A Biblical Basis for Global Worship and Prayer

This post is part of the Series "God's Goal for Prayer and Missions in the Global Church"

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One of the most prominent trends at the end of the age is a global movement of worship and intercession. God has designed that the age will end in an extravagant demonstration of worship and prayer as a gift of love to Jesus accompanied by unequalled intercession. This intercession will be one of the primary means by which the church cooperates with God in His plan to end the age. The church, in unison, will cry out with the Spirit for Jesus to return.

17And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17 NKJV)

The first time Jesus came only a handful of people perceiving the significance of His appearing. Men were so silent at His birth, that the angels could not restrain themselves and erupted in praise to announce the coming of the Divine Son.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13–14 NKJV)

The angels will again sing their songs again at His second coming (Revelation 5:9-13; 12:10-12), but this time it is accompanied by the songs of multitudes of men (Revelation 7:9-12; 15:2-4; 19:1-2, 6-7). Jesus will return to a global chorus of worship and prayer both in heaven and on the earth – both from men and angels. This time angels will struggle to keep up with the chorus of worship that will erupt from saints in heaven and on the earth.

The Father has prepared an elaborate and extravagant welcome for Jesus at the end of the age, and in the darkest hour of human history when wicked men are resisting Him most, there will be a company from the ends of the earth singing songs of love and longing asking Jesus to come. The Father will not send Jesus until this global welcoming party is in place (Isaiah 42:10-14).

It is not a coincidence that the same generation that is focusing on fulfilling Matthew 24:14 is also being moved on by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the prophecies regarding global worship and prayer. Worship and prayer is part of the final thrust of world missions and this is why missions movements all over the earth are all considering how to incorporate a culture of prayer in their ministry expressions in the nations. It is important that we recognize the leadership of the Holy Spirit and understand what the Bible predicts will happen in the nations leading up to the Lord’s return. To have a complete missiology, these verses must become a part of our missiological objectives.

Malachi 1:11

11For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11 NKJV)

Malachi predicts an event that has yet to happen in human history, but will happen before Jesus returns. Malachi’s prediction is the result of missions in the nations. Malachi predicts that, as a sign to Israel, the God of Israel will be adored and magnified by gentiles even before He is adored by all of Israel. This adoration will be a provocation for Israel as gentiles take up the priestly ministry with great zeal.

According to J. G. Baldwin the phrase “from the rising to the setting of the sun” used in Malachi 1:11 is found elsewhere in the Bible “in contexts which look towards an eschatological demonstration of the Lord’s person to the whole inhabited earth” (cf. Psalm 50:1; 113:3; Isaiah 45:6).[1] In other words, this specific phrase is tied to the Lord’s demonstration of His own person to the nations at the end of the age.

Malachi’s use of this phrase in his prophecy ties the second coming directly to a display of worship and prayer throughout the nations of the earth. The fact that worship exists from the rising to the setting of the sun points to how extravagant this display will be. It will not be easily overlooked. It will take significant resources, be a primary initiative of the church, and even require individuals whose primary vocation is to maintain public incense and worship among the nations. The church across the earth will have to embrace God’s agenda to have an offering of worship and prayer so extravagant and so visible that Israel can look upon it as a sign designed to provoke them to their own salvation.

Matthew predicts that Israel will respond with the gentiles in worship at the appearing of Jesus. The triumphal entry in Matthew 21 serves as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the end of the age. As Jesus enters the city just before His crucifixion, multitudes welcome Him into the city through song, crying out of His worth and singing the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 118:26.

9Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 NKJV)

The worship of Jerusalem in Matthew 21 was a sign of a day to come. A day that Jesus predicts in Matthew 23:39:

39for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Matthew 23:39 NKJV)

Jesus prophesied that He would return to Jerusalem in power only when the people worshipped and welcomed Him. Jesus connects the worship Israel gave Him when He entered Jerusalem just before His death to the worship that He will receive when He enters the city in the future to begin to rule and reign. Their worship was an eschatological sign and He will not enter the city again without it. Both the nations and Israel will be welcoming Jesus with extravagant songs when He returns. Missions exists to see that emerge in the nations.

Isaiah 24

Isaiah also summarizes a global worship movement at the end of the age. In Isaiah 24, Isaiah graphically records the devastation that accompanies both the actions of the antichrist and the end-time judgments of God.

1Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, Distorts its surface And scatters abroad its inhabitants…4The earth mourns and fades away, The world languishes and fades away; The haughty people of the earth languish. 5The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant. 6Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, And those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, And few men are left. (Isaiah 24:1, 4–6 NKJV)

Isaiah specifically tells us that, in that day, the songs of men fail because of the magnitude of the judgments of that hour. The songs of vanity are no longer being sung.

7The new wine fails, the vine languishes, All the merry-hearted sigh. 8The mirth of the tambourine ceases, The noise of the jubilant ends, The joy of the harp ceases. 9They shall not drink wine with a song; Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. (Isaiah 24:7–9 NKJV)

However, amidst all the destruction that comes, an eschatological sign is visible on the earth. A sweet-smelling fragrance arises to the Lord. He hears songs welcoming Him back to the earth.

14They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; For the majesty of the Lord They shall cry aloud from the sea. 15Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light, The name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. 16From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: “Glory to the righteous!” But I said, “I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me! The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously, Indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.” (Isaiah 24:14–16 NKJV)

During the most devastating hour of human history, Isaiah hears and sees what Malachi prophesied. Among the nations there is a singing remnant that can be heard from the ends of the earth. All among the nations there is an expression of worship from believers who are unoffended and sing for His return rather than complain at the pressure of their trial.

The language that Isaiah uses shows that this is a global phenomenon. It is not a small company of people and it is not isolated to a small region. From the very ends of the earth singing can be heard. Across the planet, there is a strong, singing company and it is the global church in her finest hour, welcoming the King because desire for Him far eclipses any mourning at their tribulation. This is a significant theme in Isaiah and Isaiah prophesied concerning singing at the end of the age over 100 times (Isaiah 5:1-7; 6:3; 9:3; 12:1-6; 14:3-27; 24:14-16; 25:1; 26:1-6; 27:2- 5, 13; 29:19; 30:29-30; 35:1-10; 38:19-20; 42:10-17; 43:21; 44:23; 48:20-21; 49:13; 51:3, 11; 52:8-10; 54:1; 55:12; 56:7-8; 60:18; 61:3, 7-11; 62:6-7, 9; 63:7; 65:13-14; 66:10-14, 21).

Isaiah 42

One of Isaiah’s most dramatic prophecies is found in Isaiah 42 where Isaiah directly connects the return of Jesus to singing across the earth.

10Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise from the ends of the earth, You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, You coastlands and you inhabitants of them! 11Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, The villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, Let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12Let them give glory to the Lord, And declare His praise in the coastlands. 13The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. 14“I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once. 15I will lay waste the mountains and hills, And dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, And I will dry up the pools. 16I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:10–16 NKJV)

Isaiah’s language describes a visible, global movement of singing all over the earth. The language of his prophecy shows it is a global phenomenon, something unequalled in human history. Worship erupts from the ends of the earth, through the wilderness and through cities. The tops of the mountains and the coastlands both are described as being filled with singing.

According to Isaiah 42 singing is not just a sign of the end of the age, it is one of the factors that causes Jesus to return in glory (Isaiah 42:12-13). His long “silence” is broken in response to the singing of His people all across the earth. Because the church refuses to hold her peace, He now refuses to hold His peace and be silent (Isaiah 42:14). Suddenly the King of Glory emerges on the scene with eschatological judgments and justice all because He could not resist answering the cry of a singing church.

There is a clear parallel between the church on the earth and Jesus’ response in heaven. The church is crying out, so He will cry out. The church is refusing to be silent, so He will refuse to be silent. The church has “held its peace” for a long time being content with Jesus’ absence and the promise of a long-distant return, but a day will come when the church decides His absence is not permanent and refuses to hold its peace until He appears. Jesus will respond to this cry and He will answer the church’s invitation with a shout that is compared to the cry of labor and transition the age.

The comparison of Jesus’ response to a woman in labor is also an indicator of the nature of the singing of the church in this generation. A woman in labor cannot be silenced. She does not care what anyone thinks or cares. She is consumed by the birth event and she cries out loudly and unrestrained. She is focused on a birth that must come. She knows that is cannot and must not be restrained. Her only goal is to accelerate that event and to get to the conclusion of it. A loud and unrestrained cry will mark both the church’s invitation for Jesus to return and His response to that invitation. Corporate, visible, and extravagant singing marks the church in the last generation. Though they are living in the most difficult hour of human history, they are singing songs of worship and praise from unoffended hearts that are primarily concerned, not with the pain of their trial, but with the pain of Jesus’ absence.

Jesus’ great humility allowed Him to come the first time and be virtually unheralded and largely ignored. The Father’s heart is filled with such zeal for His Son that He will see to it that His Son returns to a passionate welcome. He will not allow His Son to again endure the indignity of His first coming. He was sent and rejected the first time. Because the Son endured that, the Father will ensure that His second coming is by invitation from a white hot worship movement all over the earth who are content with nothing less than the Son’s appearing. It is a love offering by Father, the Spirit, and the church for the divine Son. The Father will not send His Son again without this welcome.

Zechariah 2

Zechariah commands the nations to join with Israel in great song before Jesus’ return. Zechariah essentially reaffirms the prophecy of Isaiah 42:14. As in Isaiah, this singing will bring God from His holy habitation and cause Him to return and ultimately dwell among the people. Zechariah 2:13 tells us that global singing will give way to global awe and silence as the object of our singing comes from His place and takes center stage.

10Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. 11“Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. 12And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. 13Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!” (Zechariah 2:10–13 NKJV)

Romans 15

Singing was Paul’s objective in his labor among the gentiles. In Romans 15, he summarized his mission as a mission to get the gentiles singing to the God of Israel.

8Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9and that the gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the gentiles, And sing to Your name.” 10And again he says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” 11And again: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” 12And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the gentiles, In Him the gentiles shall hope.” (Romans 15:8–12 NKJV)

Luke 18

In Luke 18 Jesus teaches persistence in prayer through a parable. In the parable the widow is determined to obtain justice from the judge so she refuses to give up. She continues asking and the judge acts on her behalf because she is persistent and he knows she will not stop until he acts.

1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” (Luke 18:1–5 NKJV)

Jesus contrasts the heart of God with the heart of the unjust judge in verse 7. If the unjust judge acts because of the widow’s persistence, how much more will God respond to our persistent cry?

7And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? (Luke 18:7 NKJV)

God’s “bearing long” is not simply a refusal to answer, but rather a phrase that indicates that God is enduring the pain of the delay as much as we are. Though He contrasted the heart of the judge with the heart of God, He used the judge to make a point about how He would release ultimate justice. He is not unmoved by our situation. He is longing for the same resolution that we are, but in the mystery of His partnership with us He is waiting for our cry because it plays a significant role in His answer.

Justice at the end of the age requires the appearance of the judge. The woman in the parable needed the judge to act on her behalf, and for the earth to truly receive justice the Judge must be among us. He alone can rule the earth rightly and He alone can release true justice. The true cry for justice is the cry for Jesus. The widow obtained justice because the judge knew her intercession would not stop until she received her heart’s desire. This is the critical ingredient in corporate intercession. Contending prayer is good, but the prayer movement must decide to contend, not just until something happens, but until Someone appears. Because we do not know the day or hour of His appearing, this is what makes this intercession such a precious offering to Him. It will be a sign and wonder on the earth when, all across the earth, the church makes an agreement to stay in intercession, no matter what, until Jesus appears.

Jesus finishes the parable by asking a critical question:

8I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NKJV)

His final question is provoking. Will He find “faith?” In other words will He find a company like the widow who has set their hearts to cry out until the Judge appears? Jesus defines faith as persistent, hope filled intercession that continues until He appears.

Prayer and Worship in the End Times

It is impossible to read the book of Revelation and not notice the prominence of worship and prayer at the end of the age. At critical moments in the revelation John sees that bowls of incense, defined as the prayers of the saints, are what actually trigger events on the earth. The events in Revelation do not occur in a vacuum; God executes His plan in partnership with a church that engages with Him through intercession and worship.

8Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:8–10 NKJV)

3Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:3–5 NKJV)

3They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! (Revelation 15:3 NKJV)

In addition to prayer, Revelation is filled with worship and singing. Repeatedly throughout the book there are pictures of extravagant worship and singing breaking out in the heavens over the unfolding of God’s plan (Revelation 4:8; 10-11; 5:8-14; 7:11-12; 8:3-4; 11:15-19; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-6; 18:20; 19:1-7). If they heavens are singing and the church is in partnership with heaven through intercession, then the church on the earth at the end of the age is certainly marked by worship and singing as well.

The Scripture concludes in Revelation with a promise that the Spirit would orchestrate a corporate cry for Jesus’ exaltation on the earth.

16“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” 17And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:16–17 NKJV)

The church that longs for Jesus’ return will reorganize its ministry to express this corporate cry, because the church was always to intended to minister to God first and foremost. If the book of Revelation tells us that this is the way the church will express itself at the end of the age, then it is a clear, missiological objective that we should work towards.

[1] J. G. Baldwin, “Malachi 1:11 and the Worship of the Nations in the Old Testament,” TynBul 23 (1972): 122. See also Achtemeier, Nahum—Malachi, 177–78; B. Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger. SBLDS (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), 55–61.

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