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The Key to Revival

For the audio version of this blog, click here.

There’s one common denominator in every great mass revival that has been recorded in history. They’ve all been different and unique, but there is one common denominator running through them all. Prayer. Corporate prayer. I know, I know. You may not admit it but you probably just got a little disappointed, didn’t you? We can start thinking prayer is boring, can’t we? We can start thinking it’s just a spiritual way of sharing gossip. You know you’ve thought it. But I truly truly believe that the kind of corporate prayer many of us have experienced is NOT the prayer of the Bible. When we walk into many prayer meetings today, the focus is about 95% on fixing temporal things and MAYBE 5% on the pursuit of eternal, Kingdom things or the pursuit of the glory of God and obvious presence of God. Is that your experience? I’ve been part of prayer meetings where this statistic was accurate, but I’ve also been part of prayer meetings where this was reversed. The prayer meetings where this was reversed were lifechanging, intense, and cultivated an environment for revival.

We have some examples in the Bible of what prayer should be like. In the New Testament we have examples like Jesus’ prayers, the prayers in the book of Acts, what we call The Lord’s Prayer, and in the Old Testament we have the Psalms and the prayers of great prophets and leaders for the people. If we study these collectively, we find some interesting things. We find differences in what healthy personal prayer should be like and what healthy corporate prayer should be like. We find that while there is a mix of both temporal and eternal needs being petitioned, regardless of the type of request, the underlying foundation stays Kingdom centered and God centered rather than focused on just fixing the temporary and making life easier. But prayer is more than just asking for stuff. We forget this. Prayer is too many things to define in just one blog, but D.M. Lloyd-Jones defines some things we find in renewing corporate prayers that lead to revival: We find holy boldness, arguing with God, reasoning with God, putting the case to God, pleading God’s own promises asking him to show his glory and revive his people.[1]

In true revivals, we find people pleading for the manifest presence of God, but we also find deep repentance both corporately and individually. True repentance isn’t self-pity of what a sin has grieved you or cost you. Tim Keller says, true repentance is “a genuine sorrow over sin, the way it has grieved God, and what it has cost him.”[2] Repentance during revival is thick and foundational to God drawing close. We begin to see ourselves and our sins how they truly are, rather than what we have justified them to be. Self-righteousness goes out the window, and the grace and love of God rush in renewing the body of believers from the inside out. The weight lifts and joy rushes in.

Additionally, though, as we look at the prayers of the Bible, they are rich with honest emotion as well as intellectual replies to what the Spirit has spoken to them through God’s Word. It is obvious that Jesus, the apostles, and the psalmists all meditated on God’s words because they all used them in prayers regularly. Their prayers were intellectual, but they were also heartfelt and honest. Some people think it’s a lack of maturity in believers if their prayers have too much emotion over temporal things, but it is natural for us to have emotion. We were designed to have emotion. We live in a temporal world. We ache and cry when people we love die. If we stuff our emotions down, we aren’t being honest with ourselves or with God - we are praying with a mask on. We naturally care about and are tied to our lives here. We have deep emotion about it, and that’s ok. But if we make quick fixes or results the meaning of prayer, we have missed the point of prayer. If we make getting quick fixes or results the meaning of prayer, we will be angry when God doesn’t do what we want and we will begin to see prayer as pointless. The point of prayer is to build a constant heart relationship with God so we can trust Him through anything. Philip Yancey defines prayer as the habit of coming to God throughout our day. I love that, don’t you?

So, prayer is an absolute prerequisite for revival personally and in the church, yet praying can be so hard to do! We all know we need to do it, but very few of us can do it. I struggle in this area, too. I've learned, though, if God seems silence in the midst of our prayers, try praying this prayer. This prayer ALWAYS gets an answer from God in my life: Pray, "Father, show me anything in my life that is not pleasing to you." I think you can understand why this prayer always gets an answer from Him from my experience! There's always something hindering us from being closer to Him. Sometimes it's hard to hear, but our eagerness to know and be right with Him is pleasing to Him. Tim Keller made the shocking but true case that if we don’t pray enough, the truth is, we have an idol.[3] SOMETHING is coming before God to you, whether it be self-sufficiency (self is god and the most important thing), or relaxing (comfort is god and more important), etc, etc. How many times have you told yourself, “I’ve got to do better about praying more!” We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and we determine that we are going to pray more….only we fail every time. Why? Because we think the problem is our LACK OF DETERMINATION. That’s NOT our problem. Our problem is we love something more than connecting with God. Our problem is we believe in our ability to produce results over God’s. Our problem is we are holding something above God in our lives and He isn’t our priority or the one we really trust. We might trust ourselves more than God so we put doing our work above asking for His. We might think we need to get things done and need sleep more to make life work, but what we really need is to understand we need daily connection to God if we are going to make our life count for the Kingdom at all. If our life is about cultivating eternal things that don’t waste away, our lives will have mattered for eternity. If our life is about cultivating temporal things that WILL one day waste away, our lives will not have mattered in the big scheme of things. I want my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ to count. Will you cry out to Him with me for revival?

[1] D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Westchester, III.: Crossway Books, 1987), 197.

[2] Timothy Keller, Prayer Study (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2010), 30-31.

[3] Ibid., 12.

Lauren Reeves
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