Ready for Revival
This article was adapted from the "Ready for Revival" Bible study series.
God’s Word is clear that the Lord wants to revive hearts. However, if we want this refreshing, it is necessary to consider what revival is and what is required if we are to experience it in our lives and churches.
What is revival?
The dictionary defines revival as, “A restoration to life, consciousness, or strength; a reawakening of interest.” Synonyms such as renew, restore, rekindle, and reestablish amplify our understanding. In the Old Testament, the word translated revive comes from a root word meaning, “to live,” which originally conveyed the idea of breathing. In the New Testament, the word has the sense of “to live again.” Revival implies something that formerly had life.
In a spiritual context, revival is not just a stirring, a momentary response to a great motivational speaker, a surge of spiritual excitement, or a series of evangelistic meetings. Revival has two parts—first a stirring and renewal of the people of God, and then a drawing in of sinners. It is a sovereign work of God in which He visits His people, restoring and reanimating them and filling them with the fullness of His blessings, which in turn results in the conversion of unbelievers. Perhaps it could best be described by the phrase, “times of refreshing . . . from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
A report from the Azusa revival in Los Angeles at the turn of the last century paints a vivid picture of a revival: “The altars are filled with seekers. Sometimes the meetings go on all night. People are slain under the power of God and sanctified, or rise up speaking in new tongues. In the meetings, you see the holy joy of the Lord in the countenances, and people are melted in the presence of the Lord, filled with His praises.” (From The Apostolic Faith Volume 1, Number 5.)
The prerequisite for revival
The Bible records several great revivals where people turned to God and gave up their sinful ways of living (see the “Great Revivals of the Bible” chart). In each case, specific steps were taken before the blessing of God could be manifested. One writer who explored the topic of revival asked the question: “Are we expecting that it will be God who will make the first move towards revival?” He also said, “If a farmer had broken no ground and had spread no seed, would he be justified in blaming God because he had no harvest? The people who experience revival will be an obedient people. Secondly, the people who get revival will be a humble people. Thirdly, before a Biblical Pentecost there must be a praying people, a people waiting on God. Just as no man takes a running jump and in one leap lands on the top of the Rockies, but gets there by patient toil, so it is with prayer.”<sup>1<sup>
Many Scriptures lay out the prerequisite for experiencing the renewing touch of God. For examples, see 2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 57:15, and Hosea 10:12. We can be sure that as we do our part by learning and completing the requirements, God will do His part and send His blessing.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).
Looking back at the Welsh Revival
An example of revival is found in reviewing the movement of the Holy Spirit that took place in Wales in 1904. Evan Roberts, a young theological student, felt strongly impressed by the Holy Spirit to return to his village and speak to the people of his home church. Arriving in town, he went to his pastor and asked to speak to the people. Though the pastor thought it was rather forward of Roberts to ask, he granted permission for the young man to speak after the upcoming prayer service. When the prayer meeting was over, the pastor announced that if anyone wanted to stay, young Mr. Roberts had something he wanted to say. Seventeen people stayed, and Evan Roberts addressed them.
He gave them a simple challenge. He told those who were interested in revival to take three actions: to confess any known sin, to immediately put away any doubtful habit, and to restore any broken relationships. He said that he would be waiting, and invited any who were interested to meet him back there at the church in one hour.
The people left, and almost all returned an hour later. As they gathered, something happened among them. The presence of God was so tangible that they began to worship and pray with such fervency that news of what was happening quickly spread through the town. Soon the church was filled. The prayer meeting did not break up until early the next morning, and within a few hours, people returned and it started again.
The Holy Spirit began to stir hearts. People who had not been to church in years came, and as they entered the church, they would melt down in tears and plead for salvation. Hardened sinners melted like wax before a fire. Within just a couple of days, word traveled, and neighboring towns and villages started to experience revival. It spread to the cities, and within just a few weeks, taverns were emptied, brothels were closed, and churches were filled daily. The fire spread until much of Wales was brought to its knees in repentance at the Cross.
What hinders revival?
It is evident that God can and will work miracles in the hearts of people who prepare themselves to receive Him. So, what hinders revival? Evangelist Charles Finney, who spoke and wrote much on the topic of revival, compiled a list of actions and attitudes he deemed as hindrances. His list included many sins that occur in the hearts of those who are far from God: envy, a critical spirit, unbelief, temper, slander, lying and deceit, cheating, hypocrisy, etc. Finney also named less flagrant attitudes that can creep into the hearts of Christians who are not spiritually watchful: a mind set on material things, a lack of seriousness toward God, robbing God through wasted opportunities, a critical attitude, lack of love to God, ingratitude, doing spiritual duties casually, lack of concern for the lost, carelessness about one’s Christian witness, and neglect of Bible reading, prayer, or church attendance.
While Finney’s list is extensive, other actions and attitudes can also hinder the outpouring of God’s Spirit. Disobedience, love of self, and unresolved differences with others could be added to the list. One step that was taken before many of the revivals recorded in Old Testament history was the putting away of idols. We may relegate idolatry to pagan cultures, but anything that we regard more highly than God is, in fact, an idol. Are we willing to purge our lives of these in order to have God’s blessing?
Removing potential hindrances to revival takes consistent discipline. We will need to consider how we are spending our time, what we are watching, what we are saying, and what we are thinking about. There is no point in asking God to give us more of a hunger for Him if we are consistently engaging in activities that have nothing to do with Him. However, if we choose to make the effort to focus on God, we will find that He will bless us with a spiritual hunger when we ask.
We likely will experience resistance from Satan when we attempt to draw nearer to God or make adjustments in our lives necessary to bring God’s blessing. He will try to dissuade us, but despite his attempts, we must take necessary steps to be sure our hearts are free from hindrances and to align our lives to receive God’s blessing.
The necessity of prayer
When we pray for revival, we must exercise persistence. Accounts of revivals in years past give a key: God visits His people when they petition Him fervently and persistently. In James 5:16 we read, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The disciples, tarrying in Jerusalem for the promised blessing, “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). There was nothing half-hearted or intermittent about their praying.
Visualize a package with many knots tied around it. If there was a $1,000 bill inside, would it be worth the trouble of untying the knots? Would we give up after untying only one or two knots? The point is, if we want something badly enough, we will persist.
The Word of God instructs us in the qualities of successful prayer. We find that it must be accompanied by contrition (Psalm 51:17), it must be wholehearted (Jeremiah 29:13), it must be accompanied by faith (Mark 11:24), it must come from a righteous heart (James 5:16), and it must be accompanied by obedience (1 John 3:22).
Prayer does not persuade a reluctant God to give us what we want. Rather, it is the adjustment of our lives to God’s will so He can send the blessing He is longing to pour out upon us. It will take consecration and determination, but the results are life changing.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17).
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).
What are the personal results when we are revived? The Spirit of God flows freely through us. We enjoy an intimate relationship with God and receive His direction in the details of life. We have a burden for souls and power in prayer. And, as a body of unified believers, we see the far-reaching benefits of being filled with the Spirit of God.
Let us join the Psalmist of old in praying this heartfelt prayer: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6). The Lord will not disappoint us!
<sup>1<sup> Leonard Ravenhill, Revival Praying, Ada, Baker Publishing Group, 2005.