When we have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only UW to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. “-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“There is a yawning hole in the psyche of America where our sense of common purpose, of community and connection, of hope and spiritual satisfaction should be. “-New York Times columnist, Anna Quindlen
“Everyone I know is lonely/My God’s so far away/And my heart belongs to no one/So now sometimes I pray/Please take this space between us/And fill it up some way”-Sting, “3 O’clock Shot”
In his book, The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty, Dr. David Myers (Professor of Psychology at Hope College) poses the question:
“Are such voices harbingers of spiritual renewal?” Are these paradoxes in our society signs of hope for a significant spiritual awakening?
Those of us who are praying daily for God-given revival in our generation should heed the paradox Myers has uncovered: a spiritual vacuum exists amidst unprecedented prosperity He writes: “We now have espresso coffee, the World Wide Web, sport utility vehicles, and caller ID. And we have less happiness, more depression, more fragile relationships, less communal commitment, less vocational security, more crimes, and more demoralized children.”
“Nature abhors a vacuum.” Something will eventually rush in to fill it. In the case of a spiritual vacuum, what will rush in? New Age phenomenon? Astrology? Eastern mysticism? Islamic fundamentalism? The occult? Base hedonism? Voracious materialism? Feverish nationalism? Nihilism? Or a fresh habitation of the living God, fed by what only His Son can offer to such a hunger as ours?
Unaddressed vacuums can produce frightful consequences. In Luke 11, Jesus tells of a house swept clean of demons. Finding it left empty many more evil spirits returned and took up residence, producing conditions far worse. In Luke 19, Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it had failed to recognize “the time of God’s coming to you,” the remedy for its desolation and destruction. According to Revelation 18-19, quenching her thirst with a cup full of abominations rather than the “testimony of Jesus” brings Babylon more than she bargained for. “She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit” (18:2).
When the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch “did not consider [itself] worthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46-52), Paul shook the dust off his feet when he left, saying in essence, “Since you refuse to be satisfied with Christ, whatever does fill you will turn to dust.”
Believers Meet Vacuums
The spiritual vacuum has been met repeatedly by previous generations of believers. The Dark Ages gave rise to the monastic orders. The Reformation was born out of the excesses of the Renaissance. The Industrial Revolution brought about Christian outreach to the sick, mentally ill, poor, illiterate, orphans, prisoners, and exploited children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the confessing church movement confronted the black hole created by Nazi Germany Thousands of African-American congregations have redemptively impacted the wastelands created by the urbanization of America.
The challenge continues to be met today as hundreds of Christian organizations and teams of committed believers invade the spiritual vacuum of their generation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they’ve tackled straight on the deepest spiritual hungers of whole nations with the gospel and glory of Christ.
I see the prayer movement in our country today-in all its diverse and dynamic forms-as a formidable”delivery system” of Christ-centered breakthroughs into America’s search for spiritual replenishment. I’ve especially seen it happen as the hundreds of churches in the 15-year-old prayer movement in New York City have aggressively addressed, by praying and caring and sharing, the hurt of our city since last September.
And I have high hopes that we’ll see it during the National Day of Prayer (May 2), which will address our nation’s hunger with the theme “America United Under God.” From Capitol Hill in the morning to the Nationally Broadcast Concert of Prayer in the evening, and in thousands of settings nationwide, this one day alone can reassure tens of millions of Americans with the great hope that our deepest longings can be satisfied in Christ when we seek Him together in prayer with childlike faith.
So, intercessors: abhor all spiritual vacuums! As Solzhenitsyn once told Harvard University “We have reached a major watershed in history. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze.” Let’s be that blaze, fired with expectant revival praying, until we see multitudes of empty hearts satiated with the truth and fullness found in Christ alone.