Revive Our Hearts Radio

A Prayer for Urgent Times

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth knows it's easy to look out into the world and see a lot of other people who desperately need the Lord.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: But the heart that experiences the presence of God coming down from heaven and sending revival is a heart that recognizes "I am a mess."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness: The Heart God Revives, for Friday, August 10, 2018.

Nancy: When I was probably twelve, thirteen, fourteen years of age, for some reason I began to encounter some of the writings of how God had moved in the past in sending revival and spiritual awakening to His Church, to His people at different seasons. Some of the history accounts, I'm not like a huge history buff or anything, but I encountered these stories, and they were mesmerizing to me.

I was raised in a Christian school, Christian church, Christian home. I was surrounded by Christian things, for which I was very thankful. But what I was seeing, this was back in the 60s in modern-day Christianity did not look anything like what I was reading about in these books.

And then I would read in the Scripture, and I would see what it was like when God moved in an extraordinary way to manifest His presence among His people. And I was hooked. My heart just began to cry out, "Lord, You've done it before. Would You do it again?"

I began to encounter in the Scripture some great revival prayers. We've aired many of those on the broadcast here in the past. We've aired Psalm 126 not too long ago. Psalm 85 is one that I hope to record someday.

But one of the greatest of those is the prayer we find in Isaiah chapter 64. The whole chapter is a prayer for revival. It actually begins in chapter 63, verse 15. We looked at that a couple of days ago where the prophet says, "Lord, look down from heaven. See what's going on. See how desperate our condition is. Look down and see."

And then he prays in 64, verse 1, "It's not enough that You would look down. We're asking that You would come down. That you would rend the heavens and come down."

So we've been looking at these couple of chapters this week, and today I just want to look at the rest of chapter 64. But let me begin reading at verse 1, so you'll see where we're jumping in here.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake, or tremble in fear at your presence as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil (vv. 1–2).

By the way, you know fire can be a really dangerous thing, but it can also be a helpful thing. I've traveled in parts of the world where they say, "Don't drink the water." It's got impurities in it or things that your system isn't used to. So what do you have to do to the water to make it pure? You boil it. And that just comes to mind as I'm reading this passage here. The presence of God boils out, burns out impurities of everything that it gets near.

He says, "Would you do this to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations might tremble at your presence." Imagine that!

When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness [or as one translation says, "those who gladly do right"]. You meet those who remember you in your ways (vv. 3–5).

Now, let's just stop there. We'll get to the rest of the chapter, but you see here some of the conditions for God to come down and move among His people. God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You see, we want to act and hope God will wait for us. But God says, "No. I will act when you wait for Me."

I have found (have you?) that it's a whole lot easier to work than to wait? Do something. Start a program. Do something. But to wait for God . . . Now, when we use the word "wait," we kind of use it as a passive term often. Like I'm waiting for the next season to come. Or I'm waiting for my kids to grow up and get married.

But the term "wait" in the Old Testament in Hebrew is an active word. It means "to adhere, to tarry, to long for something." God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him, those who cling to Him, those who tarry for Him, those who say, "God, I'm not letting go until You come and hear and answer."

And keep in mind that the goal in waiting is not any of God's blessings. It's just God Himself. "You act for those who wait for You."

And then, He not only acts for those who wait for Him, He meets those who joyfully work righteousness, or those who gladly do what is right.

This is a picture of obedience. Being in right relationship with God produces joy. Those who deal justly with others in ways that reflect His righteousness, these are the people that God will come and meet with.

So we can't ask or expect that God will come and meet with our church, our family, send revival to our hearts if we're cherishing, holding on to sin in our hearts, if we're holding on to bitterness, to anger, to unforgiveness, to selfishness, to pride, to greed. All of these things we have to be willing to put away if we want God to come and meet with us.

Can two walk together except they be agreed? God meets with those who joyfully work righteousness.

And then God meets with those who remember Him in His ways. 

That's what we've been doing in this series. We've been recounting some of the instances. I've read several of those in the last program, instances where God came and moved in an extraordinary way among His people. It helps me to remember those things, to remember His ways, to remember what He has done, because then when I come to pray, I'm going to be emboldened. I'm going to have the courage to say, "Lord, You've done it before. Would You do it again?" Those who remember Him in His ways.

You see, unlike any other world religion, we have a God, Jehovah, who is a personal God with a heart for His people. He wants to meet with His people. He wants to act on behalf of those who wait for Him. He wants to come to the help of those who gladly do what is right. He is a God of relationship.

But He's saying, "You can't just push Me off into a corner, scorn Me, treat Me like your crazy uncle that you don't want to have anything to do with, and then say, 'Oh, God, where's our inheritance? Where are You? How come You're not here?'"

He's not here because we said, "Go away."

He's not here in our nation because we said, "Go away. We don't want to have anything to do with You." We've legislated God out of our schools, out of our public life, out of the public sphere, and God has said, "Okay."

So you want Him to come back? Then we need to be willing to make the adjustments that will make God realize He is welcome here to be in relationship with us.

So we're told that God comes. He acts. He meets with those who meet these conditions. But there's a problem. There's an obstacle to God doing a great work and revealing His glory, His power, and His presence, and it's found in this little phrase, "You meet him who joyfully works righteousness."

God meets those who do righteousness. The problem is, we're not righteous. We're sinful. And this is the theme you see over the next several verses now.

Continuing in verse 5, "Behold, you were angry, and we sinned. . ." If you make a habit of highlighting in your Bible, over these next several verses, just underline or circle every time you see something about the word sin or a related word. "We have sinned in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?"

Are You going to come and deliver us? Are You going to come and rescue us? Are You going to come and pour out Your presence and visit us? Are You coming to our home if we are holding on to sin that we've never confessed, we've never agreed with You about it, we've never dealt with it?"

He goes on to describe their sin, verse 6, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment."

Now, the Old Testament Jews knew perfectly well from the scriptures that to be ceremonially unclean (and there was a whole list of things that could make you unclean) was to be separated from God. Those who were ceremonially unclean could not enter the temple to worship, and the temple was where the presence of God was.

To be unclean was to be an outcast. It was to be separated from God and to be separated from the community of faith. So that's why you hear about lepers who had this contagious disease. They would be quarantined. If they walked anywhere where there were people, they would have to say, "Unclean! Unclean!" They would have to cover themselves.

It was a picture of what sin does to our relationship with God and to our relationships with each other. Sin separates. And so he says here, "We've become like one who is unclean, and even all our righteous deeds . . ." You think, Well, that would help! "No!" He says, "They're like a polluted garment."

Even the good things we do, the "spiritual acts" that make us look good to others are stained with sin. They're defiled. They're polluted. They're unclean. We cannot plead any righteousness of our own.

So this is building the case of why God can't come and visit us. He says they're like a polluted garment.

I don't mean to be too explicit here, but the phrase there actually has to do with menstrual cloths. I mean, they're polluted. These bodily discharges resulted in being ceremonially unclean because the people recognized that those discharges flowed out from a sinful, human nature. And so God says, "Even our best deeds, flowing as they do out of sinful hearts, are polluted before a holy God."

Here's how Charles Spurgeon explained that. He said,

Brethren, if our righteousnesses are so bad, what must our unrighteousnesses be? There is sin in our prayers; they need to be prayed over again. There is filth in the very tears that we shed in penitence; there is sin in our very holiness; there is unbelief in our faith; there is hatred in our very love; there is the slime of the serpent upon the fairest flower of our garden.

"We all fade like a leaf, our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (v. 6).

Sin makes us unstable. It makes us weak. It makes us powerless to withstand the howling winds of trouble and temptation.

And then in verse 7, what I think must be one of the saddest verses in the Bible,

There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

Another translation takes that last phrase, it's a hard phrase. It says, "You have delivered us into the power of our iniquities."

God has caused us to be consumed by our sin. Our sins have separated us from Him so that He has to hide His face from us. We are no longer living under His power. We're given over to sin, fellowship has been broken. And in this desperate setting, this condition, no one calls upon God. They don't stir themselves up. They don't rouse themselves to take hold of God.

This is a picture, I think, of prayerlessness. They feel that God is unreachable. They can't see Him. That's because they're overcome by their sins. Therefore, they don't have the energy or the motivation to pray. Prayerlessness is a sign of sinfulness. Not only is it sin, it's a sign that our sin has kept us from wanting to pray or being able to pray.

They realize that they don't deserve to have God intervene for them. So these people, as they're confessing, they don't justify themselves. They don't defend their sin. They don't rationalize it. They don't cover it up. They don't blame others. They don't blame the decadent culture around them. They confess.

And that's what you see in this passage—honest, earnest confession of sin. They say, "We're guilty as charged. We know we deserve Your wrath." And they lament the loss of relationship with their heavenly Father. They recognize, they own the seriousness of their sin. They realize their sin is no small deal.

I think we've lost a sense of that in our culture, in our era. We don't think much about sin. We don't think much of our sin. And when we do think about it, we don't think it's much. We don't think it's a big deal.

These people, because the Spirit of God is stirring in their midst, they're coming to realize it is a big deal. It does matter. "This has separated us from God."

It's the heart that you read in Psalm 25:11 that says, "O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great." 

Listen, the person who comes before the Lord and says, "Oh, Lord, forgive us all our sins. Amen." That's not confession. That's not a heart of contrition. That's not a heart that's broken over its sinfulness.

Now, we can't manufacture that. We can't make it up. We can't manipulate it to happen. But as we get in the light of God's presence, as we get in His Word, as we see who He is, and then we see our lives in the light of His presence, we begin to realize how serious our sin is. And we realize it's not my brother, it's not my sister, it's not my neighbor, it's not the pastor, it's not the pagans, it's not the government officials, it's me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

"Lord, have mercy on me." Not comparing ourselves to others. "Oh, we don't act like those people outside the church who do this . . . and they do that . . . and can you believe . . . and I never thought I'd live to see . . ." all these things we're prone to say these days. But the heart that experiences the presence of God coming down from heaven and sending revival is a heart that recognized, "I am a mess. I'm sinful. I've rebelled against God and His Word." And names the specific ways that we have sinned.

And notice in this passage that this is a corporate issue. He keeps saying all, "We all fade like a leaf," verse 6, "we have all become like one who is unclean." This is all of us. We're in this together.

The prophet is praying this. The men of God, some of the greatest revival prayers in Scripture, some of the most humble revival prayers, are prayed by some of the most spiritual leaders that we would think are the most godly men. But they get in God's presence, and they realize, "We are all in this together. No one is excluded. This isn't just that there are a few bad eggs in the church. We have all sinned."

So then we come in verse 8 and following to a plea for mercy, having humbly, honestly, earnestly confessed our sin, verse 8, "But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand."

He's saying to God, "Remember who You are, and remember who we are. We're your children. Nothing can change that. We belong to You. We're Your creation. You have shaped us. You formed us. You made us. You are sovereign over us."

Listen, the fatherhood of God, that's a precious concept to us—or it should be—but it wasn't a common one to the Old Testament Jews. In fact, in the entire Old Testament, there are only fifteen references to God as Father, and three of them are found in Isaiah chapter 63 and chapter 64.

But you get to the New Testament, and with the coming of Christ, that changes dramatically. Fifteen times in the Old Testament God's referred to as Father; 165 times, or more, in the four Gospels alone, God is referred to as Father.

You see it in the Sermon on the Mount. It's such a stark contrast from the Old Testament. Jesus repeatedly says, "Ask your Father this; tell your Father this; your Father in heaven this; your Father in heaven that." He's saying, "I came to bring you back into relationship with your Father."

He taught His disciples to address God as "Father" and through Christ. Together we can call Him in prayer our Father. It's a precious term because it's the basis on which we can appeal to Him to have mercy on us.

So he says in verse 9, "Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people."

He's saying, "We deserve Your judgment, but we appeal to You to have mercy on us."

And this prayer, as it develops, you sense that there's a change of heart that's taking place about their sin. They're no longer rebellious. They're now pliable. "We're clay in the potter's hand." They're repentant. They're willing to acknowledge the authority of God their Father and to submit, as that clay does to the potter.

And then they pray in verse 10, "Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation."

Remember, this is a prayer that Isaiah was giving prophetically to the exiles 100 years down the road who would be in Babylon in captivity, and they would be remembering wistfully what it was like in Jerusalem and what it was like to see the temple desecrated and destroyed, Jerusalem in desolation.

"Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins."

Now it's interesting, if you go back to the beginning of this prayer in chapter 63, verse 15, he says, "Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation" (v. 11).

God's place in heaven is holy. It's beautiful because God's there, and holiness is beautiful, and God is beautiful. So where God lives is holy and beautiful.

And the children of Israel realized that at one time their place of worship here on earth had also been holy and beautiful. Why? Because God was there. Earlier generations had praised God there. The holy, Shekinah glory, presence of God was there. It was a holy and beautiful house that mirrored here on earth the holy and beautiful house of God in heaven.

And that's what our churches are supposed to be. That's what our families are supposed to be. That's what our lives are supposed to be. Holy and beautiful places, habitations for the presence of God, showing here on earth what it is like to have God's holy and beautiful habitation in heaven.

Heaven on earth. That's what our marriages are supposed to be. That's what our families are supposed to be. That's what we're supposed to be. That's what our churches should look like so that when people come in they say, "Wow! This is a holy and beautiful place." Not because of the stained glass windows, not because of the beautiful architecture, it may be beautiful, but what they see is the beauty of holiness, the beauty of the presence of God.

So they're looking back to their temple where they had worshiped God and praised Him, but now they had ignored Him. They had replaced Him with false gods. His presence had left. His enemies had come in. They took over. They desecrated the holy place. And now they're saying, "Our holy, beautiful place is in ruins. It's a wilderness. It's desolate. It's a ghost town."

Listen, no place can be truly beautiful if it is not holy, and any place that is truly holy will be beautiful.

And so as they acknowledge, "Our holy and beautiful place is a desolation. It's a wilderness. It's not what it once was," they acknowledge the truth about their spiritual condition.

It causes us to acknowledge the truth about our spiritual condition about our lives, our families, our churches, our nation, our world. What is the truth? Is your marriage, is your family, is your church, is it a holy, beautiful, pleasant place where the name of Christ is glorified? Or is it a wilderness, a desolation, in ruins?

And so the prayer ends on kind of a plaintive note, verse 12, Isaiah 64, "Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord?" (What things? Our sin. All the conditions that we've just honestly acknowledge to You.) "Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?"

These people desperately needed God to intervene, but God only hears and answers the prayers of the righteous. And that's a problem, because we are fallen and sinful. So how can we expect that God would hear our prayers, our heart cry for revival?

Well, hundreds of years after Isaiah penned his prophecy, a righteous Man would come to this earth. He would live a sinless life that no one had ever lived on this planet. He would die the death of sinners, in their place.

And now, that holy, righteous Son of God, still with wounds in His hands, stands and intercedes for us in heaven, ascended to the right hand of the throne of God, and He invites us to be clothed in His righteousness and to pray, to cry out in His name.

And so, as we pray, we realize we have no righteousness of our own. We could never approach God. We could never ask Him to rend the heavens and come down. Why would He come down to a place like ours? He came down once, though, because He loved the world so much, He sent His only begotten Son.

He's coming back some day to take over and to cleanse this world of all defilement and all evil, to bring in a new heaven and a new earth. But in the meantime, God wants to rend the heavens and come down and visit His people, visit your life, visit your family, visit your church, visit this nation, visit the nations of this earth with His amazing, awesome presence. And so we pray for that.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back with an example of how to pray that way.

She’s been showing us how Jesus’ perfect life gives us access to the throne room in heaven. Without His sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, we would never know true freedom and fellowship with God. Do you long to experience this freedom? Maybe it’s time to press pause and spend time focusing on ways the truth can set you free from sin and shame.

One way to do that is to join us this September 27–29 for True Woman ’18 LIVE. The conference is sold out, but you can catch the entire thing on the livestream. Experience God’s truth through powerful, biblical messages and engaging dramas based on the themes found in Nancy’s best-selling book, Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free. Nancy will be speaking, along with Mary Kassian, Jackie Hill Perry, Pastor Eric Mason, and others, as well as worship from Keith & Kristyn Getty and spellbinding drama by Acts of Renewal.

There’s no charge to watch the entire conference. So save the date for September 27–29. Sign up and find all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Did you know that your dinner table can be a means of fulfilling the great commission? Nancy talks with Rosaria Butterfield about how hospitality can play a major role in evangelism. Please be here Monday for Revive Our Hearts. Now Nancy's back with an example of how we can pray for revival.

Nancy: We pray saying, "Lord, we don't deserve this. There's no reason You should come visit us. Listen, we're a mess. We're a desolation. We're a wilderness. We're in ruins." And we are! We're saying, "Lord, we're not willing to just keep playing church, to just keep going through business as normal. Oh God, please hear. Please come. Please forgive us. Please have mercy on us. Please turn our hearts toward You. Please return to us. Look down from heaven and see, from Your beautiful and holy house, and come down and visit this messed up house that we've got, and make it once again holy and beautiful for the glory of Your name."

And all God's people said, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to cry out for revival with you. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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