Christians participating in a 21-day period of fasting and praying have been encouraged virtually by well-known pastors, including Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Brian Houston of Hillsong Church.
The Awakening initiative, led by Pastor Stovall Weems of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Fla., is already in its 18th day. And the hundreds of thousands of participants are being told to get back to falling in love with Jesus again.
"The problem is today many Christians are lethargic, they're burned out and they're living lives no different than those of unbelievers," said Warren in his brief video greeting to Awakening participants. "They need to fall in love with Jesus all over again. That's what awakening is all about – getting close to Jesus Christ."
This is the third year that the Awakening is taking place. More than 1,040 churches, representing more than 1 million people around the world, have joined to pray and fast for the purpose of drawing closer to God. And this year, the initiative added a 21-day virtual conference with inspiring messages from over 70 influential church leaders.
In a message broadcast this week, Warren read a letter he received from a Christian leader some time ago. The unidentified leader expressed frustrations with "going through the motions," "business as usual" and boredom.
"That represents a lot of people who need a fresh awakening of God in their heart," Warren said. And an awakening happens "when we fall in love with Jesus again."
"Life is all about love," the Southern California pastor highlighted, citing the two greatest commandments Jesus identified – to love God and to love your neighbor.
Warren noted that when Christians stop spending time with God, it is noticeable, especially as it comes out in one's attitude.
Speaking from experience, he explained, "If I don't spend time with God that day, I know it. If I don't spend time with God for a couple of days, my wife begins to notice. If I don't spend time with God for about a week, everybody else notices. It comes out in my attitude because I'm sharp, I'm not loving, I'm critical, I'm impatient, I can be cranky."
Warren continued, "[But] when you are filled with love it pushes all those things out the back door. The only way you get that love is spending time with Jesus."
Setting up a challenge for Christians, he called them to make a personal declaration of dependence upon Jesus Christ again just as he did.
He read aloud a personal allegiance he wrote to Jesus a few years ago.
"I'm tired of waffling and I'm finished with wavering. … I'm going God's way; there's no turning back. … I will live the rest of my life serving God's purposes. … I refuse to waste anymore time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, .... useless regretting, ... or faithless worrying.
"I'll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today … Whatever it takes Lord, I want to be used by you in such a way that on that final day I'll hear you say 'well done now good and faithful one, come on in and let the eternal party begin."
Other speakers featured during the virtual Awakening conference include Houston, Pastor Larry Stockstill of Bethany World Prayer Center and Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas.
In his brief message, Houston underscored the significance of prayer. "I believe that when you pray you bring an extraordinary God into your very ordinary circumstances."
Pastor Weems, who has fasted periodically for over 20 years, chose 21 days for the Awakening because that is the number of days Daniel fasted when he was under the rule of Babylonian kings. He also made reference to the fact that according to psychologists and doctors, 21 days is the ideal time to start a new habit and cast aside old ones. Weems reminded Christians that both prayer and fasting are needed and are powerful weapons in the life of a believer.
"Prayer connects us to God and fasting disconnects us from the world," he said.
The 21 days of prayer, fasting and devotion ends January 30 with virtual talks from Jason Bolin of Trinity Chapel Church in Powder Springs, Ga., Billy Wilson of Metro Ministries in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Weems.
On the Web: http://www.awake21.org/