C. How to Seek Revival
c. Persist in prayer
This was what the disciples did before the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost: “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). A little later “after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
However, bear in mind what someone said: “I never get time to pray; I’ve always got to make it.”
We must pray in the Spirit
Paul writes: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph 6:18). As part of our personal revival we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and inspire us to pray like we have never prayed before. We need the Spirit’s guidance as to what to pray for and when.
We can take much encouragement from Paul’s statement: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27. The history of revival shows that sometimes the Holy Spirit inspires deep groaning by intercessors.
We must pray in faith
Jesus gave us a challenge to have faith: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’” (Mark 11:22-24). He also said: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).
Equally encouraging is Jesus’ promise “So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13). This is a direct encouragement to believe that God wants to pour out his Spirit in revival.
However, if we have a deep desire for revival that is an indication that God wishes to bring it about.
We must pray with fasting
Jesus fasted and clearly expected his disciples to fast (Matt 6:16-18; 9:15).
The early church practised fasting. It is said of the church in Antioch “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit spoke to them in the context of fasting. Similarly “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders … in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23).
“‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love … declare a holy fast … Let the priests … say, ‘Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘‘Where is their God?”’ (Joel 2:12-18).
We must pray with persistence
Paul exhorts us to “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17).
Jesus tells the story of the friend at midnight to encourage persistence in prayer: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.”And suppose the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.”I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Luke 11:5-8). The Greek of the verbs “ask … seek … knock” in verse 9 is in the present continuous sense, i.e. meaning “keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking.” We need to have the “audacity” to do that in prayer.
The same lesson of persistence in prayer is taught in Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow who kept bothering the unjust judge so that in the end he gave way and granted her what she asked (Luke 18:6-8).
Note the challenge to have faith at the end. This means that we should not persist to see if God will answer but rather persist because we know he will answer.
We must pray with pleading
This involves humbly and reverently pleading our case before God that he should answer our prayers. But it must be humble and reverent.
Abraham pleaded with God about the wicked city of Sodom, eventually gaining the Lord’s agreement that if only ten righteous people were there he would not bring judgement (Gen 18:22-32). Moses pleaded with God after the golden calf incident, saying that to bring disaster on Israel would make the Egyptians say he brought them out of Egypt with evil intent (Ex 32:11-14) or was not able to bring them to the promised land (Numbers 14:13-16). Joshua prayed a similar prayer (Josh 7:8-9). Elijah prayed on Mt Carmel that God would show that he was God (1 Kings 18:36-37). Asaph pleads with God in Psalm 74: “Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord, how foolish people have reviled your name.” (Psa 74:18-23). Asaph pleads again with the Lord to have mercy on Israel in Psalm 79 as does David in Psalm 143.
Joel urges the people of Judah to return to God and plead with him to spare them: “‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing …” (Joel 2:12-18).
The Syro-Phoenician woman pleaded with Jesus: “a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’ ‘Lord,’ she replied, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’” (Mark 7:25-29).
We can plead:
- Our great needs
“Lord, look down and see the suffering/needs of your people.”
- The loving omnipotence of God
“Lord, you are omnipotent and you are love. Will you not answer our prayer …”
- The biblical promises
“Lord you word promises that you will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask you …”
- God’s honour in the world
“Lord, answer our prayers so that your name may not be dishonoured …”
- The sacrifice of Christ
“Lord, we plead the blood of Jesus that our prayers may be answered …”
We must pray in unity
It is crucial that those praying for revival do so as a fellowship who are united in their prayers, even if there are only two or three people involved.
Jesus stressed the importance of unity in prayer: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:19-20).