Those who are intimately acquainted with spiritual realities, know that just as there are seasons in the natural world, so there are seasons of the soul. As I write this, here on the North American continent, autumn has officially begun. Even now as I glance up from my keyboard, I can look out my study window and see the early morning sun highlighting varying shades of greens and yellows on the poplars in our back yard. Fall is here; nature is once again entering her cycle of decay, dormancy, and death.
While there are inevitable natural cycles of the soul—seasons of remarkable growth as well as periods of apparent fruitlessness—what is unnatural and unacceptable, are seasons of sin—lukewarmness, disobedience, and a loss of our first love.
Whenever the Christian has become careless in his walk with God, thereby grieving the Holy Spirit because of his carelessness, failure, and sin, or has slowly lost his passion for Christ and the things of God, the faithful Spirit calls us to confession and repentance. It requires bending low before the Lord.
Ted Rendall writes, “Individually, this brokenness before God will mean a new honesty that admits the lack of daily Bible reading, meaningful prayer, and measurable growth in the Christian life.” He goes on to say, “It may mean a conquest over the tyranny of television, the spell of sports, and the passion of possessions.”1
Corporately, when we bend low before the Lord in deep repentance, steps will be taken to correct wrongs. Where fractured relationships have occurred in the body of Christ, a convicted Christian will take measures to heal that relationship. Where a board member, elder, or deacon has manifested in a committee meeting an un-Christlike spirit, he will leave no stone unturned until he has apologized and asked the brothers to forgive him. Where there has been a clear lack of faithfulness in fulfilling one’s ministry responsibilities, the repentant believer will acknowledge such to those he is responsible to and correct his ways.
Our Desperate Need
Where there are dry eyes, a lack of conversions, rigid ritualism, frigid formalism, rampant materialism, sterile intellectualism, passionless preaching, predictable prayer meetings, failing marriages, rebellious teens, secret sinning, and faithless leaders—there is the need for a Heaven-sent revival. REVIVAL!
Looking around a land that had once been favored by God with untold blessings, but had since fallen into idolatry, breaking her covenant with the Lord, the psalmist cries out, “Will you not revive us again?” (Psa. 85:6).2
The word “revive” comes from a combination of Latin words and means to “live again.” We use this term in a number of ways. For example, the person who has experienced cardiac arrest, but was blessed to have medical technicians come to his aid with a defibrillator, was suddenly revived—caused to live again.
It pains me to say this, but all perceptive believers know it to be true—a multitude of Christians, local churches, and ministries are either dead or dying and are in desperate need of a Heaven-sent revival. Pastors must lead the way. Pastors must be revived themselves if they are to see their church revived. Oh, I realize some churches will never experience a genuine resurrection—even with a Spirit-filled pastor, but those churches are exceptions. God’s usual way is to work through the church’s leaders, the ministry’s leaders.
During the widespread Canadian revival, which began in the early 1970s, scores of ministers were revived by the Spirit of God as well as parishioners. The late Kurt Koch (1913-1987) recorded many of these accounts. For example, he writes, “While Pastor McLeod was preaching in a certain church, another minister, who was sitting in the congregation, interrupted and said, ‘Stop for a moment. I am on my way to hell if I do not at once confess my sin and accept the Lord Jesus.’” Bill stopped in the middle of his sermon. The minister came forward and openly confessed his sins.
Dr. Koch tells of another minister. He was a man who claimed to have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Under the preaching of an evangelist, he broke down despite all his pride. He came out and confessed his sin. Koch reports, “When he went home, his wife and children were amazed at the change that had come over him. He had been a father whose outbursts of rage had terrified the members of his family for years. Now this devout wolf had become a lamb.” On another occasion, “A minister who had been trained at university was touched by the Spirit of the revival. His whole past came back before his eyes, and terrified him. He could find no peace until he had informed the university that he had cheated in his final examination and thus gained the diploma by false pretense.”3 (It should be noted, as Dr. Koch does, private sins should be confessed privately, and public sins should be confessed publicly.)
The Proven Path
Prior to crying out to God for a much-needed revival, the psalmist first reflected upon the previous mercies the Lord had shown to Israel: “LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin” (Psa. 85:1-2).
For those who have experienced better days—days of blessing and spiritual growth, days of jubilance and joy, days of purity and power, days of fellowship and fruitfulness, days of passion and productivity, days of faithfulness and fullness, days of intimacy with Christ and intercessions for others—days that are now but a dim memory, take courage—you can live again, if you really want to.
Yes, my thirsty-hearted friend, you can be forgiven and renewed. You can live again—really live!
The psalmist craved to see change—to see hearts changed, to see faces change, to see the joy of the Lord return to his people once again. He pled, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation. . . . Show us your steadfast love, O LORD . . .” (Psa. 85:4, 7).
What an expression of holy discontentment! This true child of Abraham was aroused, stirred, disturbed, and restless—prerequisites for personal and corporate revival. He was praying for revival; he even wrote his prayer down that it might be recited in the hearing of his fellow worshipers. Now, centuries later, the Spirit is still using this prayer to stir up God’s people.
Are you praying for revival—in your own heart, in your local church, in your ministry? Seriously praying? Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) wrote that when God wants to perform a new work in the hearts and lives of his people, he first sets his own people to praying.
In relating his account of the Spirit’s deep move on the Asbury College campus in 1970, a revival that spread within six months to at least 130 colleges and seminaries, as well as scores of churches, Dr. Harold Spann noted, “If the full story were ever to be known, doubtless there were hundreds, if not thousands, of burdened people . . . around the world on their knees pleading for Asbury. The same could be said of every other place that has known great revival. They will never be known on this earth, but their prayers have been heard in Heaven.”4
There is no other way to revival than the way of prayer. Not that we can cause revival. No! We can’t cause revival. But we can position ourselves to be a channel of grace, a channel through which the Spirit of intercession himself can pray through us—even with “groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
A Personal Covenant
Don’t be surprised if your prayers for new life become personal—praying for yourself—so personal that you may be led to make a covenant. Following his reflections upon Israel’s past blessings, and his pleadings for God to reveal himself once again in power and glory, the psalmist makes a personal commitment and covenant: “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints” (Psa. 85:8).
Here is one of the open secrets to personal revival—listening to what the Lord has to say to me. This is not only the secret to revival; this is the secret to spiritual survival—listening to God.
The psalmist covenanted with God to listen. Recently, while in meditation and prayer for a deeper work of God in my own life and in the life of the church where I pastor, I was led by the Lord to begin something new. Ever since I first came to Christ, in addition to a morning devotional time, I have always prayed before going to sleep—however, not always on my knees. But I was recently drawn by the Lord to spend some time on my knees before retiring for the night, praying for a fresh move of his Spirit upon my own heart and for a mighty work of his Spirit among our local fellowship of believers. By the grace of God, I am joining with the psalmist when he said, “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak.”
Are there those reading these words who will join with me? Will you go to your knees and beseech the Lord to visit you with fresh fire? Will you pray for a powerful move of the Spirit upon the heart of your pastor? Will you pray that God would be pleased to “rend the heavens and come down” (Isa. 64:1)—in your church? Will you covenant to hear what God the LORD will say? To pray earnestly. To pray faithfully.
It Need Not Take Years
Being sovereign, God is free to act in revival blessing whenever and however he chooses. There are times when God chooses to withhold the rains; then, there are times when God chooses to open the windows of Heaven. While God is sovereign, within his sovereignty he usually chooses to work through his divinely appointed means. Prayer is one of those means, fasting is another. Other means are conducting special services for the promotion of revival, reading his Word, and reading good books about how God has worked in the lives of his people in revival power.
I was recently stirred as I read an account from the life of James A. Stewart (1896-1990), the Scottish evangelist, now with the Lord. Stewart wrote:
One day in a northern city of Eastern Europe I was concerned because, for no apparent reason, God had suddenly sent revival. In other cities and countries it usually comes after several weeks or even months of throne ministry. But here on the fifth day, the heavens were rent asunder, and we were deluged with Heaven-sent blessing. One thousand believers packed the church building each morning for Bible study. Thousands heard the Gospel in the evening in a larger auditorium. So great was the hunger for the Word among the unsaved that there was no room for the believers in the evening service. I asked them to go to their own churches and pray and not take up the seats which should be occupied with the unsaved. The spiritual distress among the unsaved was great, as the Sword of the Spirit stabbed their hearts night after night. It was midnight and after before I could leave the building.
I was greatly disturbed in my mind and could not sleep, being at a loss to explain the open windows (Mal. 3:10). I had arrived unheralded and unknown, only by the invitation of the Holy Spirit. The meetings had commenced on a Friday night with some seven people at a prayer meeting.
One evening the Lord very kindly allowed me to discover the secret of the blessing. Being afraid that I would not have sufficient power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to the thousands who had gathered, I made my way to the basement of the auditorium in order to have a few minutes more of prayer. I began to pray in the darkness, but it was not long before I felt an overwhelming sense of the majesty of God. I knew right away there was someone else in the large basement, praying. I quietly put on the light, and there I saw at the extreme end of the basement some twelve sisters, flat on their faces before God! They were totally unaware of my presence. They were inside the veil, touching the Throne, by the power of the Spirit, while upstairs God was working mightily among the unsaved.5
Will We Obey?
If we are to see fresh moves of the Spirit in the church and in our own life, it takes more than prayer, of course; it requires obedience. The psalmist alludes to this in different ways: “let them not turn back to folly . . . faithfulness springs up from the ground . . . Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way” (Psa. 85:8, 11, 13).
Are we willing to abandon our foolish ways? Will we allow God to perform a deep work of grace in us until we are faithful to him and his church? Are you ready to live anew? Let us bend low in prayer.
- T. S. Rendall, “The Prairie Overcomer,” Sept., 1988, 2.
- Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations in this chapter are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
- Kurt Koch, Revival Fires in Canada, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1973), 30-31.
- Robert E. Coleman, One Divine Moment, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1970), 102.
- James A. Stewart, Opened Windows (Ashville, NC: Revival Literature, reprinted 1999), 104-105.
Taken from . . .
The Christian’s Vital Breath: An Anthology on Prayer
Copyright ©2014 Ralph I. Tilley
(May be copied for noncommercial purposes,
not to exceed 500 copies.)