Many of us have been captivated by the stirrings of the Spirit that are happening at Asbury University. Apparently after an ordinary Wednesday chapel, some students felt led to linger, simply wanting to remain in prayer and worship. More and more students started to join in, others who were thirsty for more of the Lord, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, hundreds of people are going to Kentucky to join in, thousands are watching from around the world. What in the world is happening? What does this mean for the Church?
I am certainly no expert on movements of the Spirit, but I personally see what is happening at Asbury as the beginning of God answering the prayers of His people. Many have been praying for a movement of the Spirit at this crucial time in history. Following are three prayers that the Lord has laid on my heart and I invite you to pray them with me.
Prayer #1: RENEWAL by the PRESENCE of God:
This prayer has been focused on the leaders of the Church. Pastoring was demanding enough prior to the Pandemic, but post-Covid it has felt particularly difficult. Many churches that shut down are not reopening. Many pastors have simply left the ministry; studies indicate an unprecedented number are considering leaving. God’s people, especially leaders, desperately need to be renewed.
I believe what is taking place at Asbury University is a renewal movement for his leaders, particularly for this younger generation that is preparing for leadership in His Church. In one of my favorite passages of scripture, Paul teaches us that the ministry of the Spirit isn’t just rebirth, which happens at the beginning of our new lives, but that His ongoing ministry is renewal:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our savior… Titus 3:4-6 (NIV)
This is one of the key ministries of the Holy Spirit. This difficult world has been pressing in on us in some pretty overwhelming ways and we desperately need His touch and blessing. The Lord wants to be our good shepherd and he invites us, just like he did David, to times of refreshment and renewal. David confessed, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…” (Psalm 23:1-3a NKJV).
As I have watched and worshiped along with Asbury, I have noticed it is not formulaic, there are no formulas to these things, but what one could call a “sacred rhythm.” They are walking through a rhythm of confession (including testimony), celebration (adoration and praise) and commissioning (a sending out). This is something that you can pray along with Asbury or in your living room. Your green pasture can be anywhere, by yourself or with others.
As we seek the sweet presence of the Lord, he will renew our weary souls. As Peter preached in those early days, so the Lord invites us now: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20).
Prayer #2: REFORMATION by the WORD of God:
A renewal movement like that of Asbury will change things. As my friend who is a pastor in a Methodist denomination said, “Whatever else happens from this movement of the Spirit, these students will be ruined for the things of the world.” How exciting!
The Church has a rich history of the Lord calling His bride back to the truth. The Reformation as well as the Civil Rights movement in our own country had leaders that were filled with the Spirit, calling the Church back to the scriptures and the revelation of the Word.
This prayer is for His Church in particular. In my view, there are several pockets of the Church that have lost, or are losing, the authority of the Word in their lives. Whole denominations are changing not just their practices but their statements of belief. They are not reforming to the Word but are reforming to the culture around us.
This Asbury renewal is going to change these students, but it could transform His Church around the world. He is calling us back to the Word as the final authority in our lives. This movement could bring these wayward churches and denominations back from the brink of their lampstands being removed. Just as Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, so he is saying to us, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).
So how do we pray in response to this? We study, meditate upon and pray the scriptures. Again, Paul exhorts us here: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Prayer #3: REVIVAL by the POWER of GOD:
This prayer is for our broken world. When the worldwide pandemic happened, many people asked if this was the beginning of end times and the return of Christ. I know that I wasn’t the only one to preach through the book of Revelation since 2020. I don’t have a definitive answer to this question, but I do know that I started to have the sense that God was preparing his people, His Church and His World for another great awakening.
Our nation in particular has a history of some incredible revivals and awakenings, where the power of the Spirit seemed to move in the same ways that the early church experienced. Our world is in desperate need for the Spirit of Christ to bring healing to the nations at every level: physical, emotional and spiritual.
There are two important invitations from the scriptures that relate to the power of the Spirit. The first was an invitation from Paul to Christians: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18). Again, this was an invitation to Christians. We are baptized once in the Spirit, but we can be filled again and again. For we have all “been given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). So let’s drink of His Spirit by asking for His fresh infilling – we get to ask for His empowerment for life and ministry.
And secondly, we get to ask for His gifts for life and ministry. Again from Paul: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Much of the Church doesn’t do this, either from an incomplete understanding of the Holy Spirit or a theology that lacks good biblical foundations.
Yes, the Spirit is going to do what He wills to do, but we are invited to ask, seek and knock. We get to posture ourselves for whichever way He wants to work – whether it is to bring renewal, reformation or revival.