The Scriptures are clear that at the end of the age God will establish a global prayer movement. In fact, one of the main themes of the book of Revelation is the earthly and heavenly prayers of the saints mingling to release the end-time judgments upon the earth. The church is pictured in the book of Revelation as a sort of Moses and Aaron-like company who through prayer, prophecy and proclamation release the supernatural purposes of God upon the earth in the same way that Moses and Aaron through the same means released the plagues upon Egypt and wrought the deliverance of the Jews.
I see four primary reasons why day and night prayer is a necessary ministry in these awesome days.
First, the soul of man is never truly satisfied apart from partaking of the consummate pleasures of communion with God. The call to day and night prayer is the call to satisfaction in God; not in what God does or gives but who He is. It is the call to pleasure; the pleasure that does not come automatically at the new birth, but the kind that is experienced when a wife feels personally and intimately cherished and nourished (Eph. 5:25-32). This sort of pleasure is only had where there is communion. So, in a word, the call to day and night prayer is the call to communion; the call to fellowship.
The Lord gave this promise to the priests of Israel in the age to come: “I will satiate the souls of the priests in abundance, and my people will be satisfied with my goodness” (Jer. 31:14). Souls are satiated and satisfied when they encounter the worth of God’s person; when they behold and adore and treasure and experience His excellency; when they touch His Godhood. Most of us live our lives unmoved by God. We live with an intellectual and cognitive consideration of Him but without an encounter with Him. Knowledge without experience is not Biblical. The theology of the apostles was meant to be experienced – not simply studied and intellectually attained.
Some of the ‘unblushing promises of the Gospel’ (in the words of Lewis) are that the redeemed would be thoroughly satisfied, profoundly moved by God’s attributes and emotions and filled with authentic and abiding joy. But this isn’t automatic. It’s as automatic as my relationship with my wife. If I stay at a distance, neither I nor her is satisfied in the other. It is simply impossible to have a satisfying marriage where the two do not experience the other; where the two do not ascribe worth to the other by the declaration of all their superior attributes. My wife is honoured when I enjoy her. And I am honoured when she enjoys me. Laundry and a clean kitchen can never replace devotion. I desire my wife’s love more than her labor. This is the logic behind 1 Corinthians 13. What is the noblest labor without love? – Absolutely nothing!
We cannot enjoy God at a distance. But sadly, many of us will never draw near because of our perception of God’s heart towards us. Most of us perceive that He is mostly frustrated and agitated with us. on account of our profound shortcomings. We believe He loves us, yes! But we do not and cannot believe that He enjoys us. We are comfortable saying that “He died for us” but not that “He delights in us.”
It’s when we find that He delights in us that everything changes. Isaiah prophesied of the conjunction between the revelation of God’s rejoicing heart and the role of prayer at the end of the age. In verse 62:5 we read: “…and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” And in verses 6-7 we read: “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”
When those called to “take no rest” and to “give [God] no rest” for the sake of Israel become smitten by the message to Israel – that they shall be delighted in that is – something within them changes and the prospect of setting themselves before His face is no longer intimidating but longed for.
Secondly, day and night prayer is the optimum context from which prophetic voices are forged. The Scriptures are clear that the close of this age will be accompanied be the greatest proclamation movement in human history.
Biblically, prophetic voices emerge only in the context of prayer and fasting. From Noah to Samuel to David to Elijah to the exilic prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, etc.) to John the Baptist we see that God forges prophets in the place of communion, fellowship with His heart. Friendship is the only basis on which God commissions prophets. The weight of that sort of calling and grace will destroy anyone whose heart is not settled in communion with God. John the Baptist needed his 30 years in the wilderness to be capable in the grace of God of stewarding the call of God on His life. Paul needed the 14 years in Arabia before stepping into His mandate. David needed his years of wilderness wandering before receiving the promises given to him by Samuel. Moses needed the 80 years in Midian. Joshua needed the 30 years in the Tent of the Meeting. Elijah needed his time by the brook. Jeremiah needed his formative years in Anathoth where the House of Prayer was.
A Jewish historian recorded that 40,000 people a month were going out to the Jordan River to see John the Baptist. There were no cars or trains then and the Jordan wasn’t exactly a prime piece of real estate for an international ministry base. John’s word divided a nation. And he ended up being murdered for those words. But not before the entire nation had heard him.
God is going to release this same grace at the end of the age on His witnesses; but greater. And He will release it on those who have been in their own ‘wilderness’ being forged for that hour. Day and night prayer is necessary for us just as it was for John.
Thirdly, God has ordained that corporate, unified prayer is the means by which the church is to contend for revival and awakening. History is rife with examples of the reality that God pours out great measures of His Spirit when the people of God give themselves to prayer and intercession on behalf of a geographic region.
The book of Acts contains the account of the greatest spiritual awakening in Scripture. And in it we find a model of how to posture our hearts individually and corporately. In Luke 24 and Acts 1 Jesus tells them to set aside ministry aspirations until they are endued with power from on high. He tells them to set themselves in prayer and fasting in the spirit of Joel chapter 2. And they did. In Acts 2, when at a prayer meeting, the Holy Spirit was poured out. This outpouring resulted in widespread awakening and the conversion of thousands in one moment. In Acts 4:42-47 we read that the inception of the church was marked by these thousands of converts setting themselves in community of prayer and fellowship. In Acts 3:1 Peter and John were going to the House of Prayer to pray with the rest of the believers in Jerusalem when they were interrupted by a crippled man. This run in resulted in a miracle and another sermon. This message resulted in thousands more being added. What were they added to? – the fellowship and culture of prayer that was conceived in 2:42. In Acts 4 they gather together and cry out in fasting and prayer. This releases “great grace” and mass conversion. In Acts 5 this culture of prayer and proclamation was maturing. The intensity of the presence of God reached such heights that the Holy Spirit killed two people because of their unfaithful speech. In Acts 6 the apostles pull out of every other obligation and responsibility to give themselves completely to “prayer and ministry of the word.” As a result many priests converted because they saw that the apostles did not forge a new religion; they saw the continuity from the OT priesthood and the NT priesthood: communion with God. In Acts 7 the awakening intensified and a young man was killed under the leadership of a man named Saul. This man would be the target of the prayers of the saints in the coming months and he would be ruined with a vision of Jesus in Acts 9 and commissioned as the chief apostle to the Gentiles. In Acts 8, in the wake of the murder of Stephen, the awakening explodes and persecution breaks out and the believers flee Jerusalem. In Acts 10 the Holy Spirit is poured out on Gentiles because of a centurion who gave himself to prayer and fasting. And in Acts 13 we read of the establishment of the first international missions base. Paul would be sent from here. It was in Antioch. Antioch was a community of day and night prayer and fasting. And in that context apostles were sent out and the Roman Empire shook.
Scripture is clear: awakening comes when the saints lift their voices. Whether the awakening is the salvation of the lost, the ending of abortion, the healing of the sick or the abolition of sex-slavery, God has ordained that “justice” is given to the “elect who cry out day and night” (Luke 18). Our pursuit of justice and awakening must be grounded in day and night prayer.
Fourthly, Jesus returns in response to the prayers of the saints; not at some random time on a random Thursday afternoon. As was mentioned before, one of the main themes of the book of Revelation is the role of the prayers of the saints in the releasing of the end-time judgments. But by the time we get to Revelation chapter 22 verse 17 we read that “the Spirit” in concentrated unity with “the Bride” of Christ is “crying” to Jesus to “come.” And the breath-taking thing about this verse is: there will be a day when He answers that prayer and actually comes!
There is a delusional idea running rampant in the church right now that says Jesus will return “like a thief” and will take everyone by surprise. This is not true. The two times the Scriptures refer to Jesus’ return being like a “thief in the night” we are commanded to “know the hour” of His coming for we are “sons of light and not sons of disobedience” (see 1 Thess. 5 and Matthew 24:42-44). We are called to know Jesus as a Husband at His return not as a thief. If you know Him as a thief at His return, you do not know Him. The point of Matthew 24, and the seven times Jesus said “know,” was to convince us that we can and must know the hour of His return.
When we “discern” the changing of the global “season” we “know that summer is near” (Mt. 24:32-34); that is, we see that His return is soon. And when those global timing indicators mentioned in Matthew 24 begin to signal, we need to posture ourselves in such a way that we can endure the coming storm and stand unashamed at His appearing crying out under the grace of the Holy Spirit “Come!”
God is raising up day and night prayer all across the earth in this unique hour of redemptive history. The call to unbroken communion with God is unto (1) the satisfaction of our souls, (2) the formation of prophetic voices, (3) the catalyzing of widespread awakening and (4) the tearing of the skies and the return of Jesus to the earth. The application of these realities will be different in different contexts as different people with various callings engage with them. But the heart of these realities must be discerned, embraced and implemented in our lives and communities whoever and wherever we are.