Prayer For A Revived Church
By Andrew Murray
"God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us; that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations… God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him" (Psa. 67:1-2, 6-7).
In speaking of and praying for revival, it is important that we understand what we really desire and ask for. To most Christians the word conveys the meaning of a large increase in the number of conversions. When that happens, they say, "There has been quite a revival in that church (or town)."
The true meaning of the word is far deeper. The word means making alive again those who have been alive but have fallen into what is called a cold, or dead, state. They are Christians and have life, but they need reviving to bring them back to their first love and the healthy growth of the spiritual life to which conversion was meant to be the entrance. When the church as a whole, its ministers and members, is not living in full wholehearted devotion to Christ and His service, is not walking in the joy of the Lord and separation from the world, we need to pray, more than for the conversion of the unconverted, that God’s people may truly be revived and have the life of God in power restored to them.
It may be said: Is not adding new converts the best way of reviving the church? Does not that awaken interest, and gladness, and the Christians to new activity? This may be true, and yet not meet the real need for two reasons: First, such a revival is generally very temporary, and soon leaves the church settling down to its ordinary level. Second, these converts, when brought into a church that is not living in the warmth of the true spiritual life – in all holiness and fruitfulness – are not helped as they need, and do not rise above the lukewarmness around them.
What we need to pray and labor for, first of all, is that the church of true believers may be revived. What the world needs above everything is not more men and women of the ordinary type of Christians but better people. We need Christians who are stronger in faith and holier in life, intensely devoted to Christ and His service and ready to sacrifice all for the salvation of souls. When God’s Spirit is poured out upon the church, and men and women, who are now struggling on in feebleness, are clothed with the garments of praise and the power of the Spirit, the world will soon share the blessing. These revived believers will be ready to give themselves to God’s work at home or abroad; their word and witness will be in power. Nominal Christians will be judged by the power of the revived ones’ example, and will confess that God is with them. And the world will, in the increased numbers and the burning fervor of the messengers of a quickened church, share in the blessing. A revival among believers is the great need of our day. A revived church is the only hope of a dying world.
If our conviction of this truth is to be deep and influential, if by it our desire and faith in prayer for revival are really to be stirred and strengthened, we need the Holy Spirit of God to reveal the meaning of such words in the light of God’s purpose. The spiritual character of the church, its great object as the instrument of God’s almighty power in conquering the world, and the conditions under which that purpose can be accomplished, are all thoughts of God – as high above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth. It will need to be one of the very first things we pray for – that God Himself shows what His church is meant to be, what He has promised to be to it, and how His plan with her is to be carried out. Let us try to think out some of the great thoughts of God as revealed in His Word.
God’s Great Purpose for the Church
The church has the charge of the world entrusted to it. When Christ finished His work on earth and went to heaven to carry it on there, He spoke of two powers to whom the continuation of the work on earth was to be committed. He spoke of the Holy Spirit, who should come in His name to convict the world of sin and be a divine power in His disciples to reveal Himself in them, and so make them witnesses for Him to the ends of the earth. He spoke of His disciples as those whom He sent into the world, even as the Father had sent Him. Just as entirely as He had lived to do the Father’s will in saving men and women so was His Spirit to do that work, too. And just as wholly as the Spirit was to be devoted to that work was the body, the church, to be set apart for it. The whole body of believers, and every individual believer, was to be like Christ, the light of the world, placed in the world with the one definite, exclusive object of enlightening its darkness and bringing men and women out of darkness into light.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit
To do its work the church has the promise of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. That Spirit is given to every believer to be within him the power of a divine and holy life. That Spirit is to be to him the seal of his worship and acceptance, the fountain of love and joy, the grace for conquering sin and the world, the power to do all that God would have us do. That Spirit is to enlighten and guide and lead, to sanctify and fit for unbroken fellowship with a holy God, to reveal Christ the Son of God the Father within the heart. He is to be a fountain springing up within and flowing forth as streams of living water in what He thus works in personal experience; He equips the person to boldly testify about God’s power and to communicate to others what has happened in his own life. Without the power of the Holy Spirit fully recognized and experienced, the church cannot know or fulfil its calling. With His power the life and fruit God asks for are natural and sure. When the Spirit does not work in power, it is proof that another spirit has been allowed to take its place.
There are only two spirits in the spiritual world – the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world. Between these there is an unceasing struggle going on. It is because Christians live so much for this present world, and under its power, that its spirit gets possession of them, and grieves and quenches the Spirit of God. They lose the power to conquer sin or live a holier life. They lose any intense desire to live for God and His kingdom. They lose the divine love that would enable them to live for or to have influence on their neighbors. Their religion becomes that of the mind and not of the heart. They are willing to listen to beautiful words on religion, and count the pleasing impressions these make as religious feeling. And all the while they are quenching the life in them into impotence and death. This is the state in which multitudes of Christians live, making themselves and their churches powerless for good or for blessing.
It is out of this state that a revival is needed to lift the church into its true life, according to the divine pattern.
Preparing the Way for Revival
A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life. As every birth has its travails and its pangs, so this entrance of a new divine life in power into a church must be preceded and accompanied by the pains of conviction and confession, by the earnest searchings of heart in which sin is discovered, is held up to shame, and condemned. In such a work of grace many will learn how little truth or power there has been either in their conversion or their spiritual life. They will see things that they tolerated to be vile sin that nothing but the blood of Christ can wash away and the power of Christ can overcome. They will no longer wonder at someone speaking of the need of a second conversion; the experience of many will teach them that the change is even greater. They will see that now, for the first time, they truly know what the power of grace is, what the blessedness of God’s love is, and what the joy of a heart given to His service is. And work for Christ will be the spontaneous fruit of God’s Spirit coming on them.
On those who believe that a revival is needed and is possible rests the solemn responsibility of preparing the way of the Lord in speaking to God and men and women about it. To God we speak about it in prayer. We ask Him to open our own eyes and hearts, and those of our church, to what He thinks and says of the spiritual life He finds. We confess our own sin and the sin of our brethren. We give ourselves to stand in the gap, to take hold of God’s strength. We ask the Spirit to give us the consciousness of being intercessors, who in tender love, and yet in holy zeal and truth, speak to God about the state in which His church is. Not in the spirit of judgment or self-exaltation, but in deep humility and the spirit of self-sacrifice, we ask God to show us if it is true what we think we see – that the spirit of self-will and the world is robbing the church of its power to continue to carry out the work Christ began. We ask God to reveal to us if and how deliverance can come.
And so we are prepared to lift up our testimony and speak to our brethren. It may not happen at once: the fire may burn long in our bones. It may not be to large audiences, or with any marked result. But if our speaking to men is the fruit of much speaking to God, of real waiting on Him for revival, it must tell. As one here and another there – this is usually God’s way – begins to see what God’s will really is concerning His church, the cause of her failure, and the path of restoration and what the certainty of the visitation of His grace, his prayer will become more urgent and believing, and the blessing will come.
Faith in God for Revival
All this must lead to the assured faith that a revived church is a possibility, a promise, and a certainty. As in the individual and his needs, so with the church and the mighty change to be wrought in it: unbelief is the great hindrance. And faith can triumph only where it stands, not in the wisdom of men and in the hope they have of revival from all the agencies that are at work, and all the progress they see, but in the power of God and His direct intervention. Faith looks up to and worships the God of absolute omnipotence and infinite love. God can, God will – these are its foundational strengths, on the right hand and on the left.
Yes, God is able! It needs but an act of His will; and His Holy Spirit, the mighty power of God working in His church, can give new life to all who long to receive Him. He can work conviction in those who are resting content in external prosperity and human agencies. He can give the joy of the Holy Spirit, first in single churches and then in larger bodies. He can awaken His people, as out of sleep, to see, consent, and rejoice that they are indeed the hope of a dying world. And God is ready! As the sun pours its light and warmth on every tiny flower to give it growth and beauty, God’s love is waiting and longing to pour itself into hearts that reach out after Him. Sometimes it may appear as if He waits long and delays His coming. But let us be sure of this: He does not wait one moment longer than is needful. We may depend upon it, with the utmost confidence, that if His children unite in praying for a revived church as the only hope of a dying world, He will hear the prayer.
…As the solemn words "a revived church the only hope for a dying world" are borne in upon us and burned into us, prayer and intercession will become a transaction with God. Our utter helplessness will have to take hold of and cling to His almighty power. Our whole life must become possessed by the thought that there is nothing worth living for but the will of God in the salvation of men.
– From Revival by Andrew Murray.