Perhaps, in these chaotic times you can identify with the psalmist who wrote:
“Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
The imagery in this passage reminds us of the dove sent out from Noah’s ark at the end of the flood, sent to search for a place of peace to rest. Perhaps you feel like that wandering dove as you lament, “Where is the place of peace and rest for my soul amid this unending season of turmoil?”
If this resonates with you, you are not alone. The unrelenting calamities that have been crashing upon us like violent waves have left us all scanning the horizon for relief. Initially, we thought --if we just hold fast we can endure this and things will go back to normal— but more waves kept coming. Covid, then economic catastrophe, then racism and civil unrest, then the second wave of covid, China’s aggression, corruption, no schools, cancel culture, more layoffs… the waves keep coming.
On the horizon, the US elections loom, overshadowing the fall with the expectation of all-out conflict in America, where deep divisions are opening up gaping wounds in the fabric of that nation. Where will this all go, how will this impact Canada? Fear is everywhere.
Fear seems to have gripped some of the prophetic ministries as well, and instead of bringing words that align with the gospel (Rev 19:10) which draw us close to Jesus and give us hope— words that strengthen, encourage, and comfort (1 Col 14:3)— the loudest voices are predicting decades of darkness, with some even counseling us to buy guns and stock up on ammo. Yikes!
Where is the word of the Lord?
How do we respond, how do we pray?
Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that there are two hardwired, adrenaline-empowered reactions to danger which we all experience...
We are being sorely tempted with both these reactions right now. The spirit of fear has flooded the nations and is impacting us more powerfully, and at a deeper (more subconscious level) than we might recognize. The only place to be completely clear of it is in the presence of God, for it is perfect love that casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:18).
That flight reflex could manifest as withdrawing— shutting out all news, not wanting any more information, even isolating to protect yourself from being emotionally overwhelmed.
None of this is wrong, but from this place of self-protection, it is very hard to reach out and love others who need you. This withdrawing is the opposite of what the Church as always done in times of danger— historically, in our finest hours, we have always run into the plague. We’ve lived for the sake of others.
The fear-driven fight reflex could be harder to discern, as it may manifest as zeal, passion, or an admirable commitment to action. The key question is, do we see Jesus leading the action, (and we are joining in), or are we independently taking the lead, (maybe even with others) and trying to seize control to stop the waves of calamity. Are we like Saul who couldn’t wait for Samuel as he watched his army shrinking by the hour, a king who forgot that God was with him and that God was in charge. A king who revealed his fear by his need to act (1Sam 13:8ff).
Our fight actions could even be really holy things like repentance, fasting, launching new web-based ministries, or prayer, but they share the angst and striving of Saul’s “We’ve got to do something!”
Spirit-led action can be just as zealous but it is just that— led. It’s led by the peace and grace and presence of our good Father. It’s us following him in full trust as His children, not anxiously trying to control our situation as an orphan would.
At this point, it’s probably safe to assume fear has touched us all, so let’s ask the Lord for His rescue.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
WE HAVE A PART TO PLAY
Yet, we too have a part to play in this deliverance.
Fear comes from a lie that we have accepted and believed to be true. It could be a lie that God isn’t truly with us, or that he’s not active, or that we can’t count on him to be faithful to us. Perhaps it’s the lie that he only able to use seasons of blessing to build and strengthen and glorify His church, but he’s handicapped in seasons of calamity and suffering. It could even be the lie that God needs a Christian to be the Prime Minister before he can bless Canada. Or maybe you are aware of another lie that has stuck to you like a fiery dart, poisoning you with its toxic fear.
Let’s ask the Lord to show us if there are lies that we are believing right now which open doors in our heart to fear. As he does, let’s repent, and replace these lies with truth— the gospel. Let’s choose to believe the truth about who our God is, the goodness of his character, the unshakable nature of his kingdom.
While repentance won’t necessarily change the swirl of fear around us, it will enable the Lord to rescue us from its undertow. We can become like the virtuous woman of Prov 31 who “smiles at the future”, or the well-cared for sheep of Ps 23 who feasts heartily despite the presence of his enemies. He is with us and will be with us to the end of the age, not in a remote, detached way, but as close as our skin.
We have found that place of rest that the wandering dove longs for—it’s in Him.
SO HOW THEN DO WE PRAY?
by: Sara Maynard
If you joined us for the Great Commission Day of Prayer on May 21st, you are aware of two prophetic words that were shared.
We wanted to make sure everyone has a chance to hear and pray into these key words for this new era.
Billy Graham's Mantle
During the year's leading up to Billy Graham's passing to be with the Lord in February, 2018, numerous prophetic leaders, from a wide scope of different circles all heard the same word from the Lord.
When Billy Graham passed away, his evangelistic gift would not be lost, but rather it would multiply.
What God had given him would be multiplied and given as a mantle to thousands of individuals, known and unknown, for the sake of winning the lost.
It is not about becoming famous, but becoming wonderfully fruitful for the kingdom.
John 12: 24, in the kingdom, a seed (life) sown produces many more after its kind.
The Third Wave of Intercession
This prophetic word came from our former house of prayer, where up to 40 meetings a week of dedicated prayer for revival and harvest was hosted for 12 years. In one these extended times of prayer, the Lord spoke and this word has been weighed and confirmed over the last year.
He is saying that there is a third wave of intercession coming to the Church.
In our generation, we have been blessed with two waves already:
1) The Wave of Prophetic Prayer -
This wave came in the 80s with the dynamic of the prophetic activating and empowering our prayer. Leaders such as Cindy Jacobs and Dutch Sheets were some of the key voices in this movement and it radically changed the nature of our intercession from one of just asking to interacting with the Spirit and responding to the voice of God.
2) The Wave of Intimacy -
This wave also empowered prayer in a new way as the Lord used the Toronto Blessing to draw intercession into a new place of intimacy with God. With this foundation, the House of Prayer movement brought intercession and worship into a new union and harp and bowl prayer enabled extended hours of refreshing intercession as we gazed on Jesus.
But now a third wave is beginning!
3) The Third Wave - Intercession for the Lost -
This wave will be as broad and transformational as the two previous waves, building on what has come before, but stepping into the revelation of the love of God for the lost around us. It will carry a new intensity, but not striving in the flesh, it will be filled with great earnestness but not become heavy in a soulish way, rather leading to unprecedented joy. The level of faith will be extraordinary.
There is a grace right now that is beginning to flow, a grace to be carried by the Spirit into the seeking and saving prayers of Jesus in a way this generation has not yet known.
Lean into prayer for the harvest to be a part of what God is beginning to release in this hour! Join in your church's prayer times with new faith that if God is releasing great grace to pray for the harvest, it's because He intends to answer these prayers!
by: Sara Maynard
We are now seven weeks into this Covid quarantine and chomping at the bit to get back to life as we knew it, for the restrictions to be lifted, and for our freedoms to be restored.
Yet while I too, would love some things to get back to “normal”, I can sense the Holy Spirit urging us not to waste this moment by longing for what we don’t yet have. This is a unique moment, that contains unique, holy purposes of God. Don’t miss it.
It's Time to Get Oil!
I wrote about this from a different angle in last month’s blog, but let me caution us all, don’t waste this moment, don’t come out of this quarantine time like the five foolish virgins who didn’t get oil when they could, then didn’t have it when they needed it (Mt 25). This is a moment to embrace the deep transformative things that God wants to do, in the Church, but also in our lives.
A prophet said to me last week that his greatest fear is that we would come out of Covid the same as we went in-- that we would have squandered this trial. I so agree!
Shaping Us Into Houses of Prayer
On of the Holy Spirit’s top priorities during this time (for those who will receive His workings) is the creation of a much stronger life of prayer. He’s giving us the time to pray and a great reason to pray, He’s also giving us a grace, an empowerment, for those who will receive it, to build muscles in prayer where there has just been flab, or where muscles have atrophied. While there are some other important areas that He is working on in our lives as well, I want to zero in on how we can cooperate with Him as He reshapes us personally into houses of prayer.
The only way to access His empowerment to pray, that is—His grace—to pray, is to acknowledge our need. He gives grace to the humble, not the self-sufficient, and we were never meant to pray without His Spirit helping us (Rom 8:26).
But acknowledging our need is not enough, we must humble ourselves to receive His help. If we are trying to develop our prayer lives, yet doing it on our own steam, while we can set aside more time, we quickly bump into the reality that we don’t actually know how to fill that time.
Let's Learn From Jesus
We’ve grasped the idea that we need to talk to God, but don’t know how to line up our desires, our words, our requests with His, nor do we know how to stay steadfastly in that place, we find our minds wander, our emotions overwhelm us, our short attention spans are revealed. Prayer becomes a rambling “stream of consciousness”. Then on top of that all, our lack of self-discipline makes a consistent daily, investment in prayer a very real challenge.
We need more than to know that we should pray, or to even be aware of all the prayer needs in this Covid time— right now we need the Lord himself to apprentice us in prayer.
When His followers asked to be taught in prayer (Lu 11:2), they we actually asking to be personally apprenticed in prayer, not just get some tips. He responded to them as He responds to we who are asking for this same tutoring today, with a resounding “yes!” From there He gave them, (and by extension, anyone coming after them who wanted to have a prayer life like His) - the Lord’s Prayer.
I believe, that this is a prayer that matters like never before, and it is a key for this season. Here are some of my reasons:
1. It Guides Us Through the Chaos
2. It's Accessible
3) It's the Prayer of Unity
4) It Teaches Us the Gospel
5) God Wants Us to Pray Prayers He Can Answer
Friends, may we not waste this holy time!
By Sara Maynard
We are now just over two weeks into our national “go home and stay home” order, precipitated by the global Covid-19 pandemic. People are finding new structures and rhythms for their “stay at home” lives, the shock of the cascading changes is wearing off, and the realization that this is not just a pause, but a full-blown reshaping of society, is sinking in.
I come from a theological position that believes that God is in control, yet not just in a general but disengaged way, rather in a very active way, shaping, maturing and positioning His Church for His glory, regardless if we are going through times of prosperity or calamity. While we must weep with those who weep and keep engaged with the very real suffering that is all around us, this lens means that even in this current crisis, we look to see where and how God is actively moving. What is He redeeming, what is He birthing? I find that looking for the work of the Spirit doesn’t just encourage me, but it inspires and directs my intercession, as I seek to “bless what God is doing”. I’m sure you too, find that your heart encouraged and your spirit activated in intercession, when you observe the hand of God at work.
Over the last 12 years I’ve had the honour of leading a large, national, interdenominational house of prayer (on Zoom), and at the same time, chairing Ears to Hear (the Canadian Network of Prayer Ministries). These two ministries have provided two unique windows into the Canadian Church. One window is a view into trends in the Church, and the other sees where the emphasis in intercession has been over the last number of years.
So here are a few things, right in the midst of the Covid calamity, that I’d like to share with you. Places where I can see the Spirit moving, reshaping the Church in extraordinary ways in this hour. Of course it’s bigger than what can be shared in a simple blog post, but I’ll try to hit some of the macro changes. And what I’m observing now is where I’m leaning in in intercession, as I believe that these trends could very well be laying the ground work for unprecedented renewal of the Church and revival in our generation.
A Shift Away from Consumer-Christianity
To the grief of many pastors, over the last years, the trend has been towards “consumer Christianity”, where Christians have developed the habit of picking and choosing what they like from an assortment of churches and ministries. It comes from having being discipled by our culture where anything we want has been available to purchase or experience with a click of a mouse. But the downside spiritually, is that we reject what makes us feel uncomfortable, what challenges our flesh, what calls us to commitment or service. We have become like children allowed to pick whatever we want from the buffet, so we’ve heaped up our plates with desserts and left the rest. It’s a trend that is absolutely toxic to discipleship, it refuses accountability and treats the Church like a form of entertainment that we engage with as long as it pleases us (but not a minute longer).
Covid has changed this. Churches are now unable to deliver that commitment-free, carefully designed Sunday experience for the whole family that has come to be expected, even demanded. In a time of high need and stark isolation, churches been reduced to running services online, and suddenly the pursuit of spiritual entertainment and excitement is irrelevant in the face of our immediate need for connection and care. Yet the kind of connection and care we crave right now only comes by being known, engaged, and committed to a church family, not by being a consumer. The Lord is giving us an incredible opportunity to break out of the toxic pattern of consumer-Christianity and shift back into healthy church structures which enable us to grow as disciples. Praise the Lord!
A Restoration of Sabbath and Spiritual Disciplines
A second aspect of this reshaping is the restoration of the sabbath rest that we haven’t had time for, or given ourselves permission for. The driven-ness of our society which values success and productivity above all, has seeped into the Church and many of us have unwittingly adopted a similar lifestyle pace with less than two or three hours of downtime a week. When we do have free time, we quickly fill it out of a fear of boredom or the stigma of being “unbusy”. Our kids keep similarly full schedules as we anxiously push to ensure their academic and athletic success, assuming this will lead to career success later on in life. But this pace has not allowed for the biblical rhythm of sabbath or the vital practice of spiritual disciplines (such as reading, meditating, and the studying of scripture, waiting on God, prayer, intercession and unhurried communion with Him). Our lack shows, we are spiritually anemic and easily overwhelmed.
The Covid crisis has abruptly interrupted this unrelenting busyness. If we are not a healthcare worker or in a similar frontline industry (which most of us aren’t), we’ve been sent home. While some are able to work from home it’s shorter hours without the commute, others have been laid off, still others have been quarantined because of possible exposure. Many of us, (likely most of us) are being forced to rest.
Sabbath is not just an old religious idea from the Victorian era, it’s a powerful statement of dependence on Jesus. Taking a day off doesn’t mean that you don’t have work to do, it means that you trust Jesus to enable you to do it in a shorter amount of time. It’s willingly handicapping our productivity to make more time for Him, and trusting Him to make up the difference. But without sabbath, our lives become increasingly unhealthy and self-reliant. The Lord is giving us a reset in our lifestyle pace as well as an opportunity to explore and establish spiritual disciplines that we’ve avoided in the past. If we lay hold of this moment, we can grow in relationship with God in ways we’ve never believed possible. Going forward, this development of the inner life in God, cultivated by spiritual disciplines and strengthened by sabbath rhythms will have profound effects on the maturity, holiness and resilience of the Church. Praise the Lord!
A Deliverance from our Hyper-Independence
A third aspect of reshaping, is a jarring deliverance from our radical, (even hyper) independence and a lifestyle marked by our worship of personal freedom. In its place the Lord is calling us back into biblical community oriented around home, family and neighbourhoods, but not isolated communities, with raised drawbridges disconnected from the rest of the Body of Christ. No, rather, interconnected, linked across regions and nations. So it’s both the restoration of parish-type Christianity, but with the addition of the new virtual connections that are powerfully linking us and uniting us globally.
This process of reshaping will take a while to adjust to and will be both refreshing and wrenching. Suddenly families with children are in lockdown together which, even though this can be very difficult, also creates a genuine opportunity for connecting in deeper ways simply because of time and proximity. Everyone is homeschooling so parents are hands-on and engaged with their kids in all their areas of strengths and weakness. Secular ideologies that have been quietly eroding the Christian worldview that parents have sought to instill in their children no longer have a platform of influence during this moment of reset. Pray for families that we emerge from this lockdown season closer than ever, rather than hanging on until we can escape from each other!
In our desire to protect our society from Covid, seniors have being highlighted as the most vulnerable demographic and suddenly they are not just being seen, but very intentionally being cared for. The Church has long sought to create a place of honour for our “fathers and mothers”, but the prevailing “your value is in your beauty or your productivity” ethos of our society has splashed into the Church, often leaving our seniors marginalized. But now God has used this pandemic to restore seniors to a place of being cherished and honoured, enabling the Church to carry on upholding this value as Covid fades. Like the restoration of sabbath, honouring fathers and mothers provides a huge well of blessing that God wants to uncap. This new focus creates an opportunity for them to be authentically knit into our communities.
We can also see the effect of spending all our time at home by the shift in how we think about our neighbours and neighbourhoods. We’re starting to think about the command to love our neighbours as actually having an immediate application of loving and caring for the people that live beside us or near us. There is a new sense of neighbourhood cohesion and responsibility. This is impacting non-Christians as well, as many are now watching out for those that have needs to lend a hand. But for believers, it has an additional spiritual dynamic and this awareness of neighbourhoods is activating prayer and ministry, if you like, we are being called into a very real pastoring our neighbourhoods.
The reshaping of our focus around families, extended families and neighbourhoods creates massive opportunities for the Church. It’s a moment to guide our people into intergenerational, authentic, Christian community, marked by the presence of God, where people are known, welcomed, and loved. In this age of radical independence— vibrant, missional, communities centred on Jesus become an extraordinary apologetic for the gospel, just as they were in the book of Acts.
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Act 2:46,47
Communities, as we see in this Acts passage, also provide the most effective way to care for a harvest. We are all longing for harvest, but the Father doesn’t want any to be lost once they have received Christ, so our independence really needs to be reshaped into community. Over the last 2-3 years there has been a glorious national crescendo of intercession for harvest, for souls— could it be that God is ready to answer this cry in a massive way?! If there is a great ingathering in coming days, these communities will be the very best way for us to lead new converts into becoming mature disciples. Praise the Lord!
The Gift of Humility
In addition to the intercession for souls, over the last year (in particular) there has been a very strong intercessory focus on humility. I have been in hundreds of prayer meetings where humility has been a partial or central focus. God has heard our prayer! Covid is being used to humble the world. Remember, He gives grace to the humble, so consider the wonderful way He is redeeming this crisis! With this unprecedented humbling, He’s setting us up to receive extraordinary grace! The wealth and strength we have taken for granted and leaned on— is tottering, shown to be no match for a teeny virus. We are being delivered from the intensity of narcissism, as vanity and image—obsessing over how we look—seem, in this new reality, shallow and foolish. Our heroes are now masked and gowned in sterile protective covering, they’re the frontline medical workers, not perfectly photoshopped Hollywood celebrities in up-to-the-minute fashion. The great celebrities of sports and entertainment have lost their platforms. Humility and transparency is becoming the new normal. Praise the Lord!
An Awakening of Prayer
Perhaps the most important change is that the Church is rising in prayer. Within the last week there have been four different days of prayer called by various groups, nationally, regionally and internationally, but not only are days being set aside for prayer, churches, stripped of many programs, are turning to prayer and instead, gathering online, establishing a new culture of intercession and dependence on God. Individuals are also praying with new consistency and earnestness. Regardless of our experience in prayer, the Church is being tutored by the Spirit in this hour and given grace to grow. We are face to face with our need to pray and the grace of God is here to powerfully enable us.
Because of the overwhelming changes and the humbling that this crisis has brought, it is no longer odd or awkward to ask someone if you could pray for them, so Christians everywhere are stepping into this opportunity. Even in the public square that was so hostile and offended by prayer a month ago, prayer is being welcomed and respected. Look around, see the prayer awakening that has begun like a mighty groundswell! Praise the Lord!
If we put all these pieces (and others we didn’t mention) that are emerging in this hour together, we see the building blocks of a glorious renewal of biblical Christianity with the potential for a massive revival. New levels of commitment and discipleship, a restoration of spiritual disciplines, holiness and a lifestyle marked by dependence and trust in God, the reorientation towards Christ-centred community— all these pieces infused with deep humility and much prayer. Wow! Let’s not just pray for Covid to end and for the mitigation of the suffering, but let us in this hour also loudly bless what God is doing as He reshapes his beloved Church for her finest hour.
by Sara Maynard
Responding in Intercession to the Covid-19 Crisis
While there is no shortage of blogs and social media posts talking about the Coronavirus pandemic very few are giving counsel on how to pray other than - pray for those that are sick and pray for the pandemic to end!
While these are of course primary focuses for prayer, I want to suggest that there may be more at play here than is immediately obvious. It actually might be that the Lord is strategically using this international crisis to radically disrupt the status quo so that He can move in unprecedented ways. I’m not saying He caused it, but I am saying He can use that which was intended for evil - for good, and for the salvation of many (Gen 50:20). If you agree with me, let’s endeavour to discern how to pray strategically so that the Church can be strengthened and step into this unique moment, seeing great advances for the kingdom of God!
Let’s think first about what’s happening in the hearts of our fellow Canadians.
The post-Christian world has suddenly been confronted with it’s vulnerability and it’s mortality. Our secular society has been barreling down the road, self-assured and confident we had no need of God and that the Church was a relic from the superstitious past. Suddenly things look different. The world has been brought to its knees, humbled by a teeny virus. The sense of security we have had in assuming we live in a healthy, safe, environment, as well as the security many have found in their steady jobs and investment portfolios has been shattered. Anxiety is everywhere and escalating. That sense of security will not be regained in short order, if ever. Like in in the days of 9/11, our vulnerability has been exposed. The world has changed.
With this in mind, how do we partner with God’s purposes in our prayers?
Before we pray, I believe it is vital for every Christian to find the place of peace in God, otherwise our prayers become driven by fear rather than faith. It’s not enough to tell ourselves not to fear, we have to spend whatever time we need to with the Lord and His word to meditate on His care for us, the security we have in Him, the reality of the resurrection, and of course His ability to heal. This global moment is a test for the Church. We can only move into the good works He has for us if we set our trust solely on Christ. Whether we get sick or not, whether we live or die, whether we have prosperity or are financially reduced— He has us. This trust in His goodness and faithfulness, has to so permeate us, that it brings us into the rest of God— that place of abiding in peace and joy, even in the midst of the storm. If you are not there, why not set this article down right now and spend time with Jesus.
From that place of peace, let’s move into faith.
Remember, that the Lord could have had you born in any age, at any time in history, but He chose for you to be alive right now. You have, in a very real way, ‘come into the kingdom for such a time as this’ (Est 4:14). You are formed and designed for advancing the kingdom during this global crisis. The Lord predestined good works for you to do before the foundation of the world (Eph 2:10) and some of those good works pertain to this hour. Don’t fall into the world’s mindset which is only considering self-protection and self-provision, but rather, consider how can you (in wisdom) serve those in real need right now, even if it involves having to trust God with our lives in greater ways. How can we love our neighbours in meaningful ways?
The reports we are getting out of China involve testimonies of the Church in revival, fearlessly serving and caring for those in quarantine and gathering daily for communion and prayer because they have little fear of death. The influence of this kind of demonstration of the gospel, in such a counter-culture manner, cannot be quelled. It will change China. It is like the, seemingly insignificant, mustard seed thrown into the garden that grows against all odds to overshadow all the other plants. In Korea, again, the Church is stepping into the need, boldly going out into the streets to distribute masks at the request of the police.
In Iran, another global hotspot, BBC reports that 54,000 prisoners have been released to combat the spread of the virus in the prisons. We have to wonder how many of these are political prisoners, Christians and dissidents that the Lord has just arranged to have sprung for this hour! Remember, the fastest growing church in the world is in Iran right now! God is sovereignly turning for good, what the enemy meant for evil. He is doing it overseas, He can do it here.
So let’s get down to intercession! Here are some strategic prayer points:
by Sara Maynard
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
Intercession has been flowing with the same language, (Come Holy Spirit, pour out your power and glory, reveal the Fathers’ heart...) with strength and fluency for the last long season. Some of these phrases, (and many more like them) have become so familiar that they effortlessly roll off our tongues without us ever having to search for the right words. I liken this to going for a run on a forest trail that you have travelled a hundred times or more. You know just how to skirt the boggy parts, duck the low hanging branches, pick up the pace on the inclines. You know the trail inside out and could run it with your eyes closed.
For many of us, praying for revival is like this.
But something very fundamental has changed.
Prophets tell us that we are no longer in the era of the Church just receiving the Father’s love, but in a new era, where he is calling us into maturity and holiness. The emphasis in this new era is on the fear of the Lord and the causal way we have treated sin is no longer something he will overlook. Has his nature of mercy and grace changed? No, of course not, he’s simply calling us closer to himself. This is a really good thing! "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Heb 12:14. Of course, we'll always keep praying for the love of God to be poured out, that goes without saying, but the Lord is now adding to us a new focus in prayer.
We're running a new trail in prayer
When we start down this new trail to pray for this glorious holiness to grow in the Church, we quickly find we don’t know how to run this path! We stumble, we're awkward and clumsy, perhaps we even struggle to see the path we're to run as it’s become so overgrown. Maybe you can relate to this, maybe you find you run out of vocabulary very quickly when the topic of prayer turns to holiness. Why is this?
I believe the reason behind this phenomenon is that we don’t have a true vision of the beauty of God’s holiness, in its full, stunning, brilliance and jaw-dropping glory. We’ve experienced the touch of his love, and can go deep into praying for that to be poured out on every heart as it has been on ours, but many of us haven’t experienced his holiness.
Because an experience with his holiness is not something that has marked us— in its absence, we insert, instead, what we know — legalism.
Who wants to pray for legalism?! Not me!!
Legalism and holiness are light years apart, but we confuse them with each other when we haven’t experienced an encounter with God’s holiness. Legalism is man-centred, works oriented, a rigid bondage, which snuffs out life and joy. It’s much more about all the things you can’t do, leading you into a smaller, restricted life rather than one full of abundance. This is man’s sad, fruitless, imitation of God’s holiness.
But God’s holiness is beautiful, expansive, without any shadow of darkness or deception, full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and absolutely glorious. In the presence of this holiness we are overwhelmingly aware of how carnal we are, how far we have to go to be transformed and sanctified, how influenced and shaped by the world we are— but at the same time— we are aware of the power of His merciful love that holds us like an irresistible magnetic force in its welcoming embrace. (“I am dark but lovely” SoS 1:5).
This combination of revelation: his holiness, our unholiness, his mercy and compassion, his provision of the imparted righteousness of his Son— leaves us trembling before him — before his cross, in worship, humility and awe. This changes us, and awakens a love for God that we’ve not know before, as well as a genuine sense of recoiling from wickedness and a deep sorrow over how it has ravaged us all.
So the reality is that many, perhaps most of us, have never had a meaningful encounter with God’s holiness, even though we have with His love. This leaves us ill-equipped to pray for a move of holiness and the fear of the Lord to sweep the Church. Without this personal experience to draw from, we find it hard to articulate its goodness, or genuinely, passionately, long for this kind of move of God to revive the people of God, (1 Pet:15,16).
Perhaps this is where we need to begin
Perhaps asking God to show us his holiness, in its noon-day-sun brilliance and beauty, is where we begin. Then going deeper, in prayer and biblical meditation (reflection), to gaze upon how he is absolutely Truth in every dimension of that word, how he is absolutely pure in every motive, action, word and intention to the core of his being, how he is astonishingly humble, how he is perfectly loving. Consider these and more, as we meditate on all the aspects of his holiness (Ps 29:2).
No one else is holy like he is, and seeing his holiness in even the most fleeting glimpse creates in us an insatiable longing to be like him, and for the Church to be free from the tragic destruction and defilement that sin brings.
This sets us on a path to run in prayer. The longing that is birthed by seeing his holiness begins to express itself in intercession, in groans, then in words. We pick up the pace and as prayer begins to flow, repentance is easy rather than extracted from us as it would be if we were praying in a legalistic way.
Here running this new prayer path, our faith soars as we see a vision before us of a Church that is a radiant, pure, “fit helpmate” for the sinless Son of God and we find we have words we have never used before in intercession that are now flowing passionately from our hearts.
Hallelujah! He’s giving us a new language to intercede for this new season, a season that will be marked with a revival of holiness.
Revelation 22:2 has been identified as a scripture that prophetically defines, at least in part, the call of the Canadian Church to serve the nations.
"THE LEAVES OF THE TREE WERE FOR THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS"
This scripture identifies our primary national gift/calling and it opens a window into the promise of spiritual abundance that the Canadian Church has received from the Lord. In this moment, in the drama of the nations, we need to see this promise clearly so we can be activated into this unique gifting and calling. It’s a moment we don’t want to miss.
In order to really function in this calling however, we need to understand it. We need to believe for what God is truly giving us, we can’t afford to just run with assumptions. If we’ve misunderstood and jumped to conclusions, even if we are fervent, prayerful and sacrificial, we end up asking amiss, (Jas 4:3), and this can cost us dearly. It is often misunderstanding what God has promised that leads to disillusionment and “hope differed” (Prov 13:12).
In the last blog post when we looked carefully at Ps 72:8 and considered its context, in the same way, it’s also important that we understand the context of our Revelation 22:2 promise.
Where is it? What’s happening? What does this same image communicate in other passages of scripture? Let’s dig in! We find our promise is right at the end of the book of Revelation, in the midst of the description of the New Jerusalem where the tree of life gives forth its fruit every month. You might remember the tree of life, we first encounter it in Genesis as a type (a symbol) of Christ. It’s eating from this tree that gives Adam and Eve life, and it’s this tree that they are separated from when they sin. The tree of life can also be a symbol of the cross, where Jesus’ saving and redeeming work provides —in exchange for our lives diseased by sin— His incorruptible life. But it’s not just a personal redemption, here in Revelation at the restoration of all things, the tree of life is providing the nations with fruit for feasting and leaves for healing.
How we long for this day!
So if the tree itself is a symbol of Jesus and the cross, where does Canada come in?
How then could this be a promise for the Church in Canada?
A SPECIAL GRACE FOR HEALING
First of all, this is a promise that the Church in Canada has a special grace for healing, as a part of our spiritual DNA. Healing of hearts, bodies, relationships, spirits, and more! This means when we see God moving in our nation, in big or even smaller ways, we can expect to see a strong theme of healing. It’s a spiritual gift from God that has, and will continue to, manifest in the Canadian Church.
This means we can and should knock, seek and ask in prayer for healing to flow from every church, every network and denomination, and from the life of every believer! Receive a bigger vision of healing than just physical healing-- but let’s keep contending for the sick and injured to be healed!
AND TO THE NATIONS
Secondly, this gift of healing is also a responsibility, a call to minister the leaves of the tree of life, (the leaves of Jesus’ gospel) to broken hearts and lives from around the world that have come to Canada.
As well, we take these leaves into nations as we are sent out. It’s both. Caring for the nations as they come, and carrying Jesus, as His servants, to the nations. What an honour and what a joy!
But with both of these applications, (healing as our spiritual DNA, and our call to carry healing to the nations) -- it must never become about us. That can sour the gift.
IT'S NOT ABOUT US
The Canadian Church cannot be exalted in this story, we must decrease in our national ego and our national self-life, to make more room for Jesus’ glory to increase. Remember Paul, who called himself the “Hebrew of Hebrews”(Phil 3:5), then went on to declare that what ever was gain for him (he included his Jewishness in this listing) he counted as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ (Phil 3:8).
Being Canadian is wonderful, but Canadians, or even Canadian values and culture won’t ultimately heal anyone. It is only Jesus, His grace and power. We may be the vessel at times, but we are merely jars of clay, not the glory that the jar contains. That glory is the presence of God. We may have a rosy view of all things Canadian and see kingdom values in our desire for peace and our cultural politeness, but don’t let that turn to a form of national self-righteousness, where we subtly believe we merit God’s gifts to us.
If Paul considered being Jewish was of no value, how can we assert that being Canadian somehow makes us worthy? Let’s, like Paul, always make sure it’s Jesus who is glorified, honoured and proclaimed in every opportunity we have to minister. It’s Jesus the world needs, not Canada.
A PROPHETIC MOMENT
With hopefully a clearer vision of what our gift looks like, let’s notice that we are in a moment right now where the Church in Canada has an invitation to bring Jesus’ healing to nations. The world’s eyes are on Iran and because of the tragic loss of life in the recently downed Ukrainian flight 752 there is a sudden awareness of the link between Canada and Iran. We can’t let this moment get lost in the noise of international turmoil, it’s a strategic place where the Canadian Church can step in with Jesus’ healing.
How? Consider these ways:
CARRYING THE GOSPEL MEANS IT CONFRONTS US TOO!
As we pursue an activation of our gift: bringing healing to the nations that comes from Jesus’s life and redemption, (not just Canadian niceness or peacefulness) we can expect that carrying the gospel will confront our hearts as well.
We simply can’t function in this gift if we are anti-immigration or biased against other ethnic groups that have moved to Canada. I’m not advocating for open borders, but as Christians, those that are coming to Canada legally need to find the warmth of the Church’s generous embrace and welcome. “Welcome the stranger” — it’s a part of the gospel. If this is not fully our heart, we need to repent and realign ourselves with the call to authentically love our neighbours.
The two major prophetic promises God has given our nation are phenomenal! If we believe them, live into them, contend for their fullness we will find our true national destiny and our hearts will overflow with the goodness of God.
Read the other two posts in this series: Removing our Cataracts, Seeing His Dominion.
“May He have dominion from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth!” Ps 72:8
Without question, when we lift our eyes to see the powerful prayer of Ps 72:8 inscribed on the arch of our nation’s Peace Tower— the very front door of Parliament— we know this is a verse that has particular application to our nation.
Then when we also discover that this same verse was the inspiration for Canada’s original name of the “Dominion of Canada” it adds a whole other level of confirmation, indeed, this is a promise from the Lord for Canada! It is a promise that generations of Canadians can confidently trust will be fulfilled.
However, as we pray for the fulfillment of this promise, isn’t it vital to understand what we are actually asking for? If one of the reasons that prayers are not answered, is that we have “asked amiss” (Jas 4:3), then it seems very important that we line up with God’s intent, what He wants to give us through this wonderful promise. Yet as I travel all over Canada, and have done so for nearly 20 years, I hear a wide range of interpretations and expectations as to how the fulfillment of this promise should look.
In our last blog post we considered the need to have our vision renewed by washing our spiritual eyes in the scriptures (Restoring Our Vision #1). We talked about the importance of being Jesus-focused and handling His promises to us in a truthful, honouring way. This means not plucking promises out of their surrounding context nor imposing our ideas of what they mean upon them.
LIKE US-- JESUS WAS TEMPTED
Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness to do just that, to use the promise of God (Ps 91:11) to force God’s hand. Even though God had promised to provide angels to protect, yet this promise was not given to be leveraged for a power demonstration. Holding the promises in their context and in the greater story of scripture doesn't diminish them, it lines us up with God’s true purposes, so that we can pray and ask with extraordinary faith, seeing wonderful answers.
So the context of Psalms 72:8 matters. It is a Psalm which is written for King Solomon’s coronation, but also is a prophetic, Messianic Psalm. It speaks of Solomon and Jesus at the same time. It’s this weaving together the earthly kingdom of Solomon and the coming Messianic kingdom of Jesus that made it so hard for the Apostles and early disciples to understand that Jesus had no political aspirations.
DON'T LET YOUR LONGINGS DISTORT HOW YOU READ GOD'S PROMISES
But it wasn’t just the large number of OT promises for a Messiah to come and sit on David’s throne that created this expectation, it was also the desperate desire of the Jewish people. As an oppressed people, they longed for freedom. They longed for the glory days of David and Solomon’s reigns where there was might in Jerusalem, prosperity throughout Israel and respect coming from all the other nations. Right up to the time of Jesus’ ascension, the disciples still viewed the kingdom of God through this political lens. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)”
Yet Jesus had a bigger plan and much better good news.
Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom where those that want to be great in the kingdom become the bondservant of all, where you gain your life by loosing it, and where you find it is more blessed to give than to receive. These are not new thoughts, I’m sure you’re all nodding your heads in agreement. But not as commonly considered is that His kingdom is also an inside-out kingdom. A kingdom where He reigns, not by the iron rod of dictatorial oppression that the Romans imposed on Israel, but by winning our affections, capturing our hearts. His rule comes not by an outside imposition, but a life freely surrendered. He leads by winning the hearts of men and women who become consumed with love for Him.
So to truly pray this promise of Ps 72:8*, in a way that is consistent with Jesus’ kingdom, we can’t distort it to assert that Canada will become a politically Christian nation, imposing Christian morality and values on a largely secular population, (even for their own good). This is misunderstanding the word dominion and ascribing secular political power to it, selling this promise short.
It’s also forgetting that we are in the “now and not yet” age of the kingdom.
Rather, dominion, when applied to Canada in this age, refers to the scope, or range of Jesus’s influence. May it be —from sea to sea in our nation— that Jesus would have sway over the hearts and affections of the majority of Canadians! This is a promise for amazing revival. Pause there for a moment and let that sink in. It’s a picture of Canada loving God, I can’t think of better news for our nation, or a better promise to believe for. We’ve already seen tastes of it, in regions as moves of God have historically swept through parts of Canada, like the 1850s when Methodism was so prevalent in Toronto, that the city became known as “Toronto the Good”.
AND EVEN MORE OF JESUS' RULE TO COME!
There will also be a day of the total fulfillment of this prayer, when Jesus returns and every knee bows. In that day His kingdom will be in Canada from coast to coast as in every other nation. But that day is not yet, He is still giving Canadians a choice to love and obey Him.
So as we pray, let’s shift our focus off of just getting Christians in politically powerful roles as a way to see this promise fulfilled, and let’s set our prayers towards seeing a great move of God sweep our nation which captures the deepest affections of Canadians, turning their hearts to give Jesus their utter devotion in unprecedented numbers.
Let the glorious promise Ps 72:8 bring renewed fire to our prayers— the promise that from sea to sea, the hearts of vast numbers of Canadians will be His.
Lord may it be in our day!
* Psalms 72:8 is most accurately translated from the Hebrew as a prayer or a blessing: “May he have”, rather than a declaration of “He shall have”.
Haven't read Part One of this blog series? Click here for: Removing Spiritual Cataracts
As the new year of 2020 is spread out in front of us, full of possibilities and promise, it is a perfect time to take stock. A time to consider what has been fruitful (I don’t just mean productive, but that which has led us closer to Jesus) and a time to consider what might have been not as fruitful. In the natural, winter is often a time of pruning, a time where the long and leggy branches that consume the plant’s energy are trimmed off.
Thinking back on 2019, the most significant event for the Canadian prayer movement was the election. It was hotly contested and very emotional. The Canadian Church as a whole prayed and many intercessors united in various rallies, joined the multiple fasting initiatives and gave themselves to the work of intense intercession. Yet the outcome of the election was very different than many (most) were expecting, leaving believers confused, heartbroken, even disoriented.
We can compartmentalize this event, even commit it to God and move on, but how will that effect us the next time we are called to pray for an election or like event? If we don’t address the confusion honestly doesn’t this give an open door to doubt and unbelief? I believe it does.
This new blog series is to speak into this and help us to continue to confidently pray regardless of the political landscape. In this three part series, we will look at Canada’s two most well-received prophetic promises, and use them to reorient ourselves around what God has indeed promised to the Canadian Church. These promises have been discerned and confirmed by leadership across denominations, and we can trust that God has spoke through them. However we need to see them clearly and truthfully, not skewed with our desires projected on them. As we look at them again, we can be confident that they paint a picture of what the coming moves of God (and yes, there will be many) will look like in the nation of Canada.
Before we begin, there is a prophetic picture that has recently come through times of intercession, which I believe will set the stage.
CATARACTS ARE BEING REMOVED
This is a prophetic picture of older eyes which had developed cataracts, now receiving eye surgery and being able to see the brilliant colour and clarity again. The scriptures talk of Eli, the old priest who raised Samuel as having eyes that were dim (likely with cataracts 1 Sam 3:2), the contrast is Moses, whose eyes did not dim at all as he aged (Deut 34:7). These two leaders of Israel had vastly different walks with God, and their capacity to see was impacted by that reality.
Cataracts are a particular problem to older eyes, they creep up on you, gradually dimming and dulling your vision.
For some of us, who have been holding to a vision of revival in Canada for years, even decades— could it be that we are now seeing a dulled vision? Do we have spiritual cataracts? Have we lost the intensity, vibrancy, and clarity of a vision of the Church on fire with the love and power of God? Do we see in the spirit God’s vision of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of souls turning to Jesus, not just for a momentary experience but for glorious transformation? It’s a vision that sees what's coming-- the glorious features of revival, in 3-D like clarity: the crushing weight of sin rolling off the shoulders of so many, the joyous dance of the lost being found and the fame of Jesus spreading unstoppably through their lives. Do we have eyes to see? Do we see the vision of the presence of God coming and settling on the Church in such a way that hours and hours are spent on our faces in worship, repentance and awe. Is our vision of revival in need of a renewing?
WHAT ABOUT OUR VISION OF JESUS?
Have we also gotten comfortable and familiar with looking at Jesus, assuming we know what He looks like and unaware that our vision of Him has dimmed? If we are not awestruck with His beauty, His compassion, His humility, His power… we need to see Him with clearer eyes. If gazing at Him through the scriptures doesn’t profoundly move us to adoration and a desire to surrender everything to Him, we need our spiritual eyesight restored.
If this rings true for you, ask the Lord for the “eye surgery” that is needed to restore vision. This is something He’s offering right now as He’s speaking through this prophetic picture. But cooperate with Him for the restoration, it’s not just going to be a zap, it’s going to be a process. It begins with seeing Jesus afresh, so soak yourself in the gospels and the epistles — look deeper at who Jesus is, your spiritual eyes will begin to open again (Eph 5:26). From there, He will show you how He desires to move in the nation, leading His beloved Church into the glorious fire of revival.
With a fresh vision of Jesus and revival as a starting point, we are going to look carefully at the two promises of Psalms 72:8 and Rev 22:2 over the next two weeks. What has God promised us through these two words? Have we assumed they were offering us something that they weren’t? Even if this is the case, the good news is that the gospel is the best news imaginable! Our human dreams of what's best are always inferior to the greatness of God's plan. If we have misunderstood these promises, be comforted with knowing that the truth of what they offer is better than our miss-understood version. Hallelujah!
So join us next week as we open up Psalms 72:8 and rejoice in what God has promised Canada!
A VISION IN PRAYER FOR CANADA
We posted this word on Facebook and it was so well received, we thought we would also share it here.
In early August, during a time of prayer for revival in Canada, I had a vision. I saw myself working as a labourer digging out and building canals in the City of God, to prepare for the next revival. It was happy labour, full of anticipation and purpose.
Canals create structures for the water to fill and beautify the city, they give the whole city easy access to the water. The canals in the vision were lined with cement, so the water stayed clean and the boundaries of their banks didn’t crumble. I heard: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Ps 46:4
Then the scene changed and I saw the city without the canals. A great flood came in and the water had no where to go to be retained, so it receded and in its wake — a tremendous destruction.
I knew implicitly that God was longing to pour out a great flood of His Spirit, but was holding back because we hadn’t prepared. If revival came now, we would not be able to steward it well. Yes we could have glory meetings, but wouldn’t be prepared to disciple the harvest. He is looking for us to build for what is coming, not for the level of water we experience now.
Then the Lord began to identify the specific “canals” He wants built and prepared.
The canals He showed me were: the gospel, (really understanding it and applying deeply it in every area of our lives) / maturing in use of gifts / biblical leadership with accountability / consistent heart healing / spiritual disciplines including deep prayer lives / community / theology / missional focus / servanthood / etc. Many of these areas we haven’t built into our churches in the deep robust ways we’ll need. It’s been easier to be shallow.
He’s asking us now to invest intercession and labour into the building of these canals as well as interceding for the outpouring, so we can genuinely host an outpouring, and preserve every drop of this precious water for generations.