What is the Nature of Revival?
James Buchanan defines revival as:
“Properly consisting of two things: a general importation of life, vigor, and power to those who are already of the number of the people of God; and a remarkable awakening and conversion of souls who have hitherto been careless and unbelieving; in other words it consists in a new spiritual life imparted to the dead, and a new spiritual life imparted to the living.”
I believe that is probably best to understand these differences within the broad term of “revival” to refer to the revival of the church and the awakening of the lost. So for clarification, we desire to see revival take place in the church and awakening take place in the community/city/country/etc.
One of the great tools that God uses to spark revival is prayer, specifically corporate prayer. Consider this story that is taken from Erroll Hulse book, Give Him No Rest:
In 1856 in Ballemena a certain Mrs. Colville influenced a young man, James McQuilkin, to conversion. He in turn led three of his friends to Christ. The four of them agreed to meet every week for prayer and Bible study. They chose an old schoolhouse and during the winter of 1857 and 1858 kept themselves warm with armfuls of peat gathered on the way to the schoolhouse every Friday evening. While the peat warmed their bodies, the Spirit kindled the fire in their hearts. Two more joined them, including an old man named Marshall. By the end of 1858 the number of participants at the prayer meeting had grown to fifty. Intercession without distraction to other subjects was made for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on themselves and the country. There prayers and possibly many others were wonderfully answered in 1859 when, it is estimated, 100,00 were converted.
Martin Lloyd-Jones commenting on the Ulster Revival of 1859:
“as we consider the Revivals of 1857-59 may I use the expression ‘the divine humor’? Where did they break out then? It was not in the capital city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, it was in a village you have never heard of called Connor. This is how God does things…And it was exactly the same thing two hundred years ago. It was in that little town of Northampton in New England that the revival broke out. It was in that little town of Northampton in New England that the Revival broke out. It was in a little hamlet called Trevecca in Wales that Howell Harris was suddenly laid hold of, and in another similar small village that Daniel Rowland was apprehended by God – places you have never heard of, that is how God does it. And this is the wonderful thing – the next Revival may break out in a little hamlet that you and I have never heard of.”
So I pose a few questions:
What makes our prayer meetings any different from these that God chose to you to spark revival and awakening through out the course of Christian history?
Is the God of 1859 different from the God of 2014?
Does the Spirit of God still inhabit the people of God?
Should we not also gather and pray for a great move of God “undistracted by other subjects?
What is the Relationship between Prayer and Revival?
Consider Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 9:35-38:
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The word used here for “pray” is in the imperative mood and it means to “ask or beg.” It is often the word that we find used when people would come to Jesus and “beg” him to come and heal their children. Note that it is in the imperative.
Couple this command with Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:18-20:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
With these things considered, why should we doubt or restrain ourselves from praying for God to move boldly to revive and awaken our community?
What are we waiting for?
We have seen the command and we have seen the promise. What more could we ask for? We could not ask for a greater invitation to pray than the command and promise of the risen and reigning Christ.
In times past, the Lord has always used the prayers of His people to spark revival in the lands. Our times are no different. We are not just invited, but we are commanded to pray for the sovereign work of God in revival and awakening. But with this command comes the promise that spurs us on to joyful obedience.
I want to close with a quote by Jonathan Edwards regarding expectations and the work of God in revival:
“What the church has been used to, is not a rule by which we are to judge; because there may be new and extraordinary works of God, and he has [in the past] evidently [worked] in an extraordinary manner. The prophecies of Scripture give us reason to think that God has things to accomplish, which have never yet been seen…The Holy Spirit is sovereign in his operation; and we know that he uses a great variety; and we cannot tell how great a variety he may use, within the compass of the rules he himself has fixed. We ought not to limit God where he has not limited himself.”
May we not limit God with our prayers and finite minds regarding the work of revival in our community and church body! May we pray to the Lord of the Harvest to do His bidding and use us if He be pleased to do so!