A few months ago I was listening to a sermon where the pastor was saying that prayer was THE most important thing in the Christian life. I was in the pew thinking, that no, actually, Scripture is probably more important because without it we don’t even know how to pray, nor do we know to Whom we are praying. Ironically, the pastor backed up all his points with, you guessed it, SCRIPTURE!
Reading through Nehemiah the other day, I noticed that after the walls were rebuilt, they had a revival. And what led to this revival? In chapter 8 Ezra read the Scriptures. From early morning until midday he read. And the people listened attentively. They wept as the Scriptures were interpreted and explained. In chapter 9 all that reading of Scripture was followed by a long prayer of confession of sin and a recital of their history of rebellion and God’s greatness and His history of compassion and forgiveness. This time of prayer was then followed by chapter 10 were the people made commitments to change in areas they were sinning. They took action to reinstitute proper worship, observation of the sabbath, bringing in tithes, separating from foreign marriages, providing for the on going temple worship.
Anybody can pray without Scripture, the pagans, animists, and adherents of other religions do it all the time. But without Scripture our prayers are very me-centered. “God, give me and mine health, wealth, safety.” But from Scripture we learn all about WHO we are praying to. A God who is almighty and all-powerful. A God who is holy and doesn’t tolerate sin. Yet a God who is compassionate and loving and full of mercy to those who hope in Him. We learn of a sovereign God who works all things (ALL things, good and bad) for His purposes. We learn of HIs purposes, that we become a holy people, that His salvation be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, that people everywhere repent and believe the gospel. We learn that prayer offered in faith is very effective. We learn about perseverance in prayer. We learn that obedience is better than sacrifice, we learn that our sins hide God’s face from us. We learn about how to pray, how to praise.
But stopping at Scripture and prayer is not enough. We also need to take action. In my case, it may be different from those in Nehemiah’s day, depending on what conviction of sin the Holy Spirit brought to my heart through the Scripture. Revival is not complete without action being taken to correct the wrong that I am doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean add new programs, new activities, but rather to STOP doing what is wrong and DO do what is right.