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.