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Pray.Network Spotlight: 2016 Midwest Prayer Conference (pt. 2)

This edition of Spotlight covers the Midwest Prayer Conference held at Worthington Christian Church in Columbus Ohio on October 21-22.  For coverage of the pre-conference held on October 21, see the previous Spotlight.

 

After a time of extended worship, Dave Butts kicked off the 2016 edition of the Midwest Prayer Conference with a session on revival.  He asked a difficult question that I've wondered about but never heard anyone else voice publicly:  "Given that we've had a movement of prayer for revival for several years now, why are we not actually seeing revival in our churches?"  His answer - we're not prepared for revival, and revival won't come until we're ready for it.

Butts outlined a three-step process to prepare the church (individually and corporately) for revival:

  1. Consecration.  Just as the Israelites had to consecrate themselves prior to entering the Promised Land (Joshua 3:5), so believers (and the church) must set themselves apart to God's purposes.  Butts made the point that once something is set apart for God, it can no longer be used for ordinary purposes.
  2. Obedience.  The priests had to step into the water with the ark while the river was still flowing, before God would stop the river (Joshua 3:3).  Many in the church have settled for being hearers only of the word, and not doers (James 1:22), and revival will not come to a Church not focused on obeying the word.
  3. Dependence.  The American church has settled for what we can accomplish in God's name (but in our own strength).  Reflective of our culture, we have become independent.  Revival will not come until the Church learns to depend fully on God.

 

Jon Graf began the day Saturday with a session on "Proactive vs. Reactive Praying".  He listed the following characteristics of proactive praying:

  1. Proactive prayer demonstrates a solid trust in God, both in his power to do and in his will.
  2. Proactive prayer often focuses more on the process than on specific results.
  3. Proactive prayer has the foundational belief that fruit and Kingdom growth should be the primary purpose.
  4. Prayer can be proactive even in the midst of reaction…when it truly seeks God's glory over circumstances.

Drawing on several of Paul's prayers for the church, Jon showed the importance of praying for the process of spiritual maturity in believers.  He re-emphasized a point he had made the previous day about the purposes of prayer: (1) to grow a personal relationship with God; and (2) to advance God's will and purposes on earth.  He concluded with an example from Acts 4 of praying kingdom focused prayers in the midst of crisis situations (in this case, persecution).

 

Dave Butts followed with a session on our need for God's peace.  Peace, he explained, is not just the absence of hostility or crisis - it's a positive commodity that can be given and returned (Matthew 10:13).  Jesus left his peace with us (John 14:27; 16:33; 20:21).  Paul speaks of peace in the context of reconciliation with God and with others (Ephesians 2:14-17) - a peace accomplished only through Christ.  This peace comes through ongoing prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and through people of prayer.

 

The next slot featured several breakout sessions.  I took the one on Spiritual Warfare 101 by Mike Jebb.  Mike opened the class with references to several helpful resources on Spiritual Warfare and then spent the majority of the time covering tools developed by the Strategic Prayer Initiative (a ministry of Harvest Prayer Ministries) related to growing people in prayer.  We took a basic survey regarding our self-perception of our prayer lives - a survey that has been through several revisions over the course of many years of usage in churches.  I couldn't possibly do justice to all the tools that Mike presented, but this session was in many ways a highlight for me.  The overall theme was that it's possible, through proven tools, to incrementally improve the prayer lives of the average congregation (most of whom, statistically, would say that their prayer lives need improving) by making these improvements easy to manage.  Check out the Strategic Prayer Initiative website for more details (I'll focus more extensively on SPI during a future Spotlight.)

 

Another slate of workshops followed lunch, and I took Kim Butts' class on Missional praying.  One of the themes of this conference (as has been the case for several years) was the need for strategic, kingdom-focused prayer.  Kim's class brought this theme down to specifics, touching on several areas of kingdom-focused prayer, including prayer evangelism, praying for unsaved family and friends, and praying kingdom prayers for people we know well.  Her thoughts dovetailed well with Jon Graf's topic of "proactive prayer" from earlier in the day.  A couple of acrostics she used to help guide prayer for kingdom workers were:

  • B-L-E-S-S: Body (physical needs); Labor (work/school, etc.); Emotional needs; Social needs (relationships); Spiritual needs.
  • A-B-C-D-E-F: Acceptance (from co-workers and people groups); Boldness and Clarity (in sharing the Gospel); Deliverance (spiritual warfare); Extension (of ministry); Fruitfulness.

 

Jon Graf concluded the conference with a session entitled "Get Into the Battle".  He pointed out that in the famous "armor of God" passage (Ephesians 6), prayer is the means by which we "storm the gates" of hell.  And prayer is the weapon that the gates of hell cannot stand against, because it's the weapon that brings God's power into the battle.  Graf noted that Paul's spiritual battles - manifested physically in his imprisonment - caused Paul to rely on the prayers of the churches for his deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; see also Philippians 1:18-19). 

Joshua benefitted from God's intervention through prayer in the initial battle with the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8ff).  In Exodus 17:14, God tells Moses to write about the effect of intercession on the battle so that Joshua will know about it.  The lesson was not lost on Joshua, who later boldly prayed to God to halt the setting of the sun in order for Israel to complete a victory over its enemies (Joshua 10).

Graf concluded with four exhortations:

  1. Get away from "fix it" prayers that seek the status quo.
  2. Pray warring prayers that seek God's glory, that expand the Kingdom of God.
  3. Pray prayers that look at every circumstance as a chance to grow the Kingdom, a chance for Jesus to receive glory.
  4. Get off the bench and get into the battle!

 

Throughout the conference, a consistent theme resurfaced: the need to be in battle through prayer for the future of the United States.  While recognizing the many crises that the country currently faces, Jon and Dave both recounted instances of revival spurred on by prayer at different times in the past in which our country was in desperate straits.  The conference as a whole was a great motivator and equipper for believers to join the battle, fighting with the spiritual weapon of prayer.

 

(See my blog post, "Indignation or Intercession" for a reflection on Dave Butts' follow-up message the next day at Worthington.)

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