September 2017 – Gary had every intention of rising early on Monday to pray and study the Scripture. But just as the alarm on his cell phone began summoning him into consciousness, that plan began to veer off course.
I’ve got to speak to my neighbor about his barking dog, he thought. That dog cost me at least an hour of sleep.
Then out of nowhere, a wave of anxiety hit as he remembered a presentation due at work on Wednesday. Man, I’m already behind on that. Maybe I should grab a cup of coffee and get to work while the office is quiet. After all, yesterday’s sermon and prayer were inspiring. Now it’s time to get to work.
Later, Gary thought God must be so disgusted with me. He remembered the confession of Paul from Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
But as Gary was beating himself up, someone else was laughing. The one invisibly fanning the flames of distraction, anxiety, and inadequacy wanted his vision focused on anything and everything except his Heavenly Father.
That enemy is Satan, according to Dave Butts, Christian author and speaker. Awareness of the reality of spiritual warfare, Butts says, is the first step toward overcoming the devil’s strategies to hinder prayer.
Butts is founder of Harvest Prayer Ministries. Through teaching and resources, HPM equips Christians to deepen their prayer lives and encourages local churches to become houses of prayer.
In two presentations in AFA’s Cultural Institute series of video resources – The Gift of Prayer and Revive Us Again – Butts offers wisdom and deep biblical insights about prayer. Both presentations are available on one DVD. (See here.)
In January, Butts was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. After completing his sixth and final round of chemotherapy in June, he is now in remission.
With a renewed trust in God in the midst of trials, Butts is more enthusiastic than ever about the grace of God through prayer. Two weeks after his last chemotherapy cycle, he responded to questions about the blessing of prayer in a Christian’s life, as well as its connection to revival in America.
AFA Journal: Why are you so joyous about prayer?
Dave Butts (left): Because in more than any other area of life, in prayer I get to be in on what God is doing on planet earth – not necessarily what I want Him to do. What a privilege. Certainly, that should make us pray more – not out of duty or guilt – because prayer is a partnership with God like no other.
And the good news is that it is not just for the great prayer experts. Prayer is for little children and for everyone who opens his heart to pray, “I want to see Your will done here on earth as it is in heaven.” And the trust and confidence we gain through such prayer is not in our own ability, but in God’s goodness.
AFAJ: So, what do I need to learn to improve my prayer life?
DB: As good as learning is – and I’ve spent quite a few years teaching people to grow in prayer – it’s ultimately not about what we know as much as about who God is.
I believe the thing that will cause Christians to become people of prayer is when we understand that ultimately prayer is an expression of our relationship with Jesus.
My life verse is Colossians 1:27 – actually just a portion of it: “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” The verse shows us that the kingdom of God is in us. So prayer becomes me walking and talking with Jesus throughout the day. I’m all for having morning devotions or saying prayers at certain times, but we have to go beyond that if we would become a people of prayer.
Prayer is a manifestation of walking with Jesus. If you are walking with Him, you will be talking to Him. I don’t believe He’s really into walking together day after day and not saying anything.
AFAJ: What is the relationship between prayer and national revival?
DB: From a historical and biblical perspective, as far as we can tell, there has never been a spiritual awakening apart from a move of prayer. Dr. Wilbur Smith said there were seven major revivals in the Old Testament history of Israel, all preceded by a move of prayer. Take away the word major, and in my own study, I have found as many as 15 or 16 different times of revival and then decline in the life of Israel. In each case, someone or someones have been praying in advance of that.
Prayer prepares the heart for a move of God. That’s true for an individual or for a nation. And that means prayer that is offered in submission, humility, and deep repentance.
During those times, Christians begin to realize something is missing in the nation. And that something is the manifest presence of God.
There have been times in America’s history, such as during the Second Great Awakening, when the Lord’s presence was evident. Then there are times when God’s people begin to sense that God’s presence has been removed, so we cry out prayers of repentance as in Isaiah 64:1 – “O that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.” More than anything else, it’s a cry that expresses we need God’s presence.
That is what we need at this point in America’s history, I believe. We are too far along to find a political solution to that which divides us and that which has caused us to move away from the will and word of God. Now, I believe in being involved politically and voting, but ultimately that is not the solution to what ails America.
The key to the future of America – and the world is not going to get this – is the church praying in humility and desperation, “Oh God, save us. There is no solution other than You. What we need is Your presence.”
With One Cry weaves together Scriptures and stories from America's past to confront our nation and offer hope. Available at afastore.net
For more info: harvestprayer.com; facebook.com/harvestprayer
Prayer, Peace and the Presence of God
In the summer of 2016, God’s Holy Spirit was prompting Dave Butts to write a 30-day devotional on the peace of Christ. As Butts immersed himself in the subject, he began to taste the shalom often spoken of in Scripture. It was also during that same time period that health issues began to emerge.
The devotional guide was beginning to take shape in January. During a writing getaway, Butts received the diagnosis from his doctor: incurable stage 4 lymphoma.
The future looked grim, Butts said, but there was a remarkable peace, the kind spoken of in Philippians 4:7 that “surpasses all understanding” and “guard[s] your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It was evident that God was confirming in Butts’s life the truth he was writing about.
“There have been no tears for the disease,” Butts said, “then or since. I’m convinced that my wife, Kim, and I have received the gift of peace that is available for every believer. But like most gifts, it must be asked for, and that’s where prayer enters in.”
Today Butts’s cancer is in remission.
Available in October at harvestprayer.com.