TGC Asks: Why Do You Ask God to Send Revival?

Earlier this month more than 75 church leaders from around the country gathered in Chicago to discuss revival and pray for God to send it. Just two years ago the same call for such a gathering fell on largely deaf ears. Organized by the National Revival Network and held at Moody Church in Chicago, the meeting pulled together a diverse group—young and old, North and South, Arminian and Calvinist—committed to the common pursuit of asking God to revive his church.

“Despite our philosophical distinctives there was a palpable shared urgency for genuine wide-scale revival and spiritual awakening—for the church to ‘come fully alive to the glory of Christ’—that was heightened by this remarkable gathering of leaders,” says organizer Byron Paulus, executive director of Life Action Ministries in Buchanan, Michigan. For more about the vision behind this unique event, check out “An Urgent Appeal.”

Echoing these leaders sense’ that the church needs spiritual awakening, I asked several others to explain why they ask God to send revival.

Harry Reeder, senior pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama; Council member of The Gospel Coalition; and author of From Embers to Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church:

Because we desperately need it. The Scripture is clear, men cannot bring revival, and revivals certainly do not arrive from cosmetic manipulations but are the work of God alone. The Scriptures affirm this in many texts such as Habbakuk 3:2: “O Lord I have heard the report of you and your work O Lord do I fear. In the midst of the years revive your work and make it known. In wrath remember mercy.” Yet it is also clear that God’s work of revival comes through the divinely appointed ordinary means of grace. Therefore, while we cannot bring a revival we certainly can preach for revival, pray for revival, and seek revival in our own hearts so that a heaven-sent revival would begin with us and then overflow from us.

Why do I long for revival? I live in a nation in desperate need of a gospel awakening that will only come from a revived church. Revived churches come from revived leadership resulting from an unalterable commitment to being Christ-centered, gospel-driven and Spirit-filled. Revival from the Lord brings not only the breadth of influential impact but also the depth of divine intimacy. True revival transforms lives, transforming families, then communities, and finally nations. The revived church that throbs with divine passion will be marked by authentic God-centered worship and an intentional and unstoppable commitment to the Great Commission. One of the founding fathers of the United States in observation of the 18th century Great Awakening said “it seemed as if the whole world was going to church.” The reason that phenomena was observed so poignantly is because the whole church was going into the world. My prayer is not only that such a phenomena would occur again but that it would begin in me.

We don’t love one another, nor do we love the lost as we ought, because we don’t know the love of Christ as we ought. Divine-sent revival brings the preeminence of Christ in the lives of redeemed men and women transforming the landscape of society. Or as a frustrated pagan in Europe once said according to Acts 17:6, “these people have turned the world upside-down.”

Revival, simply put, is ordinary people doing extraordinary things in ordinary places bringing many to Christ and giving glory to God alone. “Will you not revive us again that your people will rejoice in you” (Psalm 85:6).

Scotty Smith, founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition :

Because of our condition. Until the day Jesus returns, our natural drift as the people of God will always be toward spiritual atrophy, not spiritual entropy; toward self-serving idolatry, not God-centered worship; towards using God, not serving God; toward salvation by us, not salvation by grace; toward being coddled, not being changed; toward church as an ingrown club, not church as a missional community; toward the protection of “our tribe,” not the welcoming of the nations; toward hair-splitting factionalism and ugly schisms, not diligence in preserving the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. In short, I ask God for revival because only the power of Jesus’ resurrection is sufficient to keep sinner-saints like us from contradicting the gospel even more than we do.

Because of God’s promises. I also ask God to bring revival because of the many promises he has made to renew, refresh, and revive his people, even before the return of Jesus—promises God has been faithful to honor at various places and times in the history of redemption. Why not us and why not now? Since God has called the church to be a first-fruits-of-the-resurrection people; a preview of coming attractions in the new heaven and new earth; a “city set on a hill” as a down payment of the ultimate New City; most assuredly, he will resource us by the Holy Spirit for such a privileged and important calling. There is no other way, none. Our Father will not give us snakes, scorpions, or stones, but more of his Sprit. Let’s ask, believe, and expect. Again, why not us and why not now?

Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Few subjects captivate my heart more than the historical reality and the future hope of seeing the church saturated by the manifest presence of Jesus through revival. But I don’t love revival alone; it is my love for other things that compels me to long for, pray for and seek true, biblical revival:

1. I love the gospel. In true revival the gospel is preached with renewed passion, boldness, and effectiveness such that conversions—inside and outside the church—explode upon the scene of normalized Christianity. And when this happens, the church recaptures its love for the Good News.

2. I love the lordship of Jesus. In true revival Jesus is fully understood for who he is in all of his glory, power, and majesty. The effect is a transformation of the person, the family, the church, and the culture. And when this happens, Jesus is clearly presented as the powerful Lord that he really is.

3. I love the church. In true revival the body of Christ is spiritually awakened, unified, and full of the God-centered, Bible-saturated, Spirit-filled life for which Jesus died. And when this happens, the bride of Christ is restored to her God-ordained role on earth.

4. I love radical life change. In true revival the thin veneer of cultural Christianity is torn back as sin is confessed, repentance is embraced, and restoration is pursued. And when this happens, Christianity floods the world with what it so desperately needs: hope.

This is what revival brings. I love it, and that is why I pray for revival.

Jared Wilson, pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont; author of Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior:

1. Because a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in my ministry context (Vermont) would lift up the hearts of the dry and weary church here and unify us in worship and mission.

2. Because the historic revivals of New England (and beyond) seem far-flung and far-fetched to many. We have heard of God’s deeds, and in many ways stand in curiosity (rarely awe) of his work in this area in the past. But we ought to be hungry to see them renewed in our day and known in our time. I believe the church in this neck of the woods really needs a contemporary reminder of the surprising power of the gospel.

3. Because revival is something only God can do. Everything else “spiritual” can be faked or self-maintained in varying degrees. If God sent revival, we’d get a firsthand lesson in his passion for his own glory.

Del Fehnsenfeld, senior editor of Revive magazine, published by Life Action Ministries in Buchanan, Michigan:

Prayer for revival is a natural overflow of resurrection hope. The logic goes like this: the Bible is the story of how God is working in history to make everything new. Jesus is the central figure in the story. He dealt decisively with what is wrong with us and with the world on the cross, and proved it by rising from the dead and then pouring out his Spirit. And since the story ends with everything being put right or “summed up” in Jesus (Eph. 1:9-10), we know that God’s plan is to move history forward from where things are to that final climax. Thus God is always working by his Spirit to manifest and extend Jesus’ presence, honor, and authority.

But that process is not always incremental. We learn from both the Bible and church history that there are seasons when God’s Spirit works with extraordinary and undeniable power to rapidly move individuals, communities and even nations toward Jesus. This is revival. Knowing God’s final agenda helps me pray with confidence for the intensification, acceleration, and multiplication of the work of the Spirit right now!

  • Patricia Zell

    The best way to assure revival is to encourage people to seek God with their whole hearts. Start (or continue) to preach the absolute love of God and the power of what Christ accomplished on the cross and watch what happens!

  • Neil Foster

    I think we need to be pretty cautious here. (I know that means most people who like this post have now stopped reading! :) ) Let’s pray for what the Scriptures urge us to pray for, especially the New Testament, where Jesus empowered his apostles and Paul to give us clear information about what we need in these end times while we wait for the Lord Jesus to return. But to ask God to repeat specific historical phenomena, as moving and as Christ-honouring as it might have been when it happened in the history of the church, is to run the risk of meaning we are not praying for the things that Jesus and the apostles urge us to pray for. Where is the prayer for revival in the Lord’s prayer? And if someone wants to dive in and say, “hallowed be your name” or “your kingdom come” are prayers for “revival” as that term is used in evangelical culture, I would say that they need to go back to the Bible. God’s name is hallowed as the gospel of the Lord Jesus is preached to more and more people. But someone may do that for many years without seeing spectacular transformations of sinners, weeping, etc. And if that is the case, do we say that God was not answering our prayers? He is often glorified in the suffering of his people under persecution. Let’s not fall into the trap of equating what God has occasionally been pleased to bless his people with, with what he promises in his word. Otherwise we run the risk of people longing for something that happens in this age, when the longing we ought to have is for the day when the spotless Bride of Christ descends from heaven.

    • Dave

      It seems Neil is against the church praying for the “manifestations” of past revivals and our longing for God to repeat them. I agree. If we seek only the “bread” instead of the Source of all good things then we are susceptible to the trap that some Charismatics have fallen in to. I know, I was one! But surely we realize “sign idolatry” is man centered and only a form of religion. I appreciate the comments given especially of Mark Vroegop who gives us biblical motives that I believe are reflected in the prayers of scripture especially of Paul. Our ultimate hope is the return of the Lord Jesus not revival but if God doesn’t send fresh winds of His Spirit till then, we will continue to struggle with nominalism and spiritual declension. O Lord, revive your church and come quickly!

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  • Roger McKinney

    What seems odd to me is that some people think God is holding back and we have to pry it out of his hands. I’m pretty certain God wants revival in America more than any preacher. The problem doesn’t lie with God but with people.

    What did God do in the Bible to bring revival in Israel? He sent preachers and on some occasions did miracles. Remember Jonah? No miracle there but a lot of repentance.

    And if the people don’t listen to the preacher, as Israel did? He plows of the hard ground (parable of the sower) with economic problems, natural disasters, illness, war, etc. Seems to me that God is doing all he can to persuade an obstinate people to change their ways.

    And what did God do when the people showed contempt for his discipline? He provided stronger discipline.

    Historical examples: missionaries to China bore little fruit until God gave the Chinese a disastrous war with Japan and then a generatiion of the most brutal Communism known to mankind. As a result, the Chinese church exploded in revival. Iran allowed missionaries to convert Muslims during the reign of the Shah, but only a handful did so. Now, after a generation of brutal Muslim rule the Church in Iran can’t keep up with the number of new converts from Islam.

    Be careful what you ask for. Do we really want to go through the discipline of God that would be necessary to see revival in the US?

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