My Persistent Prayer for the Church of the Nazarene—Houses of Prayer and Centers of Holy Fire
By Pastor Corey Jones // September 27, 2023


I don’t believe that doctrinal and ecclesiastical reforms, intending to keep the church free from Scriptural error, though necessary, are nearly enough. I’m convinced that contending for doctrinal purity and preservation will not win the day, if we aren’t prepared to wait in prayer for the Spirit behind the doctrines to come in power. I don’t believe that denominational partnerships, even ones I agree with, are sufficient, if the purpose is primarily a defense of doctrines and ethical practices. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need our defense nearly as much as the Spirit requires our desperation. What good is a determined defense of the doctrine of holiness, for example, if the Holy Spirit, who alone makes people holy, doesn’t come in power? What value is there in an accurately articulated message on sanctification, if the presence of the Sanctifier isn’t manifested? If we spend the largest part of our energy defending the doctrines, but not pursuing the Person who gives life to the doctrines and creeds, then all we have in the end is dead orthodoxy (right worship) and lifeless orthopraxy (right practice). Ezekiel’s vision of the wheels would have been nothing without the Spirit within the wheels, giving it power and movement, and this is equally true of our doctrines, especially the doctrine of holiness (Ezekiel 1). After Ezekiel speaks prophetically (which is to pray) to the Breath, and the Spirit fills the dry bones, the Lord says this:


“…I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them..Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’ “—Ezekiel 37:26-28


What makes people holy is the tabernacling presence of a holy God, not how well we defend or even articulate the doctrine of holiness. In truth, we can defend biblical holiness feverishly and yet not have the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst, and the result will be that all of our defenses just come off as defensive, divisive, harsh and critical. We need the Holy Spirit and the only promise of the Spirit’s coming is when we humble ourselves, wait, and pray (Acts 1). The kind of holiness that is produced from waiting in prayer for the Holy Sprit to be manifest is a humble holiness, in the image of the tenderness and meekness of Jesus.


A few years ago I was doing a prayer conference in Sandusky, Ohio at a Nazarene church and a young lady in her twenties, named Lydia, came to me in tears after the service and shared how during that prayer gathering it was the first time that she had ever really felt the presence of God—that God was real—and it was during that gathering that she repented of her life of sin and experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I recall her sobering words to this day. She looked at me with deep sadness in her eyes she said, “I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene and I remember hearing about holiness, but I never experienced it. I heard sermons on sanctification, but never really saw it. I left the church, fell away from God and became an alcoholic.” Truly, if the younger generation doesn’t have holy encounters with a holy God, they will seek to be filled with the unholy spirits of this world.


Presently, there is a cultural and churchly battle raging between progressives and conservatives, but, in truth, both camps have failed the Church in their own way. We have a portrait of the Prodigal Son in our church at Crossroads Tabernacle with over 5,000 names written in red ink—names of people who fell away from faith and calling. During the years we hosted the Awakening Prayer Conference here in Texas, we had thousands of Nazarenes write the names of friends and loved ones on this portrait, who are away from the Lord. Sadly, over the years, I’ve heard hundreds of stories from confused and crushed families who shared that so many of these precious young people on the Prodigal Portrait lost their faith while attending one of our Nazarene universities, with many hundreds abandoning their callings while preparing for ministry. I remember one pastor sharing with me that his son went to one of our schools with a call to ministry and today he won’t allow his father to speak Jesus’ name in his home or around his children. Another pastor shared with me that his daughter went to one of our colleges with a passion to be a Bible translator and she left doubting the authority and truth of the Word and not believing in Jesus. And I’ve lost count how many students left utterly confused about their identity and sexuality. One precious pastor couple are presently ministering to their son to help him recover his sense of gender identity after leaving one of our Nazarene schools, having gone with a clear call from God on his life and not a doubt about his God given gender. I understand that this isn’t the experience of every student or family who attends our universities, and who are called to ministry. It wasn’t my experience at ONU or TNU in the 1990’s, but the numbers and losses are significant enough for us to be concerned and even alarmed. I’m so grateful for my friendship and partnership with Dr. Keith Newman, president of SNU, for his care and attentiveness to these issues, and I trust his spiritual leadership in these days. But, I have been unafraid to publicly share these stories because they are true and we need to humbly repent of these losses, with fear and trembling, realizing that Jesus warns us of the danger of causing little ones to stumble.


With that said, I hold tightly in prayer to what P. F. Bresee and the early Nazarene’s desired and intended for our Nazarene schools:


“Those who look for the work of God to go on through a sanctified church have not forgotten that the young men and women are to be educated, and that it needs to be done under the sacred, hollowed influences of the Holy Ghost. That there should be education where the professors are orthodox, but not that alone, but where they know the fullness of the blessing of Christ, so that the very air of the institution would be filled with the holiest of influences, where every classroom should be as a holy altar, and the gatherings be sweet and holy places where Jesus is the honored Guest. That with such environments our young people should be educated, drinking of the waters of divine love flowing from frequent Pentecosts and holy anointings, that they may go forth to all the varied positions and labors of life, rooted and grounded in truth, which is made [experiential] that their lives shall be luminous and blest.”—P.F. Bresee, Nazarene Messenger, 1910.


Notice that Bresee spoke of every classroom being “a holy altar” marked by “frequent Pentecosts and holy anointings”. The first Nazarenes believed that holy education and holy encounters should go together. I pray that our movement would continue to strive for this in the classroom and in the sanctuary.


With that said, I am increasingly aware that the generational losses didn’t begin in our schools, but they actually originated in our Nazarene churches. I don’t think we fully grasp what generational prayerlessness in many of our churches did to undercut what we preach and believe. There is such a danger talking about Jesus without calling on His name in prayer and expecting Him to come. The reason we so desperately need the Holy Spirit to move in the midst of all our gatherings as a church is because only the Spirit can make Jesus real to us. The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and only the Holy Spirit knows how to make the resurrection of Jesus tangible and experiential, both to us and in us. My conviction is that prayerless churches, marked by infrequent outpourings of the Holy Spirit, what Bresee referred to as God’s “shekinah glory”, and very rarely any holy encounters with the risen Christ, unintentionally reduced holiness to a message to be received rather than a Person to be encountered. Sadly, without fully realizing it, I think in many cases we settled for wise and persuasive words without expecting a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. When people have real encounters with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, where they experience a changed and transformed nature, it’s hard to talk them out of that holy encounter with God. Bresee put it this way:


“The manifest presence of the Holy Ghost will always attract the attention of men and women. It was so on the Day of Pentecost. Many saw it was of God; there was sufficient glory manifested to make clear His presence, and many saw it and feared the testimony. Peter explained a little and held up Jesus. But the Holy Ghost did the work. If there had been no manifest presence of the Holy Ghost, there would have been nothing to explain; there would have been no glory to have transformed the Cross; and no pierced hearts.”–P. F. Bresee


Finally, something that has been terribly lost over the generations by some is the belief that we need the Holy Spirit to come in power in order for holiness to be a reality and a lived experienced in people’s lives. And what’s equally been lost, it seems, is the conviction that the first few generations of Nazarenes had about the priority and place of prayer in order to foster an atmosphere of holiness. We need the Word and the Table, we also desperately need the Altar of corporate prayer. In reading numerous books from the first few generations of Nazarenes, I am amazed by the emphasis on prayer as the key to holiness, and I pray that this emphasis is fully recovered in our days:


“It ought to be evident that the way of life from the world is by the coming of the Holy Ghost upon believers, that the main business of believers is to pray heaven down upon their souls, until the heavenly glory cannot be received, so abundant the tide of divine manifestation.”—P. F. Bresee


And so my prayer for the Church of the Nazarene is what Bresee envisioned, that every church would be a house of prayer and a center of holy fire, which I believe will have the effect of preserving and empowering our holiness message in doctrine and practice:


“How are we to reach men–men of all classes? By having the mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost on the souls of believers, making centers of fire, putting those under awakening who are round about, and then hold up Christ who draws men unto himself. This is God’s way, and every other will ultimately fail, but this will always succeed.”–P.F. Bresee

Prodigal Portrait with 5000 names written in red ink