Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Praying for Revival

From the Journey Blog (
Oh, how my heart longs for God to do something big. There have been a few times that I have seen him move unusually. I know that there are places in the world where he is at work mightily even now. But here? For the most part it can seem our nation is, in the words of Robert Bork, “slouching toward Gomorrah.”
So many Scriptural references could be seen as speaking to our time. Are we experiencing a great “falling away” and is our love growing cold (2 Thes. 2:3, Matt. 24:10-12, 1 Tim. 4:1)? Are we being “given over” by God “in the lusts of [our] hearts to impurity,” “dishonorable passions,” and “debased mind[s]” only to “receive the due penalty for [our] errors” (Romans 1:18-28)?
Truly our culture resembles the last verses of Romans 1, as people are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (vv.29-32). We also look a lot like what’s described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Wow. It’s easy to be doomy and gloomy, isn’t it? I know some Christians who seem to relish the decline or at least see it as an excuse for attempting little to change the downward drift. “After all,” they opine, “We’re in the last days.” But I refuse to acquiesce. See, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back. He could come tomorrow…but he could wait. And until he comes, the four horsemen in Revelation 6 (the expanding church, war, famine, and death) continue to ride through human history. Don’t forget, Christ has given us a commission: “Go make disciples of all nations…I am with you always, even to the end.” He promises, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail.” We should look at the world like Christ did: aware of the evil (and incensed about it), yet determined to bring light. Our job is to advance God’s kingdom.
Sure, we’re in a downward drift. But I choose to believe, as did Jonathan Edwards, that revival was just around the corner. He wrote:
That infidelity, heresy, and vice do so prevail, and that corruption and wickedness are risen to such an extreme height, is exceeding deplorable: but yet, I think, considering God’s promises to his church, and the ordinary method of his dispensations, hope may justly be gathered from it, that the present state of things will not last long, but that a happy change is nigh. We know that God never will desert the cause of truth and holiness, nor suffer the gates of hell to prevail against the church; and that usually, from the beginning of the world, the state of the church has appeared most dark, just before some remarkable deliverance and advancement.[1]
So either way, our decline should drive us to our knees. That alone would be huge! I remember hearing Pastor Tom Nelson say, “Prayer doesn’t just bring revival. Prayer IS revival. When God stirs Christians’ hearts to pray, you’ve got revival, because Christians generally don’t pray.”
The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right. I’ve had my own battle with making time to pray consistently and fervently. But as I continue to study and teach God’s Word in a culture that is running as hard as possible toward depravity, as I grow older and watch the church grow less effective, as I see so many people deceived and miserable when they buy the enemy’s lies, I realize my inability. I realize that God is our only hope. I realize the only alternative to awakening is judgment. That scares me. It drives me to pray. Boldly, desperately, and expectantly.
Dr. J. Edwin Orr was the professor of the history of awakenings at Fuller Theological Seminary. Billy Graham said that he was one of the greatest authorities on religious revivals. At the end of his life he said, “After studying prayer and spiritual awakenings for 60 years I’ve reached this conclusion…whenever God is ready to do something new with His people, He always sets them praying.”
Oh, how I long for this! So I find myself praying not only for awakening, but for God to incite his people to pray for awakening. Renowned commentator Matthew Henry said the following:
When God is about to give His people the expected good, He pours out a Spirit of prayer, and it is a good sign that He is coming toward them in mercy. Then when you see the expected end approaching, ‘then you shall call upon Me’ (Jer. 29:11-12). Note: Promises are given not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer; and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it. When Daniel understood the 70 years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord (Dan. 9:2-3).
Therefore, my most important job as a pastor could be to beckon people to pray that God will send sweeping revival. R.A. Torrey said, “There have been revivals without much preaching, but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty prayer.”
So I will pray. And again I plead with you to pray, too. Will you? You can anytime and anywhere. Every Thursday morning I open the church auditorium to pray from 6 to 8 am. I spend most of that time praying for revival. You’re invited to come.
Chad Sparks

[1] The Works of Jonathan Edwards, p. 294.

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