My colleague Bob and I were sharing a room with two double beds at a ministers meeting in Colorado. In the middle of the night I dreamed that my wife, Janet, was in the other bed. Still sleeping, I got up and walked across the room to the other bed and stood looking down at Bob.
Sensing my presence, he awoke—and at the same moment so did I. With his sense of humor in full swing he said with a smirk, “Jerry, I won’t tell a soul.”
“I’m going to tell all the pastors tomorrow at breakfast about my sleepwalking episode so you don’t distort it!” I shot back with a laugh.
Looking back over my life, I realize how often I’ve thought I was awake when really I was sound asleep. Janet and I have discovered that when we start “spiritual sleepwalking,” our Lord plans spiritual awakenings. With Jesus’ return so near, we believe that one of the greatest awakenings our Lord has brought into our lives is also one of the most important needs of His last-day remnant movement—united prayer.
It’s true that the Lord is doing amazing things around the globe as God’s people cooperate with Him in sharing His message of love. The haunting reality, however, is that we are only scratching the surface of what God longs to do through us and for us. So, how can we unleash His vision and power to turn our world today upside down as He did in the days of Acts? And why is God waiting to bring the great revival that ushers in His coming?
“A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. . . . It is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing. A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer.”1
It is the baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, that will lead to the unleashing of His power for these last days. As we study the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy, we find that it’s not only more personal and private prayers that are needed, but also united prayer.
Call to United Prayer
Jesus promised in Matthew 18:19, 20 that “if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”2
About this passage Ellen White commented: “The promise is made on condition that the united prayers of the church are offered, and in answer to these prayers there may be expected a power greater than that which comes in answer to private prayer. The power given will be proportionate to the unity of the members and their love for God and for one another.”3
The role of individual prayer is essential for every believer. Following the model of Jesus, we need to spend much more personal time with our Father. But throughout the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament we also read about the united prayer of the early church believers and the amazing results.
One hundred twenty of Jesus’ followers gathered in the upper room, and that unity led to Pentecost (Acts 1:13-2:1). When Peter and John were threatened, the believers cried out together for boldness, and the place where they were was shaken. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke His word with boldness (Acts 4:24-37). After Herod killed James and was about to execute Peter, the believers gathered and prayed. An angel came, Peter’s chains fell off, jail doors swung open, and Peter went to the praying church members in victory (Acts 12:3-19). These are only a few examples of consistently seeking the Lord together in prayer to understand His heart, will, and power to help. (See also Acts 1:24; 2:42-47; 6:6; 13:1-3; 14; 16:13, 25; 20:36; 21:5.)
While serving as president of the Central California Conference, I witnessed exponential growth of that conference’s annual Camp Meeting Evangelism Offering. The offering grew from less than $100,000 in 1996 to more than $2 million within just a few years. People often asked us, “What are you doing to bring in that much money for evangelism in 10 days?” I always responded that it was a miracle of God because of so many members praying together. Yes, we worked hard all year managing, reporting on, and planning for that offering, but the real story was that God was leading through His people who came together to pray.
Janet, who was women’s ministries director during our years in Central California, together with work colleagues and others, prayed for three hours each week for the various needs of the conference, including the evangelism offering. This was followed by intense prayer each year at camp meeting. God answered those united prayers by dramatically increasing the offering annually until it surpassed $2 million. These funds advanced ministries such as young adult evangelism, Bible worker programs, and student literature evangelism programs, which led to numerous baptisms and discipling of young adults.
Church leaders and other members also began to pray together more earnestly for various outreach ministries and personal family needs. God responded to these prayers by unleashing His blessings in obvious and powerful ways.
One Woman’s Story
A church member one day threw her essential belongings into her car and headed toward the highway. She felt that she could no longer deal with the problems in her marriage and had decided that the only answer was to leave her husband. As she drove, however, she cried out to God for help. Just then a billboard came into view that read, “Turn Back Next Exit”—and she did. She called Janet and shared her grief, adding that her marriage was beyond repair. Janet offered to pray with her for an hour once a week.
“We’re only going to praise God and claim His promises,” Janet told her. “No negative talking. And you must begin spending personal time with the Lord each morning.”
The woman agreed, and the result was miraculous. She fell in love with Jesus, and her joy was obvious. When her husband saw the changes in his wife, he began to make changes too. They then fell in love again with each other.
The needs of God’s church today are urgent, but when we follow inspired counsel and claim Jesus’ promises, we can expect powerful life-altering and church-changing results. As Ellen White wrote: “Satan cannot endure to have his powerful rival appealed to, for he fears and trembles before His strength and majesty. At the sound of fervent prayer, Satan’s whole host trembles.”4
Millions of people are living and dying without (personally) knowing Jesus and His great love for them. So let’s remember His promise in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The presence of Jesus changes everything.
1 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1958), book 1, p. 121. (Italics supplied.)
2 All Bible texts in this article are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
3 Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), vol. 9, p. 303. (Italics supplied.)
4 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1948), vol. 1, p. 346.
Jerry Page is Ministerial association secretary for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His wife, Janet, serves as an associate secretary. This article was published January 12, 2012.