Essay 4- Sacrificial Prayer, Worship, and Giving
By Rev. Dr. J. Patrick Bowman
The church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer. —John R. Mott (1865-1955)
As we already read in 2 Chronicles 29:21-24, when the people came together to worship, Hezekiah made offerings for the kingdom, sanctuary, and people. But Hezekiah went even further. He commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel. This offering was for his brothers that at one time had plundered his country and taken hostages of his people. These were his brothers, who were now under Assyrian rule.
In light of the covenant made through the blood of Jesus, I believe we can look at these sacrifices in the Old Testament as types of intercession in the New Testament. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (NASB).
Matthew Harmon and Adela Just clarify this point in an article titled “Your Authority for Intercession.”
One of the most profound New Testament scriptures is found in 1 Peter: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis added).
While all of the things God says we are in this verse are amazing, when it comes to prayer, there are some significant implications to the phrase “a royal priesthood.” God Himself calls His people His priests! Remember, this is not the Old Testament. This is for today.
If we study the responsibilities of Old Testament Levitical priests, one of their main duties was to stand before the Lord and represent the people of Israel, particularly by making sacrifices for sin. In addition to this, we see prophets (such as Isaiah or Jeremiah) who “stood in the gap” for the Jewish nation as well.
So what does this mean for us? What are the responsibilities now involved in being part of a ”royal priesthood”?
Intercession—acting or pleading on someone else’s behalf—plays a key role in fulfilling the duties of our priesthood. The Lord looks to us to stand in the gap through prayer for others, watching and praying, being alert to His voice and to the wounds of the world that need healing by His blood. Just as the Levitical priests applied the blood sacrifice of animals, we are privileged to carry the more precious blood of Christ, which was shed only once for the cleansing of all sin and iniquity.[i]
Not all intercessors are prophets, but all prophets (including Hezekiah as a type) are first intercessors. They intercede or stand in the gap before God for families, governments, the church, nations, and even their enemies. Intercession, often associated with a burden to pray, carries an inner impulse to come before God on behalf of another. And the burden often turns to travail.
The role of the Holy Spirit in prayer and revival cannot be underestimated. Paul, writing to the Romans, said, “Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; ” (Rom 8:26). Prophetic teacher and apostolic leader James Gall gives us insight on travail:
“What is travail?” These prayer approaches have been a “Lost Art” in the body of Christ, but in the current move of God, old ways are being made new. Let me try to explain it.
As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Travail is a form of intense intercession given by the Holy Spirit whereby an individual or group is gripped by something that grips God’s heart. The individual or group labors with Him for an opening to be created so that the new life can come forth.
The definition of travail from Webster’s New World Dictionary is simple: “n. 1. very hard work. 2. the pains of childbirth. 3. intense pain; agony. v. 1. to toil. 2. to suffer the pains of childbirth.” I have found this definition describing physical travail to be correct in the spiritual realm as well.
Travail takes place after you have carried something in your heart for a period of time, but it comes on you suddenly. Travail can be associated with the prayer of tears, but does not require it. It is preceded by nurturing the promise; later the strategic time comes to push that promise forth through the prayer canal. Finally you realize that the promise has been born, and you are greatly relieved when the delivery is over!
The prayer of travail is God desiring to create an “opening” to bring forth a measure of life or growth. If the “opening” was already in place, there would not be the need for travail. Just as the “opening” of the natural womb is enlarged to bring forth the baby, so travail creates an “opening” or “way,” whereas before the opening or way was closed. With travail, there is always a way opened for life, newness, change, or growth.[ii]
In his day under the old covenant, Hezekiah certainly knew that life, newness, change, and growth come by sacrifice. In our own day, I wonder if we have a vision for what real revival is and how the Holy Spirit anoints prayer and fuels God’s work in His people and in the earth? One writer answered this way:
Revival, real revival, is the heart-cry of Christians all over the world. Instinctively, we know that God wants to bring revival into our personal lives, into our families, into our churches, and into our communities. Yet revival tarries in spite of the desires of God’s children! The first revival in history occurred on the day of Pentecost, and scores of people took notice of God’s work in the life of His people, and thousands joined them. Where before there had been timid efforts for God, and often mistakes were made, as a result of tarrying and waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit, in a moment they became knowledgeable and fearless these early believers became effective, community-changing, witnesses. Down through the centuries since, as individuals here and there have joined others in seeking God, God has graciously honored their prayers, and taken control of them and their situations, empowered them to become knowledgeable and fearless witnesses, and time and again scores of people have been swept into a more abundant, fruit-filled, relationship with God as a result of the flood-tide movings of His Holy Spirit.
Sadly, in our day, as a result of complacency—we are all guilty!—lack of knowledge, questions whether God can do it again, many of us are going on without receiving the precious gift of the Holy Spirit, and the God-promised revival that is bound to accompany the Holy Spirit’s descent. This would be akin to getting into our showers in the morning, turning on the faucet and not getting any water, and deciding it was okay to have a shower without water. If this went on for a few days, we would start smelling pretty bad and people would avoid us. I say this gently, but I think many of us Christians are rather “smelly” because of the lack of seeking and receiving this spiritual refreshing, and the people in the world around us are finding a “foul” aroma instead of a sweet one.[iii]
In implementing his vision to revive the nation he was now leading, Hezekiah saw the need to clearly communicate, hold his religious leaders personally and corporately accountable, call the civic leaders to participate, and offer sacrifices before the Lord. In an article titled “Intercession for Revival,” prayer advocate Billy Humphrey talks about what the church in revival will be characterized by:
The church in revival will declare, with authority, the beauty and majesty of God. She will testify of the resurrected Christ with powerful proclamations of the Gospel and confirming signs & wonders. She will blaze with holiness that testifies to the truth that God is once again in her midst. As a living testimony of the glory of God, she will compel the lost to salvation.
We’ve had enough programs, plans, plays, & potlucks…we need a gripping spirit of PRAYER to possess our hearts that we might lay hold of heaven for revival. It’s time we take responsibility for our sin, our prayerlessness, our lukewarmness, and turn to God with our hearts rent, persevering in prayer, to see a breakthrough of God’s Glory envelop our nation.[iv]
If intercessory prayer is one bookend of revival, the other support is worship. The following verses show that the sacrifice of worship and the animal sacrifices were needed to cleanse the kingdom, the sanctuary, and the nation of Ahaz’s folly. And its form was not chaotic or rash but orderly. Hezekiah reestablished worship in the House of God according to the Davidic order established by King David. According to David’s instruction, most Levites were assigned for the work of the House of God, assisting in the upkeep of the house and assisting the priests. Others were gatekeepers, while others served as judges and officers, yet still others singers and musicians.
He then stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad, the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the LORD through His prophets. The Levites stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel. While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.
(2 Chronicles 29:25-30)
We see above a prophetic mandate to restore orderly Davidic worship in the Temple. This worship included singing, dancing, bowing, standing, lifting of hands, the use of multiple instruments, times of exuberant joy, and times of quiet introspection and repentance. Within this freedom of expression, there was a sense of order and anointed leadership to direct the people’s worship toward God and Him alone. There was also a prophetic component.
Davidic worship was often prophetic.(1 Chronicles 25:1; Psalms 46:10, 50:7, 85:8 ), and the singing of new songs (spontaneous songs given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was encouraged (Psalms 33:3, 96:1, 149:1). Corporate worship within the tabernacle focused not only on joyfully lifting up the name of Yaweh (Psalm 34:3; 57:5), giving thanks (Psalm 30:4; 35:18), repentance and recommitment (Psalm 26:2; 139:23 ), but also on inviting the manifest presence of the Most High” (1 Kings 8:11; Chronicles 5:14; Psalms 50:2).[v]
In our day, we too often see positions in the church filled for the sake of filling positions. Senior leadership’s responsibility is to pray for discernment as to what might be a person’s calling within the body and then train and encourage them toward that placement. But there is another aspect of equal importance. A person may have a gift and calling, but until they develop the character to carry out that calling effectively, there should be caution used in placing someone in a position too quickly. Many churches are eager to cover all their bases at any cost and miss the blessedness that comes with proper leadership assessment, development, and placement.
As we continue in 2 Chronicles 29, we see an extraordinary response of giving by the people:
Then Hezekiah said, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the LORD, come forward and bring sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings to the house of the LORD.” So the assembly brought sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings, and everyone who was willing brought burnt offerings. The number of the burnt offerings which the assembly brought was seventy bulls, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs; all of these were for a burnt offering to the LORD. The consecrated offerings were six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep. But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was finished and the other priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests. There were also many burnt offerings with the fat of the peace offerings and the drink offerings for the burnt offerings.
We might call it an offering but what we see is the sacrifice of giving. The people were eager to worship before the Lord, not only with their hearts, not only with their voices but with their substance. They responded to what Hezekiah’s reforms had allowed them to receive; Peace with God. How much more peace we have with God through the blood of Jesus! They gave in such abundance that the Levites had to pitch in and help for the lack of priests. This was undoubtedly sacrificial giving, as the country was at a low ebb after 16 years of Ahaz’s reign. Not all gave equally, but all gave something. When revival hits a person or a church or a nation, sacrificial giving always increases, even in times of economic struggle.
Somebody once said that you can know there is a revival in a church when the offering in the church increases. Well, I don’t agree with it for the reason that, I have seen people give in response to a prosperity & blessing sermon purely out of greed & desire to make more money, like they’d do as an investment venture.
But the vice-versa of that is completely true. When there is a real revival, people genuinely and sacrificially give their money and resources to their local churches and for the kingdom of God as a whole. Radical giving is what characterized the first century church that was born in a revival, and their giving was not just limited to the ministry activities or for the ministers. The church back then made sure that not one person within their community would have unmet needs. People went to the extent of selling their property and giving up their luxury to make sure that the needs of others in the house of God were met.
What is the connection between revival and giving? Why is it that people give generously during a revival? Jesus said, ” Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matt 6:21) In a true revival, your heart is so connected to God and realigned to love and worship God that, you are disconnected from the material and monetary aspect of human life. It is our attachment to our possessions that stops us from excelling in giving. Revival will always breed a generation of generous givers. If you have not yet been provoked to give, it is because you have not been experiencing revival at a personal or community level.[vi]
The second half of verse 35, together with verse 36, says it all: “So the service of the house of the LORD was established again. Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people because the thing came about suddenly” (2 Ch 29:35a-36). Can you see the similarities between this suddenly and the suddenly of Acts 2? “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Act 2:1-2). Hezekiah had brought the people together, but God had prepared their hearts. They had embraced the vision and moved accordingly in unity.
[i] Generals International. Your Authority for Intercession. n.d. 29 October 2020. <https://www.generals.org/blog/your-authority-intercession>.
[ii] Gall, James. Travail: The Prayer that Brings Birth. 21 January 2005. 29 October 2020. <http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/2791>.
[v] Christiansen, Connie Ruth. What is Davidic Worship. n.d. 29 October 2020. <https://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/praise-and-worship/davidic-worship.html>.
[vi] Varghese, Priji. Tithing & Radical Giving – An Aspect Of Revival Lifestyle. 24 June 2014. 29 October 2020. <https://pastorpriji.com/blog/revival-zone/tithing-and-radical-giving/>.