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The History and Future of the Chalk Revival

Throughout history, Christian believers have had times of spiritual renewal and true awakening. We seem to have entered such a season in our nation and in our church. The climate is right in many settings.

Enter any bookstore, and you find the topic of spirituality everywhere. People are streaming to national prayer alerts, prayer days, prayer summits, concerts of prayer. 'Newsweek' and 'Life' have devoted cover stories to prayer. 'Books in Print' now lists three times as many titles on how to achieve spiritual growth as on how to achieve sexual intimacy. In short, many people seem to be stirring from a spiritual hibernation, or longing for that.—"Rousing Drowsy Christians from Spiritual Slumber": Christianity Today, Inc./LEADERSHIP Journal.

As a pastor, I have often asked myself how I can encourage prayer, spiritual alertness and renewal in myself and our church. I have concluded that the work of renewal is not ours to do! We are utterly dependent on God for any spiritual revitalization. I do believe, however, that a spiritual attitude of humility; a hunger and thirsting for righteousness; consistent intercession; and personal repentance can prepare our hearts for what God might choose to do.

 

As God prepared my heart through a number of different means, I began an exciting spiritual journey and personal revival in September of 1996. I was speaking at a businessmen's conference at the YWAM base in Lakeside, Montana, and after my session was over, I stayed for as much of the conference as I could. (As a pastor, I speak a great deal; so when I can get away from my regular schedule and hear someone else speak, it is a great treat for me.) The name and focus of the conference was Hineni. This is a Hebrew word meaning,

"Here am I; send me."

 

The businessman who founded the Hineni conference did an excellent job of encouraging those present to consider their businesses as places of ministry. He wanted them to pray, "Here am I; send me" as they went back home, and be prepared to pastor/minister in their sphere of influence.

After that weekend, for a long time I prayed this same prayer almost every night in front of my garage. I'm not sure why I prayed there. Certainly nothing about my garage is spiritual, especially if you could see inside. I didn't spend a long time each night praying there, just long enough to pray these two short phrases and items that come to my mind related to my present or future ministry.

 

unique experiences

 

I had some unique experiences while praying in front of my garage.

 

One neighbor walked by talking to herself. When she saw me standing there in the dark it really scared her, but she was okay when she recognized it was me. "Bob, what are you doing out here?" "Oh, just praying..." I replied. "Oh, well, pray for me," she said.

Sometimes the prayer also prompted me to explore other ministry possibilities, e.g., a desire to visit Russia short or long term; two offers to teach—one at a college, the other at a seminary; affirmation of my call. As I explored these and other possibilities in prayer, I felt God affirming my call and opening doors to stay in my present ministry assignment, and by His grace, continue to influence and disciple. In prayer, I also was impressed again with a reoccurring theme: "We can touch the world from no matter where we are, if we are in God's will—either by our presence (going), or by our influence (sending)."

 

As an affirmation and confirmation, I had continuing opportunities in these months to have some measure of influence with pastors and Christian workers, as well as Hillcrest Chapel. The primary result of these prayers, however, was to bring about spiritual renewal in me. We must have "vival" before revival, and that "vival" took place in me. I experienced a profound cleansing and repentance.

 

The process of spiritual renewal is not complete; I have areas in my life where I still need to grow, and sins over which I need more consistent victory. I also have character qualities in my life that need further honing, but I praise God for what has happened so far.

 

a wonderful picture

 

In May 1997, God gave me a wonderful picture of how I might encourage others to enter this renewal with me. I went to Promise Keepers in Seattle, and a speaker in one of the sessions talked about a "church saint" who gave this admonition:

 

 

"If you want to see revival, go into your prayer closet, take an imaginary piece of chalk and draw a circle around yourself, then pray until revival comes first to the person in that circle—until it comes to you."

 

Upon returning home, I believe I was prompted by the Lord to announce that individually and collectively we are to enter into the "Chalk Revival." This revival will not be patterned after any past or present revival, but we believe it will be a renewal unique to Hillcrest Chapel and initially, at least, be focused on its individual attenders. The primary focus has not been on a corporate experience, any kind of exterior action, or on the style of our worship services. Our focus has been on a specific circle of revival—our own hearts.

 

The Seven Chalk Revival Prayers

 

At the beginning of our Chalk Revival, we have focused on 7 prayers or prayer themes to encourage each person in the Chalk Revival to pray. The individual prayers are as follows:

 

I Want To Pray For

  1. A revitalization of my spiritual life and also of this church and our nation—2 Chronicles 7:14-15; Is. 6:1-8; 57:15.

     

  2. A repentance from sin—secret sins—sins that wrap around my feet and trip me up; along with confession of sin to others; restitution for sin; and the granting of forgiveness to others when appropriate—Heb. 12:1; James 5:16; Luke 15:21; 19:1-10.

     

  3. A restoration of my love for and study of the Word—Ps. 119:97-106; 2 Tim. 2:15.

     

  4. A release of the Holy Spirit to give me empowerment for service and a compassion for lost people—Eph. 5:18-21; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Matt. 9:36.

     

  5. A return to my first love, to love God and family more than ever before—Rev. 2:4; Mal. 4:5-6.

     

  6. A remembrance and thanksgiving for all He has done for me—Rom. 1:21; Eph. 5:4; Heb. 12:28.

     

  7. A reshaping of my praise and worship so I truly worship with my whole heart, body and life—Ps. 95:6; 100; Rom. 12:1; Eph. 5:18-21; Matt. 5:16; James 5:13.

     

 

The beginning of the Chalk Revival

 

On the Sunday morning I announced the beginning of the Chalk Revival, I asked one of my associate pastors if he would find enough pieces of chalk for each adult in our congregation, and put each piece in a plastic bag. That was at 9:10 a.m. By 10:15 a.m. we had everything ready, and we gave them out that Sunday. This chalk, along with the above prayers, was to give us some focus and to be a reminder of the revival we were praying for!

 

For six months I emphasized and taught on one or more of the seven prayer areas every Sunday. These prayers are not everything we should pray, but I think they capsulize what the Chalk Revival is about for all those who desire a spiritual renewal.

 

In the second year of my renewal, 1997-1998, I began to pray an expanded prayer in front of my garage and everywhere I went: "Here am I; send me. Here am I; send someone to help me to do what you have called me to do. Here we are; send us. Send us wherever we might bring the message of Christ." Ultimately, we should know there will come a time when revived individuals will have a larger scale of focus or influence on others, e.g., friends, family, neighbors, churches, communities, businesses, nations, etc. In other words, the initial circle of renewal will grow into concentric circles of increasing influence.

 

The test of true refreshing or revival is whether there is ultimately a greater concern for the lost and a greater involvement in the needs of others.

 

coming out of the closet

 

Does our concern for others mean we should eventually "come out of the closet" of our personal renewal? I don't believe we should, but at some point we should expect our Lord to use us in increasing circles of ministry. Jack Hayford affirms this process. He says: "High moments are like peaks. On the peaks you get the strong breezes and the larger view. But we live in the valley because that's where the growth comes. The harvest is in the valley."

 

Expect, therefore, that the end result of any spiritual awakening is, our hearts will be moved toward God and others. For example, when the Good Samaritan saw the man lying by the side of the road, "his heart was moved with compassion." The others had no compassion. A spiritually alive person is moved to action. As the renewed person looks around the world, he/she will see a lot of people lying alongside the road in a spiritually destitute state. This is why I have expanded my garage prayers to:

 

Here we are, being renewed and restored in Your love and grace. Now fill our hearts with compassion; and in Your time, send us to bring healing and salvation to others, so they might find love and compassion too!"

walking the streets

The chalk revival continued to grow in intensity and scope in my life. After a season of praying, I found myself walking to our church building and praying as I walked around it every morning. As I did that, I not only felt an increasing burden to pray for the people of Hillcrest Chapel, but also to pray for the people and homes closest to the chapel. Within weeks after that, however, the burden for the city increased as well. Soon I embarked upon one of the most fulfilling and stretching spiritual journeys I have ever had in my life. Literally, I started walking the streets and praying for houses and neighborhoods. At first the prayer walks were random, but soon became systematic. My garage prayer was answered in a way I did not expect. "Here am I, send me" was answered by being sent to pray for Bellingham and all the cities of Whatcom County. For over one year, 5-7 days a week, I had the great joy of praying for every house, apartment, dorm and institution—wherever people live in Bellingham. What I discovered in those walks is how much God loves this city and desires them all to be in His family. I experienced God's love and grace in a way I have never felt before. I see the world differently now. Oh, how God loves the world!

How About Drawing A Circle Around You, Too?

If you decide to draw a circle around you, I'm sure the outcome will be different than it was for me, but I do know God will change your heart, perspective and life. You will never be the same. I encourage you to draw a circle around you and begin to pray the prayers we prayed as a church. A summary of those prayers could be the chorus of a song I wrote during this season: "Draw a circle around me, oh God. Pour in your Spirit, Word and power. Until I have been revived and you are glorified. Draw a circle around me, oh God." At some point in the process you will feel that the circle needs to be expanded to include others. At that point, I encourage you to pray the Hineni prayer: "Here am I, send me." I'll be praying for your journey!