WHEN GOD’S PEOPLE PRAY

I remember the first time I heard Wayne Watson’s song by that title. I sometimes find
myself humming it or singing it (of course, I’m alone). “When God’s people pray, there is hope restored there is sin forgiven…”

It’s not that prayer changes things, it changes me. Prayer is not the method we’ve been given for twisting the arm of God. It is not given to convince God to see things from our viewpoint. Prayer is a privilege given to learn and embrace the mind of God.

Behind the scenes of every revival has been a prayer movement. Not a panel discussion. Not dialogue, but prayer. Behind every move of God in a local church, you’ll find someone, some group, some remnant praying. I’ve almost been able to chart the ebb and flow of God’s blessings on this local fellowship by our prayer ministry. Since those days in the early 1990’s when Don Miller challenged us to be a praying church, we’ve not been able to move forward without being on our knees.

We have walked through every crisis, fear and opportunity through prayer. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a deacon’s meeting when we didn’t talk about things that needed to be prayed over. I don’t recall every having a deacons meeting that did have a season of our men praying. I don’t think we’ve had a Sunday without the Pastor’s Prayer Partner’s meeting to pray.

As we’ve invested significant money in two massive building programs, we’ve prayed. We didn’t get to where we are by architects alone, but by appealing to the architect of glory to give us wisdom. We would not be where we are today if it were not for prayer.

Any “success” we might have enjoyed has been the result of prayer. Every step of Sherwood Pictures was bathed in prayer from writing the stories to casting to editing. It is element the world can not explain or even understand. God has done exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we ever hoped or imagined.

The fact that we’ve walked through the worship “wars” without having a war is, I believe the result of prayer. We had to make some changes in our worship without forsaking our heritage. Some did not like it, some left, some did not understand, but because it was prayerfully done instead of forced, the change has been blessed.

The fact that we’ve changed from a 99.5% all white church to a church of 20 nations, across socio-economic lines with ministries touching our region and the world, is the result of a praying people. You don’t make significant changes by bullying, you make them in a prayer environment.

The examples are too numerous to mention but you get the point. The prayer tower that stands front and center of our Worship Center is not our 900 foot tall Jesus – it’s a symbol of what we stand for. It is our power source. It is a constant reminder that prayer is the key to what we do.

The disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them how to lay on hands, heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water, or even deal with the Pharisee’s. They asked the Lord to teach them to pray. It was the prayer life of Jesus that impressed them above all else. God the Son, praying to God the Father caught their attention. The Godhead in tune with itself so that the will of God in heaven would be done on earth.

The greatest failure of the three, Peter, James and John, is summarized in the words, “Could you not watch and pray with me one hour?” Prayer is a spiritual ingredient this church, no Christian can do without.

I was reading Leonard Ravenhill’s, Treasury of Prayer which is taken from the writings of E. M. Bounds. Read these words carefully, “It may be said with emphasis that no lazy saint prays. Can there be a lazy saint? Can there be a prayer-less saint? Does not slack praying cut short sainthood’s crown and kingdom? Can there be a cowardly soldier? Can there be a saintly hypocrite? Can there be virtuous vice? It is only when these impossibilities are brought into being that we then can find a prayerless saint.”

“He who is too busy to pray will be too busy to live a holy life. Other duties become pressing and absorb in and crowd out prayer. Choked to death, would be the coroner’s verdict in many cases of dead praying, if an inquest could be secured on this dire, spiritual calamity.”

“One of Satan’s wiliest tricks is to destroy the best by the good. Business and other duties are good, but we are so filled with these that they crowd out and destroy the best. Prayer holds the citadel for God, and if Satan can by any means weaken prayer, he is a gainer so far, and when prayer is dead the citadel is taken.”

It’s easier to do anything in the church than to pray. It’s easier to serve, sing, preach, teach, change diapers or coach a team than to pray. It’s not that we should stop doing these to pray. We must pray and then do these things or our serving lacks power.

It’s easy for any and all of us to get drawn into secondary issues that can’t be fixed apart from prayer and revival. God can do more in a moment than we can do in a lifetime. Let us resolve to be, more than ever, a praying people. Praying is not our duty, it is a necessity. It’s not optional on our spiritual checklist. The truth is, I must pray and I must be prayed for.

Let me again quote from Ravenhill’s book, “That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers of other good people to give to his ministry its full quota of success, Paul is the pre-eminent example. He asks, he covets, he pleads in an impassioned way for the help of all God’s saints. He knew that in the spiritual realm, as elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the concentration and aggregation of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it became overwhelming and irresistible in it’s power. Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean that defies resistance.”

When God’s people pray, things happen. There are some things, God will not do apart from prayer. Will you join me? Can we pray in unity that God will move in power and that the church will stop retreating and start doing battle on her knees?

Government Is Not The Cure

The Answer Is Not in Government, It’s in God

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we’ve got a lot of politicians and pundits giving us the “cure” for the recession we are in. Most of them want to throw money at the problem. At the same time, they deny the real issues in our nation. Money is the WRONG SOLUTION! Money cannot do for this country what an encounter with the Master can do. We don’t need political, economic, congressional or presidential solutions. These people are speaking with the foolish wisdom of man. Any solution will be temporary. Any hope will be fleeting.

I don’t care whether we are talking Democrats or Republicans—they’ve all forgotten their base and the people they represent. They are, for the most part, self-centered, greedy, arrogant, and absorbed by their own egos. They love to hear themselves talk, and they love to pontificate. Their words are empty, their motives should be questioned, and the end result will be more of the same. They divide us into camps. We no longer even know what it means to be civil and have an honest conversation.

The question is: Does the church have anything different to say? In the church, we find people in bondage to sin, greed and materialism—many of the same godless sins we find in the culture. We find others who put their politics above their faith. They endanger the Gospel because they filter the inerrant truth of the Word of God through their political platforms and preferences. The end result? The church, as a whole, bears little resemblance to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The church has to be better than the culture. The Reformation dealt with the gospel of grace and was an affront to the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, which was selling indulgences and had a corrupt priesthood. Today, the church has been corrupted by the prosperity gospel, which offers health, wealth and a life where no personal holiness or sacrifice is required. The answer is not more of the same, but a return to godliness which is strangely lacking in our pulpits and pews.

We must have a prophetic voice. We must repent before we can call others to repent. It’s easy to yell at Wall Street and Washington right now. But the reality is that we’ve robbed God, and He has shut the windows of heaven. The devourer is stealing from us, and we are watching it happen. Until we say what God says, we can’t expect blessings.

The church has to be salt and light. It must be distinctive if it wants to make a difference. The world will not be impressed with our buildings and budgets. They will be impressed if they see the life of Christ in us and through us. If we are seeking help from heaven instead of from government, we’ll find help that lasts.

There is a famine in the land for a Word from God. There’s a famine in the land that demands we pray for a cloud the size of a man’s hand. There’s a thirst in the land that cannot be filled by entertainment, appeasement, handouts and bottled water. It can only be quenched at the fountain of living water.

Several years ago, there was an article published by Life Action Ministries. It was entitled, “What Could Change With Revival?”

“The following are excerpts from a letter sent by Pastor Jonathan Edwards to Rev. Thomas Prince in Boston, dated Dec. 12, 1743. They describe some things God did in what we call the First Great Awakening, which influenced the American colonies between 1730 and 1745. (The Mr. Whitefield that is mentioned is preacher George Whitefield from England.)

“The congregation was extraordinarily melted by every sermon [of Mr. Whitefield’s in the meeting-house]; almost the whole assembly being in tears for a great part of sermon time. Mr. Whitefield’s sermons were suitable to the circumstances of the town, containing just reproofs of our backslidings, and, in a most moving and affecting manner, making use of our great profession and great mercies as arguments with us to return to God, from whom we had departed…

“The revival at first appeared chiefly among professors [of salvation] and those that had entertained the hope that they were in a state of grace, to whom Mr. Whitefield chiefly addressed himself. But in a very short time there appeared an awakening and deep concern among some young persons that looked upon themselves as in a Christless state; and there were some hopeful appearances of conversion; and some professors [of salvation] were greatly revived.

“In about a month or six weeks, there was a great alteration in the town, both as to the revivals of professors and awakenings of others. By the middle of December, a very considerable work of God appeared among those that were very young;…religious subjects almost wholly took up their conversation when they [the people in general] were together.

“Ever since the great work of God that was wrought here about nine years ago, there has been a great abiding alteration in this town in many respects. . . . There has remained a more general seriousness and decency in attending the public worship. There has been a very great alteration among the youth of the town with respect to reveling, frolicking, profane and unclean conversation, and lewd songs. Instances of fornication have been very rare. There has also been a great alteration among both old and young with respect to tavern haunting. I suppose the town has been in no measure so free of vice in these respects for any long time together for this sixty years as it has been this nine years past.”

If you want to see change that matters, look to God. Forget the government—they can’t help. They take, but God gives. They spend, but God invests in His people things that are eternal. Where’s your trust today? Is it in Him or them?

Copyright Michael Catt

IT’S TIME FOR A REVIVAL SELFIE

Selfies rarely impress me. Most of us don’t have arms long enough to get the right view of everyone in the picture. Yet, people of all ages have been using their phones to take selfies. Pictures are posted on all the social media platforms of people holding up their phones to take pictures of themselves. Sometimes, it is a group shot, often it’s (unfortunately) of them looking in the mirror at themselves.

Some of these pictures are funny. Many are increasingly inappropriate. A recent study has shown that this obsession with taking selfies is leading to increased narcissism. Narcissism is a personality disorder that involves a preoccupation with self and how one is perceived by others. It pursues gratification from vanity and the admiration of their own physical and intellectual attributes.

Several years ago, one article revealed that a British teenager tried to commit suicide when he couldn’t take the perfect selfie. He was so obsessed with capturing the perfect picture of himself that he spent ten hours a day taking up to 200 selfies. The young man said, “I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t, I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life.”

Part of the young man’s treatment included taking away his iPhone for intervals of ten minutes, which increased to thirty minutes then to an hour. In a study of Facebook users ages 18-25, they found that people who use Facebook the most “tend to have more narcissistic or insecure personalities AND those with higher narcissism scores were frequently updating statuses, posting pictures of themselves and using quotes or mottos to glorify themselves.”

The problem with posting selfies on social media is that we tend to over or under evaluate our worth based on likes and comments. A casual scrolling through of Instagram reveals countless individuals holding their phones in the “perfect position” to get the best picture possible.

Maybe it’s time we flipped this switch. Maybe it’s time to really look in the mirror, to really see who we are, what we are like and what we look like to God.

James writes, “22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Revival is a time when we look in the mirror. We see ourselves as God sees us. We let the Word snap a picture of what is really in us. When we sit under the Word of God, privately or corporately, it’s constantly exposing the fact that we aren’t perfect. We have sin that separates us from God. We have a dirty lense that keeps us from seeing clearly the sin that so easily besets us.

James warns of about self-deception. It’s a dangerous thing to be so self absorbed that one becomes self deceived. In every church there are people sitting in pews who are are deceiving themselves into thinking they are saved when they are not. They give no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. They have put their trust in keeping the rules, baptism or church membership. In the hot light of revival, that deception is exposed.

The reason we need revival is there are many believers, who are fooling themselves concerning their Christian life. They know the words but they don’t walk the walk. On every pew there are people who have a selfie that could be captioned, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17).

James compares the Word to a mirror. A mirror reflects. A mirror reveals. A mirror reminds. God’s Word is a mirror. Mirrors allows us to see ourselves and to make any adjustments we can before we go out into the world. When the mirror on the wall, becomes a camera that takes an Xray of our heart, it reminds us that God is examining us.

If I want to walk in revival, it’s not about likes on my social media. It’s about truth in my spirit. We can miss revival taking a quick selfie, or a casual glance. It’s easy to post a picture, only to later discover there was something in the background we didn’t see at the casual glance. Or to see that our eyes were closed.

Another evidence of the need of revival is that selfies are quickly forgotten. We post something, only to discover that it impacted our ability to get a job, a promotion or a leadership position because someone went back and checked our postings. If we look deep enough, long enough, we will discover that God doesn’t ignore the flaws created by sin, He wants us to deal with them. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, let God change it.

Warren Wiesrbe writes, “John Wesley wrote about a preaching service: “One before me dropped as dead, and presently a second, and a third. Five others sunk down in half an hour, most of whom were in violent agonies (Wesley’s Journal for June 22, 1739). Before we consign these people to some psychological limbo, remember how saints in the Bible responded to the true knowledge of their own hearts. Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone!” (Isa 6:5) Peter cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8) Job was the most righteous man on earth in his day, yet he confessed, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).”

It’s time to look at your selfie. Ask God to let you see what He sees. Deal with it. Make the necessary edits. Repent of any thought that you don’t need personal revival. Examine your heart and life in light of God’s Word.

If we would just hear and heed, see and correct what God shows us in the Word, we would walk in personal revival. Selfies reveal sin. Only the Savior can make you into something you could never be on your own. People practice taking selfies, trying to get them right. It’s time to practice the Word of God which makes us right and keeps us right.

Michael Catt

I Knew A Giant

On Earth Day, 2015 my friend and hero Don Miller, left this earth for his eternal home. He made a difference during his days on this earth. His booming voice could resonate through a church like a bass drum. He was the first person I ever met who, without question, was a man of prayer.

If I could speak in a thousand languages, I couldn’t express what he has meant to my life and ministry. I met him in 1985, when I joined the staff of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church. He marked me then, his life marks me now. In many ways, Don Millers influence on my life marked me as much as any man.

Don challenged me as a staff member and work to revitalize the Intercessory Prayer Ministry. He was a member there and had established the prayer ministry there, but the staff had gotten busy with “other things” and prayer wasn’t even on the back burner. Don made it Waterford Crystal clear that prayer was essential to the life of a church. I never forgot that.

When I went to Oklahoma, I had Don come in and establish an Intercessory Prayer Ministry. As far as I know, it’s still going today. When I came to Sherwood, Don came to establish an Intercessory Prayer Ministry. That prayer conference, was packed every night. It was the launching pad for everything good and of God that has happened at Sherwood.

Every building decision, Sherwood Pictures decision and ReFresh Conference was covered in prayer. Sherwood continues to mail out prayer cards to people around the community and literally the world. The prayer tower out front stands as a witness to our desire to be a praying church.

I last saw Don in 2014. I got to spend some time with him in his prayer arbor. We talked and prayed together. I will never forget that day. Even at 93, Don Miller was in the battle. He was praying for revival. He was praying for me. He and Libby covered us in prayer in ways I can’t explain and will never fully understand until I get to glory.

My friend is in glory. His prayers live on. His legacy is passed on to others that must take the mantle. Don and Libby would read the church Communicator every week when it came. They prayed for me and my family. Gary would often say, “I’m not sure I’m in the will, but you are.” It brought joy to my heart when Gary would say, “Michael, son of Don.” I miss him today. I can still hear his thundering voice praying to His Father. What a man. What a friend. What a giant.

He lived and died a humble man of God. His shadow is that of a giant.