost. Maybe God has given you great victory in prayer and many have been turned back to God. Then help the rest of us.

This Lent I am calling upon God to teach us to pray, to give us a renewed spirit of intercession for the lost. I am praying that the Lord Jesus Christ will again pour out on His church a renewed spirit of intercession. Oh, that the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Trinity, Who proceeds from the Father, would renew us this Lent and move us to call upon God. We don’t know how to pray as we ought to. May He pray through us with cries and groans that cannot be uttered in articulate speech.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives (Zechariah 12:10–14 NIV84).

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