FIRST-PERSON: An embarrassing prayer
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Let us be clear on this indisputable fact: The Lord is God.
There is no glory greater than His glory. What He desires to do, He is able to do. We can look back in the story of our nation and see the Lord is able to pour out His Spirit with such power and effect that the whole nation is deeply stirred. We have names for such times: the Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening and, more recently, the Jesus Movement.
Not that long ago …
I was there in the Jesus Movement and saw my college campus profoundly changed. The playlist of the nation's pop radio stations included songs about Jesus at the top of the list, not the bottom. There were record-setting numbers of conversions in churches of all sorts. Jesus was Time Magazine's Man of the Year. The Gospels inspired two hit Broadway musicals that are still touring today. My wife and I saw one of them ("Jesus Christ Superstar") again just a few months ago. Profound changes in worship were set in motion and are still creating ripples in today's churches.
The chaos and upheaval of the '60s ended with a mighty movement of God in the'70s, making Jesus an unavoidable part of the national cultural and religious conversation.
But not now …
Let us also be clear on this indisputable fact: That kind of movement of God is not sweeping America today. Why?
Is there no need for such an outpouring of God today? I can't imagine anyone arguing that position. Is God less able to stir the nation today than He was in years past? This cannot be the case. Is God less interested in igniting the fires of revival and awakening today than He was in our past? Given His love for sinners revealed in Scripture and demonstrated in His suffering on the cross, such antipathy toward us could not exist.
Where is the mighty movement of God stirring our nation? Forget the nation as a whole. Where is the stirring of God in a mighty way even within our churches?
I suggest one factor in the lack of an outpouring of God's Spirit in our churches and nation today is the widespread absence of a particular kind of prayer. It is not an uncommon prayer in Scripture: David prayed it; Isaiah prayed it; Nehemiah prayed it; Paul prayed it. While not an uncommon prayer in the Bible, it does appear to be an uncommon prayer today, perhaps because it is embarrassing.
The "S" word and me
The embarrassing prayer is an acknowledgement that I still have a problem with sin, as does my church and my nation. All of us know sinful acts are a problem, but we rarely acknowledge they remain a problem after we begin walking with Jesus. We become more likely to confess the sin of others than to confess our own.
Consider the poignant wrestling with sin expressed by Paul in Romans 7:14-25. Should we not expect battles with sin to be part and parcel of our journey with Jesus as well? Unfortunately, when my repentance is connected only with yesterday's news of my conversion, God's activity in my life also becomes yesterday's news.
What should we do?
I suggest you bring Psalm 139:23-24 into your active prayer life: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
For all of us, the battle with disobedience and sin is part of the journey as we follow Jesus. My disobedience is never a lesser sin than someone else's disobedience. Being unaware of our own sins does not indicate sin is no longer a problem.
If Psalm 23 is a part of your prayer life, Psalm 51 should be as well. We do well to remember David's prayer of confession and repentance in Psalm 51 did not come in his youth. It came long after he was a man "after God's own heart."
Praying an embarrassing prayer is much preferred to living an embarrassing life.