A few weeks ago, I was prayer-walking one evening and I passed a hotel. Most of the side of the hotel was made up of rows of small rectangular windows making a large grid. The grid was a mixture of dark and light rectangles, representing rooms where the lights were off and rooms where the lights were on respectively.
As I passed the hotel, I had the impression that God was using it as a picture of what he wants to do in the church. I felt a sense that God was saying that those windows represented people in the church and that in the coming season we would see more and more of the lights getting switched on.
‘The lights getting switched on’ points to something that people talk about using different language. Phrases like ‘spiritual awakening’, ‘personal renewal’ and ‘being filled with the Spirit’ are often used. Whatever the terminology, it is pointing to people waking up to a much more vivid sense of the reality and presence of God and seeing their lives reordered around this reality.
Earlier this year, I experienced a ‘lights on’ moment myself. I have been a Christian for 19 years and involved in church leadership for much of that time. Externally I was doing fine, but internally my spiritual life had become stagnant and routine, I was distracted and overwhelmed, and my personal fellowship with God did not have the same depth that it had in the past. Somewhere deep down I knew I wanted more, but it took a while to even admit this to myself, and I just kept going as I was.
The change first began with a throw-away comment at a theology conference that I attended in the Summer. The speaker was talking about the books of Kings, and in particular the temple. He pointed out that the temple had been built as a house of prayer, and particularly a place of prayer for the kings, before observing that it was not until Hezekiah (over 200 years later) that any of the kings are recorded as having actually gone to the temple and prayed! How different might all the troubles and challenges that the people faced in that time have turned out had the temple being used as the house of prayer it had been designed to be?
For whatever reason, this struck a chord with me. So much so that I nudged my friend Andy who was sitting next to me and whose attention had drifted from the talk, and I whispered ‘listen, this is a good bit.’ I knew I had been neglecting prayer and merely going through the motions with it, and I knew that I was in danger of repeating the same mistake as those kings.
When I got home from the conference, I was resolved to see things change. I started to pray differently to how I had prayed before. I started praying more regularly and for longer, and this flowed from a place of hunger rather than obligation. I started focussing much more on being in God’s presence than on merely bringing my requests. I started hearing God’s voice much more clearly, and what he was saying to me sparked a ripple of other transformations in my life and my ministry (I will share more on this in a future blog post).
Last Sunday at church I was praying with a young man who articulated a hunger for this same kind of change that I have been writing about. He didn’t want to sit by and miss what God could do in him and through him. In the last few months, I have been involved in numbers of conversations and opportunities to pray like this, and the same is true for other leaders here at CCM.
It seems like God is doing something, and it is exciting. We have no idea what it will become, but we long for more of it. Our prayer is that we see renewal in the church that leads to revival in the world.
One by one, the lights are getting switched on.