If you study any of the great revivals of the past, you will always find men and women who longed to see the status quo changed—in themselves and in their churches. They called on God with insistence, and prayer begets revival, which begets more prayer. It is like Psalm 80, where the psalmist Asaph bemoans the sad state of his time: the broken walls, the rampaging animals, the burnt vineyards. Then in verse 18 he pleads, “Revive us, and we will call on your name.”
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prayer. Only when we are full of the Spirit do we feel the need for God everywhere we turn. We can be driving a car, and spontaneously our spirit starts going up to God with needs and petitions and intercessions right there in the middle of traffic.
If our churches don’t pray, and if people don’t have an appetite for God, what does it matter how many are attending the services in our church? How would that impress God? Just imagine the angels saying, “Oh, your pews! We can’t believe how beautiful they are! Up here in heaven, we’ve been talking about them for years. The way you have the steps coming up to the pulpit—it’s wonderful.”
If we don’t want to experience God’s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we do not enjoy being in His presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would He send anyone there who does not long for Him passionately here on earth?
I am not suggesting that we are justified by works of prayer or any other acts of devotion. I am not a legalist. But let us not dodge the issue of what heaven will be like: enjoying the presence of God, taking time to love Him, listening to Him and giving Him praise.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.