And into that fear stepped maybe the most important person you’ve never heard of: an English physician named John Snow. Snow, helped by a Reverend named Henry Whitehead, was treating victims of the outbreak when he made an earth-shattering discovery: all the victims, regardless of where they lived, had drawn and used water from the same well pump on Broad Street. Although the limits of microbiology at the time meant that he couldn’t prove conclusively that the pump was responsible, he was able to convince the local authorities to remove the handle of the Broad Street pump. When the handle was removed, the outbreak quickly ended.
Dr. Snow is considered the father of epidemiology, and his discoveries lead to one of the most important breakthroughs in the modern world: the idea that poor sanitation leads to the transmission of disease. His influence lead many major cities in the Western World to invest heavily in sanitation infrastructure in the second half of the 19th Century, and if you track life expectancy trends in the Western World you will find that they have doubled since the implementation of modern sanitation.
All this progress happened because Dr. Snow discovered something powerful: what we allow into our bodies, even if it is microscopic, can make a big difference. So, we should make sure we have a filter. The same is true for our souls.
This principle is worth considering as we enter a season of prayer, because 21 days of prayer is intense. Many of us are fasting, reading multiple hours of scripture, and gathering daily to seek the presence of God in order to get a greater, deeper and more powerful experience of the presence of God.
But greater presence always demands greater sacrifice.
Greater presence always demands greater sacrifice.
This is true all throughout scripture, and a great example of this comes from Exodus 19, when God is about to renew his covenant with his people through Moses, and verse 12 he tells Moses to do something very strange, “Mark off a boundary all around the mountain. Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death.”
Now that seems a bit harsh for the God of love and grace. But remember, He is also the holy and eternal King over all creation. And because of this, there are certain things that he will not allow to be brought into his presence.
That’s the challenge of prayer. Prayer begins as a conversation with God, but as you pursue the life of prayer you discover that prayer is a greater revelation of the spiritual truth revealed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6, that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The God of the universe wants to make your life His dwelling place. This is why a greater experience of the presence of the holy God of heaven demands a greater degree of holiness. Because God sees the sin that seems microscopic to you and me for what it is; an affront to his nature that is slowly poisoning our souls from the inside out. And he will not allow it into his presence.
It’s not that God doesn’t love you, it’s that God has standards about where is presence will dwell.
So, as we ask God for revival, it is worth remembering that every documented revival that we have record of included an embrace of a greater degree of personal holiness. Not so that God will love us, the cross already proves that he does. But a pursuit of holiness is what he is worthy of. As we journey together in prayer, I would encourage you to ask God for the gift of conviction. Allow him to place his finger on an area or two of your life that he wants to change. Because you have not been left alone to struggle, you have been given the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit. And with God, all things are possible.