Beyond “The Call”
The Call was a national prayer event that was held at Titans Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on July 7, 2007. Christian leaders called a 40 day fast in preparation for this event.
By Mike Natt
We have all heard the cliché “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. I know something about marathons (26.2 mile races). Although I have meager natural athletic ability, I have completed 120 distance races including 15 marathons during the past 18 years. I say “meager” because I have never finished in the top half of a race. I even finished dead last in the 1999 Jackpine Classic 25K in Bemidji, Minnesota. I may have finished last, but at least I finished the race!
I blame my (perhaps misguided) passion for distance running on my 5th grade friend, Mark Schlosberg. Mark was the wise guy in my group of friends (in the good sense, he was wise beyond his years). Mark told me once, “Mike, you are not the strongest, you are not the fastest, but you have the most endurance”. Thanks Mark, for setting the course (no pun intended) for my life! Whether marathons or 40 day fasts, I seem to be drawn to activities that demand a high degree of endurance.
However, I laud my friend Randy Kastler as “Mr. Endurance”. Randy, a tri-athlete, recently had a flat tire nine miles from the end of the bicycle course. Rather than drop out of the race and ring up his first DNF (did not finish), Randy ala Hebrews 12:2, for the finish line set before him, endured the flat, despising a DNF, ran his bike nine miles to the running transition area so that he could drop off his ailing bike and then run the final 10K to the finish line. He even managed to pass a few back of the pack athletes and avoid joining me as a last place finisher.
I know something else about running marathons. I experienced an emotional letdown after I completed my first marathon. Six months of discipline and training were over, the crowds were gone, my focus was gone, the camaraderie of my training partners dissipated, and it was back to normal life (junk food and all). However, it is at this time when one decides whether he or she is content to just run a marathon or whether he or she decides to become a marathoner. I decided that I was a marathoner.
I am also a finisher beyond “The Call”. Paul was one too.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7).
He said this despite repeated beatings, sleepless nights, comrades forsaking him, and facing rejection from some of the churches for whom he poured out his life. Paul, like Randy, despised DNFs and finished his race strong.
Jesus calls us to be finishers also.
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Mark 13:13)
He tells us that we are called to endure and finish strong in spite of challenging end times events. Thank you Mark (Schlosberg, that is) for inspiring me early in life. I hope that your words continue to motivate me to finish my course.
I believe that significant things were accomplished during “The Call”. As Doc Brown joined electrical cords during the lightening storm to propel the Delorian back to the future, so the church was reignited with the vision of our Jamestown ancestors who planted a cross in the soil 400 years ago, dedicating our nation to God.
As one of tens of thousands of Jewish people who were ushered into the Kingdom of God during the Jesus movement that began 40 years ago, I pray that “The Call” will be the beginning of a massive end time revival both for the Jewish people as spoken of by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 12:8-12)and for the youth as spoken of by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29). Beyond “The Call”, this is my ongoing unceasing prayer,
However, I would like to focus on some things that God did in my life (and perhaps yours as well) during the process leading up to “The Call”, and what I believe He is calling us to beyond “The Call”.
1. We Have Comrades In The Call
I worked for a Jewish evangelistic ministry in New York during the late 1970’s back when Jimmy Carter was still president. His sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, was invited to be the keynote speaker at our annual conference. Pressured by her brother President Jimmy Cater, I was told, she backed out of her initial commitment to us. The conference went on, with Jamie Buckingham as her replacement. During the meeting a contingent of young people from the Jewish Defense League broke into the meeting, grabbed a microphone and issued death threats. As a precaution, the ministry set up an all night sentry guard schedule for several weeks. There is a certain bonding that occurs among men at 2:00 AM during challenging times. Even though I haven’t kept in touch with some of these men, I still esteem them as my “true yokefellow” 30 years later.
I recall the words sung by Ted Sandquist, “You give marvelous comrades to me; the faithful who dwell in your land”. During the time leading up to “The Call” I felt connected to many new “true yokefellow” both near and far who joined in this fast and intercession for our nation.
Although I am a “Boomer”, I am comfortable living in the virtual world. I work from home and have been part of a virtual work team for nearly two years, having never met one of my team members in person. The connection is there; albeit via the internet. I was truly blessed to connect with the International House of Prayer (IHOP) Virtual Prayer Room during this time where I joined in many hours of worship and intercession.
In Nehemiah’s day families worked as one nation, though geographically separated, to rebuild different sections of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Sometimes we can feel isolated and disconnected from others, and utter misinformed complaints to God as Elijah did.
So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1 Kings 19:10)
God did two things for Elijah. He reassured Elijah that he was part of a larger contingent of 7000 who remained faithful to God. Then God brought an individual into Elijah’s life with whom he could bond. We too need to be joined to both the larger body of Christ and its local expression for the strength and encouragement necessary to continue the battle.
Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat (1 Kings 19:18-19)
2. Fasting For Mortals
This was my first 40 day fast. Endurance athletes, even slow ones, are not known for sparing the carbs. Extended fasts are particularly challenging when you work in the marketplace (even if it based is in your own house) and need to stay somewhat grounded in order to interact with others to get your work done. This is how it worked out for me: I felt that God spoke to me to set aside the period between April 20th and June 20th as a time of deeper consecration. This is before I knew about the 40 day fast related to “The Call”. I fasted several days during the period between April 20th and May 10th. Then on May 11th, I felt that the Lord called me to a “Galloway” fast for the remaining 40 days.
Let me explain. Jeff Galloway was a U.S. Olympic marathoner during the early running boom of the 1970’s. These were the days when running a marathon meant running a marathon (no walking allowed) Later in life, Jeff developed a run/walk training program where you take walk breaks during your runs. For example, you walk one minute after every four minutes of running. This is called doing fours and ones. Diehard marathoners might frown on this, but Jeff’s training method has enabled countless “normal” people to finish a marathon.
Following Jeff’s methodology, I purposed in my heart to drink liquids and eat ten meals during these 40 days. I am not sure how diehard 40 day fasters like Moses and Elijah would look at this, but it worked well for me and enabled me to finish my first 40 day “race”. No DNF for me! By the way, I fasted an additional five days during the week leading up to “The Call” to atone for my slackness in eating ten meals during my fast. I hope that this counts, Moses (and Elijah).
3. Pressing On
We need to have the same attitude that Paul had. Twice in the following passage he makes it clear that he has not “arrived”, but he continues to press on. We need to have the same mind as Paul and realize that even though we might have finished a race, we are marathoners, and there is a lot of road ahead of us.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:12-16)
4. True Intercession
I believe the Lord wants to transform me and my prayer life. I am still way too focused on my own needs. My heart is not touched with the feelings of other’s weaknesses as Christ’s heart is (Hebrews 4:15). It is not that my heart is totally calloused. I can say “amen” to this statement:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
But not to the following one; this is well beyond where I am, but definitely where I need to be.
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3)
As I worked through these issues during my time of prayer and fasting, I had an amazing revelation. I have a greater desire to pray for others as I pray for others. In other words, just do it, and your capacity to pray for others will grow. This is still a struggle, despite the tremendous power that is released when we pray for others. As Daniel interceded for his nation, God gave him an amazing revelation of the time the Messiah would come. During one particular time of breakthrough, God gave me a very specific word for a church I was praying for. As a prophetic guy, I LOVE to receive clear words from the Lord. God wants to bring me into a greater intimacy with Him. He spoke in visions and parables to many prophets, but He spoke face to face with His servant Moses. Some saw God’s works, but Moses knew God’s ways.
God wants to mature us in our role as intercessors.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)
Back to running analogies - A heart rate monitor shows you whether or not you are operating in your target heart rate zone. In my life as an intercessor, I sometimes hit my target heart rate in praying for others, but I don’t consistently run in this zone.
5. Beyond Revelation
When I fast, I deny my physical cravings that I might concentrate on my spiritual life. Therefore, I am usually more receptive to revelations both from the Scriptures and by the Spirit. And yes, there were some powerful revelations in the first week of my fast, but they kind of leveled off. God is not interested in just imparting revelations to me, He wants to change me and bring me into greater conformity to His character and into a greater intimacy with Him. So much of my experience during these days of fasting was a continuous call to the cross. This is what Paul yearned for.
… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10)
I want to walk in the power of His resurrection, but I also yearn, beyond my natural inclination, to experience a deeper working of His cross in my life.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)
Do I seek God just to receive more from Him, or am I content to be with Him? Thank God for revelations, I live by these words that proceed from His mouth, but what I take out of this experience is a longing to just be with God and worship Him.
6. The Root Canal Effect
Thank God I have only had one root canal in my life; and that was 30 years ago. I boast of my running accomplishments and the pain I have endured in order to complete a marathon. I look at the winners who can complete a marathon in under two hours and ten minutes, and I think that anyone can run a marathon in two hours and change, but how many can run a marathon in five hours? Nevertheless, marathon pain does not compare (so I am told) to the pain involved in giving birth to a child.
I know of one ultra-marathoner who ran 62 miles in a 24 hour period and gave birth to a son the next day; she appropriately named him Miles. 62 miles is nothing for her, she normally runs more than 100 miles in this 24 hour event, but took it easy that year because she was nine months pregnant.
Back to something more pleasant – root canals. Maybe the technology has improved in 30 years. I am not eager to find out. I remember that this procedure, the most painful thing I have ever endured, took three sessions to complete. The dentist couldn’t clean out the entire root in one shot, so he performed this by a series of deeper intrusions into my nerve system scheduled over several weeks until the job was done.
Here’s the application. I believe the Lord, like my dentist, knows how much I can handle, so he schedules these invasive procedures according to His wisdom. God got to some areas in my life during this period of dedication to Him, but He has more work to do and I believe he has these sessions scheduled for me in His appointment book.
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)
7. Youth Movement
When a sports team realizes that their chances of winning their respective championship are out of reach, they often go into a rebuilding phase. A rebuilding phase means that the team will reduce the playing time of their older veteran players so that the younger players can get more experience. The manager of the team hopes that the increased experience will pay off in future years when the team can once again compete for a championship. This process is also called a youth movement. I don’t believe that God has given up on Boomers, but I realize that much of what is taking place in the area of 24x7 prayer is being initiated and staffed by young people. The very children that many of my generational cohorts have discarded through marital abandonment or abortion are rising up in the Kingdom of God. This is a good thing. I am encouraged by the zeal and sincere devotion exhibited by this generation. Not too long ago, I was a youth myself. Joshuas and Calebs are still needed to lead the way, but God is definitely doing something powerful with the Gen X generation.
8. The Job Is Not Done Until It Is Done
We are instructed to pray until either our prayer is answered or the burden lifts. I believe we have experienced and will continue to experience more spiritual breakthroughs as a result of obeying Him in “The Call”, but the job is not done.
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. (Isaiah 62:1)
He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; (Isaiah 42:4)
We may have slain the giant Baal at “The Call”, but there is more plundering that needs to be done in the camp of the enemy.
And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents.
9. The Call To Incarnational Ministry
Being a disciplined introvert, I excel at activities related to prayer and the study and meditation of the Word. However, I need to grow up into Christ in all things (Ephesians 4:15). There are times to go up the mountain to be with the Lord, and there are times to follow Him down the mountain to minister to the people below. During my 40 days fast, I actually had to go out of my house a few times and run some errands! During these times I felt a particular sensitivity and unction to interact with people. From post office clerks, to department store salesman, to people waiting in line with me at the supermarket, the Spirit was actively working through me to engage people in conversation.
I sense a greater call to this type of incarnational ministry. I believe that there will be a greater anointing and release of the gifts of the Spirit outside of the church walls than inside. This is a shift that the Spirit of the Lord is doing. There’s a revelation for you!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18)
We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)
One encouraging trend I have recently learned about is the movement of prophetic ministry into New Age venues. Christians often avoid New Agers like the plague, falsely believing that they will catch some contagious spiritual disease if they interact with these folks. John Paul Jackson and others have reported some amazing results as they have proclaimed the gospel and released the power of God to save, heal and deliver lost sheep who have found the true Light in places like the Burning Man, a New Age festival held annually in Nevada, which attracts thousands. I am well aware of the dangers involved in going into these environments unprepared (Acts 19:13-17). However, we are called to set the captives free by the power of the Holy Spirit [Who is greater in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)].
10. Pray Without Ceasing
I come from a Jewish background, so I had no doctrinal predisposition for or against any of the gifts of the Spirit. When I was told about the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues several days after my salvation, I received it gladly. I have had some periods when I have been less active in expressing this, but I have been growing in my capacity and expression to pray in the Spirit with fluency and multiple dialects in order to fully express myself to God in prayer. I have found that a combination of praying with my understanding and with the unknown languages of the Spirit enables me to fulfill my calling to pray without ceasing. So, as a refresher for some, and perhaps something new for others, here are a few reasons why exercising the gift of tongues is an essential tool available to believers for the work of intercession:
a. To Praise God
For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (Acts 10:46)
We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! (Acts 2:11)
b. To Build Ourselves Up Spiritually
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself. (1 Corinthians 14:4)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20)
c. To Pray According To The Will Of God
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
d. To Speak Mysteries
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. (1 Corinthians 14:2)
There is no emotional letdown for me now after my first 40 day fast. So where do I sign up for my next one? I am a marathoner.