The Psalmist cries out in Psalm 85:6 “Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” Habakkuk prays, “Ó Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” From Bible times to now, God’s people have cried out for revival.
We have read about many revivals in history and even in modern times. When a church, a city, or even a nation experiences revival, we find an increase in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit seems to manifest Himself in powerful and tangible ways. There is a deep drawing of God’s people to repentance.
J.I. Packer suggests this definition of revival: “A work of God by His Spirit through His word, bringing [the] spiritually dead to living faith in Christ and renewing the inner life of Christians who have grown slack and sleepy. In revival God makes old things new, giving power to law and gospel and new spiritual awareness to those whose hearts and consciences had been blind, hard and cold. Revival thus animates or reanimates churches and Christian groups to make a spiritual and moral impact on communities.”
We were privileged to visit Brownville Church during the Pensacola revival. The first thing that made an impact on us was when we waited in line to get into the auditorium – it was cold and raining, not just a soft drizzle, but pouring rain – and people were standing in long lines for hours at a time waiting to get into the meetings. Faith was being built in these lines as stories of God’s power were shared. Healing, repentance, and conversions took place in the line. As we finally walked into the auditorium, we were overcome by the incredible power and presence of God and by a deep, reverential fear of Him. During the meetings, people were running forward to repent. Many people were so overcome by the Holy Spirit they didn’t make it to the front, but lay in aisles repenting. Many testified how God had changed their lives. The Scripture, “They overcame him by the blood if the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11) became a daily reality in the lives of so many people. When you have tasted even a morsel of a powerful move of God, there is something within you that longs for that again. You long to see the church revived. You long to see cities being turned around for God’s glory. You long to see the nations come to God as never before.
But if we are to pray for revival, we need to know what we are praying for. Andrew Murray, in his book, The Coming Revival, says the following:
“In speaking of revival, and in praying for it, it is of importance that we understand what we really desire and ask for. To most Christians, the word conveys the meaning of a large increase in the number of conversions. It is at once said: There has been quite a revival in that church or town.
“The true meaning of the word is far deeper. The word means making alive again those who have been alive, and have fallen into what is called a cold or dead state. They are Christians, and have life, but need reviving to bring them back to their first love, and the healthy growth of the spiritual life to which that was meant to be the entrance. When the church as a whole, its ministers and members, is not living in full whole-hearted devotion to Christ and His service, is not walking in the joy of the Lord and separation from the world, we need to pray, more than for the conversion of the unconverted, that God’s people may be truly revived, and have the life of God in the power restored to them.
“It may be said: But is not the best way of having the church revived to have new converts added? Does not that awaken interest, and gladness, and the Christians to new activity? This may be true, and yet does not meet the real need, for two reasons. Firstly, such a revival is generally very temporary, and very soon leaves the church settling down to its ordinary level. Secondly, these converts, when brought into a church which is not living in the warmth of the true spiritual life, in all holiness and fruitfulness, are not helped as they need, and do not rise above the lukewarmness around them.”
We must not miss the vital truth if we are to understand revival and how to pray. Many observers and historians emphasize the same pattern. God first moves to bring renewal to His people, and then, as a result of what Andrew Murray calls “reviving to bring [believers] back to their first love,” the conversion of the lost will follow. Revival, first and foremost, is when God stirs the hearts of His people to renewed holy living. Murray goes on to say the following: “What we need to pray and labor for, first of all, is that the church of true believers may be revived. What the world needs above everything is not more men and women of the ordinary type of Christians, but better people, stronger in faith and holier in life, intensely devoted to Christ and His service, and ready to sacrifice all for the salvation of souls. When God’s Spirit is poured out upon the church, and men and women, who are now struggling on in feebleness, are clothed with the garment of praise and the power of the Spirit, the world will soon share the blessing. They will be ready to give themselves to God’s work at home or abroad; their word and witness will be in power. Nominal Christians will be judged by the power of their example and will confess that God is with them. And the heathen world will, in the increased numbers and burning fervor of the messengers of a quickened church, share in the blessing. A revival among believers is the great need of our day. A revived church is the only hope of a dying world.”
Amen! If we earnestly desire revival in our churches and out cities, it surely needs to start with us. Our desire should be not for the experience of revival, but for an ongoing revival in the hearts and lives of our people and beyond. We need to be praying for revival in our own lives. We need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, our passions, and our desperation for more of God.
Joel 2:13 and 28 says, “So rend your heart and not your garments: Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful… And it shall come to pass afterwards that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” We know the heart of God to revive His people. Let’s get ready!