Praying for Revival

Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? —Psalm 85:6

The history of Pentecost with its ten-day prayer meeting in the upper room prior to the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the history of the Great Awakenings with their prayer meetings in homes, offices, and churches teach us that if we earnestly desire revival we must give ourselves to prayer. This is not easy, however. Many have begun to pray for God to move by His Spirit but have given up or gone astray. We need the mind of God to pray for revival and we need the burden of the Lord that goes along with it. To pray for revival in a sound and God-honoring way we should pattern our prayers after the prayers of the Bible.

In God’s Word, especially in the Psalms (which are basically prayers), we find a number of instances of the psalmist praying for revival. So in Psalm 85:6 we have this petition: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” No less than nine times in Psalm 119 the psalmist prays for quickening. Here is a sampling of those references:

— “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word” (v. 25).
— “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” (v. 37, a great text to keep near a television set or a computer monitor).
— “Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth” (v. 88).

The word quicken literally means to give life, to revive, or to refresh. Based on these petitions, then, the Christian may conclude that he has the scriptural warrant for praying for revival. This scriptural warrant will align itself with the deepest desires of the Christian’s heart. No Christian can be content to go for a long period of time in a state of spiritual apathy and coldness. He longs for that closer walk with God that he used to know. And no Christian can look around him and see abounding sin and wickedness without heaving a sigh toward heaven that begs God to pour forth His Spirit and turn back the flood tide of iniquity through revival.

For every true spiritual desire there is a corresponding promise from God’s Word. And those promises must be brought before God’s throne in prayer in order to see them realized. One well known promise from the Isle of Lewis revival is found in Isaiah 44:3: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” The second half of this verse provides the spiritual meaning of the first half of the verse. In other words, the thirsting that calls for water upon the dry ground corresponds to the spiritual thirsting of the Christian’s heart for God’s Spirit to be poured out again.

In that portion of the Sermon on the Mount known as the Lord’s Prayer, it could be argued that Christians are taught to pray for revival: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). What will it take for the Lord’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? The second coming of Christ will ultimately bring this to pass but apart from the Lord’s return, revival takes us closer to meeting that heavenly standard.

Some Christians have argued that wickedness is too great and that the day is too far gone for revival to come. Such an attitude completely overlooks the character of the days in which God has moved in the past. How much darker could the days have been than what they were during the days that Christ walked this earth? Such were the forces of darkness that the Jews and Gentiles would take the very Son of God Himself and nail Him to a cross. And yet notwithstanding such darkness there soon followed the outpouring of God’s Spirit on the day of Pentecost that caused the light of the gospel to dispel the darkness of apostasy. The strength of apostasy was no barrier then to God’s Spirit being poured out!

And for the ten days that occurred between Christ’s ascension and the outpouring of God’s Spirit, we find the apostles in prayer: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). We’re not told in this instance what the apostles prayed, but it’s not hard to know when you consider the promise that Christ gave them before His ascension into heaven: “Wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me” (Acts 1:4). That promise is given a little later in verse 8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” It’s not hard to picture them in that upper room earnestly seeking God to give them the promised power of the Holy Ghost.

So the lessons the Christian can take from the Psalms and from the example of the apostles is that we must pray. Revival comes in answer to prayer. When Christ exhorted His hearers to pray, He told them to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7). In this text the Lord commands us to pray with passion for the thing we need. Our need is revival and for this we must give ourselves to prayer. Oh that the Lord would so burden the hearts of His people that they would devote themselves to storming heaven’s gates with petitions for the Lord to move.

The spirit of this kind of praying is set forth in Isaiah 62:6–7: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” We can be sure that it is God’s will for us to take such portions of God’s Word as our guides to pray for revival, and if we are truly burdened for God’s glory in the salvation of sinners then we know He will hear and answer us according to His good pleasure.

Rev. Geoff Banister is the minister of Indianapolis FPC in Indiana.

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