By William Baldwin
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It could be the most underrated word in the English language. It’s just a two-letter smidgen of a word, but far more than a measly “filler”. This little expression is packed with punch and purpose. This mere crumb of a conjunction draws a line in the sand, smacks of responsibility, and demands a response.
God loves the Church He purchased with His Son’s own blood and He wants to draw near to us. He wants us to draw near to Him. Really near. He yearns to respond to our calls and pleas. More than that, He wants to answer. But it’s not completely up to Him. He will intervene only if.
Today, America needs the intervention of God. In order to continue in her former greatness, our nation must have another Great Awakening of God’s presence and power. I’m broken when I observe the lawlessness in our nation. Our leaders have lost their moral compass and think nothing of passing laws that legalize the breaking of God's laws. The laws they pass ignore the laws of God, or worse, their decrees imply they don’t believe God or His laws exist at all. Let’s awaken to the reality of God’s passion, His love for us, and our need to live lives that invoke His blessing.
Responsibility lies, however, not entirely upon changing the godless laws of lawmakers. Responsibility is upon those who know God personally. The Lord will turn the tables—stem the tide of a sinking society…if. God looks for people who are looking for Him.
I know, many of you are worrying about paying the utility bill, the rent, shoes for the kids…I understand. I’ve been there. Your concern right now is not spiritual awakenings. The miracle you have in mind is more practical than that. But somehow, somewhere, I believe they intersect—one dependent on the other.
“If my people will pray…I will heal their land.” Whether or not a land is sick or healthy will indeed affect utility bills, rent payments, and kid’s shoes. When God shows up, we don’t just get goose bumps, the whole nation gets healed! This is why America used to be a cut above the rest. The American dream began with a praying people. Today, however, she is ill and in critical condition.
It may appear that I’m promoting a kind of “works righteousness.” You do this…God will do that. I could be accused of cutting a deal with God. Those who don’t understand may argue this point, I’m sure of it. Call it a divine principle. The Lord honors seeking, praying people who are moved enough to turn from everything that’s not pleasing to Him, rearrange their life, and cry out in crazy, unceasing prayer.
Prayer always, no exceptions, precedes God delivering His people. “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me,” He said to Moses. The Lord is not capricious, moving by “chance” when He’s in a good mood. The Lord always desires to come to our aid, but there’s a condition.
The condition is prayer. Real, consistent time with God. Worshiping—lost in God—won’t stop ‘til hell freezes over—kind of prayer. Nothing of eternal significance happens until God’s people humble themselves, pray, and seek His face. And not only pray, but also seek. “Seeking” implies that prayer is a journey, a relationship, not a task.
I may have to lay down some things. Turning from my “wicked ways” is part of the equation. I wish we only had to pray. But I have to lay down anything that offends the Lord. Leonard Ravenhill said it best, “A praying man will stop sinning, and a sinning man will stop praying.” I’ve lived long enough to tell you, he’s right.
If the Church will pray, we would awaken from spiritual lethargy, and quite possibly revive the nation from her slumber as well. “America,” Ravenhill declares again, “is too young to die.” Time and time again, the nation was saved, not by legislative decisions, but by people who fulfilled the “If.” They prayed and met the conditions of God.
Below, read the words of men who lived on the other side of the “If.” Mull them over and digest them slowly.
“When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is set them a-praying.” – Matthew Henry, quoted by Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power
“You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God.” – General William Booth
“Whenever the Church is aroused and the world’s wickedness arrested, somebody has been praying.” – A.T. Pierson
“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” – Samuel Chadwick
Jim Cymbala, pastor of the great Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, knows the power of prayer. His congregation gathers by the thousands every Tuesday evening to seek God. This has been their practice since Jim began leading the church over twenty-five years ago when only seventeen people gathered. There’s no preaching on Tuesday—only prayer and worship. Cymbala says, “Only turning God’s house into a house of fervent prayer will reverse the power of evil so evident in the earth today.” Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle live on the other side of the “If.”
If your daily bread depended upon your prayer life would your family eat regularly? If the well being of your children depended upon your daily prayer, how would they fair? If your next heartbeat was at the mercy of your prayer life, how would it be with you?
If is the biggest little word you’ll ever read. A lot rides on meeting its condition.
My family, my church, my city, and America need the presence of God like never before. We must be awakened and have a fresh encounter with the Lord. Even so, the Lord desires this more than we do. Whether or not this happens is contingent on meeting the conditions the Word of God calls for after the “If.”
If we will pray, seek, and turn, He will hear and heal.
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