Lou Engle's heart for California has simmered for decades, but in recent yearsas the legislature and courts have made measured steps toward the legalization of same-sex marriage and the promotion of other gay-rights issueshis heart is ablaze.
"We are calling the whole state of California together to unite in fasting and praying because when there is crisis in our nation, God's prescription is fasting and praying," Engle said in a phone interview.
The gathering, called The Call, will conclude a 40-day fasting period for California that begins Sept. 24. Christians are being asked to fast in some way, either the entire 40 days or perhaps by using team relays to cover the entire 40 days. Running parallel to the 40-day fast is a 100-day prayer effort, which was scheduled to start July 28.
The Call will be held Nov. 1 at Qualcomm Stadium, at the end of the 40-day fast cycle and just three days before the November election.
Although Engle and his ministry, Justice House of Prayer, have held similar Call events around the globe, this is the first time he has been invited into a community by a group of pastors. Pastors and Christians from across the state are asked to attend the event.
Engle is quick to point out that the gathering is not a festival, but rather a 12-hour gathering that will focus on prayer and fasting. A trademark of the event is that the people appearing are not named in advance so that the emphasis remains on the prayer movement and not on individuals.
"We'll be crying for mercy and repentance for the church where it has failed in sustaining and protecting marriage," Engle said. "We are not pointing the finger in anger; we are asking God to intervene. Where there is no remedy, God still has a holy prescription."
Engle was asked to come to San Diego last fall as a network of pastors began meeting to decide how to counter a push toward same-sex marriage. Although voters approved a measure to protect traditional marriage in 2000, the state Supreme Court had been considering a case to overturn the measure. Afraid the court would set aside the people's vote, the pastoral leaders began a push to get a marriage protection amendment on the November ballot.
"They called me and said, 'We know this is a spiritual battle. Will you bring The Call? Will you bring prayer and fasting to our area?'"
Engle was ready.
For more than 20 years he had been praying for a spiritual awakening in California, where his ministry was based until heading east several years ago. In 2002, while on a visit here, Engle said he was led in the Spirit to start a 40-day fast, mostly consisting of water.
"I prayed that He would restrain these fundamental bills that are tearing at the foundation of our society," he said. "I prayed that God would break through California."
A couple of years later, during another visit, Engle said he was speaking at an ethnic church in San Francisco when a dapper looking politico entered the church. Although Engle did not know the man, he said the crowd obviously did and warmly welcomed him. Engle did not get the same vibe, saying he was "agitated in the spirit."
Before the end of the service, Engle said he leaned over the politician, offering a prayer in the vein of "all government is derived from your government, Lord. Let this man know he will be held accountable for everything he does under the government of God."
"The prayer was for moral righteousness and justice, ending abortion and resisting the homosexual movement," Engle said.
Two weeks later, Engle saw photos of the man he prayed forSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the steps of City Hall. There, just 36 days into his term, he defied state law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
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Although the Supreme Court later invalidated those marriages, the legal case moved forward. In May, the court did overturn Proposition 22, paving the way for gay marriages to begin a month later.
"In many ways he (Newsom) has awakened the church," Engle said, adding that the Christian community is not buying the mayor's recent assessment that gay marriage is "inevitable. The door is now open; it's going to sweep across America."
In mid-June, several days after the gay marriages began by order of the Supreme Court, Newsom announced his intention to pursue a possible bid for governor.
Engle said it's important, however, for Christians to remember that the source of the battle is not Newsom or other gay advocates.
"It's not against the people," he said. "We are praying for the people, but (the target is) the ideology."
Because California is considered an American trendsetter, Engle said the stakes are so high that this fall could become a significant moment in history.
"We are battling for the soul of the nation," the prayer leader said. "It's a movement of prayer on the earth. God is raising it up because of all the darkness around us, but there is also light."
For more information on The Call, visit www.thecall.com.