Revival is the work of God, not of a tradition of men. “We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church,” Lloyd-Jones observed. “Revival means awakening, stimulating the life, bringing it to the surface again.”
Five Reasons to Pray for Revival
So should we pray for revival? Let me offer five thoughts on the topic:
- If we choose to pray for revival instead of obeying God, we should not pray for revival; we should pray a prayer of repentance.
Prayer for revival is not a Band-Aid cure. If we are not passionate about sharing the gospel, honoring the Word, and bringing glory to God, our prayers for revival are meaningless. Note the words of Tozer: “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late—and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.”
- If we see revival as God’s stamp of approval on our status quo Christianity, we may not desire the answer God gives.
Past awakenings brought fundamental changes to music and methods, for instance. Both John Wesley and Whitefield struggled mightily with the idea of preaching in the fields. They were proper Oxford men, after all! But their use of such a “profane” method helped to spur a great revival. In past revivals both gospel proclamation and social ministry converged, whereas today they are too often seen as rivals. Revival separates our preferences from unchanging truth.
- That being said, we should pray for revival, starting with our own hearts.
I know I am experiencing a fresh touch of God when I stop confessing everyone else’s sins and start with my own. Too many of us are better at expressing our opinions on social media than focusing on what the Spirit is saying to us.
- We pray for revival because of biblical teaching.
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
- We pray for revival because of our study of history.
Here are only a few examples:
It is God’s will through his wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; . . . and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication. (Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts on Revival)
Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival: men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations. (Charles Spurgeon)
When did you last hear anyone praying for revival, praying that God might open the windows of heaven and pour out his Spirit? When did you last pray for that yourself? I suggest seriously that we are neglecting this almost entirely. We are guilty of forgetting the authority of the Holy Spirit. . . . When God sends revival he can do more in a single day than in fifty years of all our organization. That is the verdict of sheer history which emerges clearly from the long story of the Church. (Martin Lloyd-Jones)
I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions. (John Wesley)
G. Campbell Morgan famously observed how a sailor has no impact on the wind. But a good sailor knows the wind, and knows how to set the sails when the wind blows. Let us study the history of revival and let us gather in what Edwards called “a humble attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people, in extraordinary prayer” so that we will know when the Spirit moves afresh. Then we may set our sails accordingly.
Read this entire post at DesiringGod.org.
Alvin Reid (@alvinreid) is Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He is the author of several books, including Firefall 2.0: How God Has Shaped History Through Revivals.