"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

Revival Praying

By Dave Butts

    The following is edited from a workshop presentation given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference held in April 2008 at Asheville, North Carolina U.S.A.

    What we are going to talk about in this workshop is kingdom-focused praying. The issue in churches is not that we are not praying, because every church prays some, but rarely do we find ourselves praying what I call kingdom-focused prayers. Most of our churches are praying self-focused, need-focused prayers – our needs, our families and things right around us. We are supposed to pray for those things, but they are only one aspect of that for which we ought to be praying. We should be also praying every day for the completion of the task of world evangelization, for revival, for our governmental leaders, for the unsaved.

The Revival toward Which to Pray

    In many churches it is necessary to move the people away from the common concept of revival as a week of meetings or something that we schedule. True revival is heaven-sent, and is in God’s hands. It is important to have a correct concept of revival to help us know what we are praying toward. Good definitions of revival help people stay focused as they pray.

    One of the definitions of revival I want to give you is from Arthur Wallis. He wrote, "Revival is such a display of God’s holiness and power that often human personalities are overshadowed and human programs abandoned. It is God breaking into the consciousness of men in majesty and glory." Vance Havner said, "Revival is the Church falling in love with Jesus all over again." Duncan Campbell stated, "Revival is a community saturated with God."

    The South African revivalist, Andrew Murray, said, "A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out a spirit of worldliness and selfishness and making God in His love triumph in the heart and life." My favorite from Stephen Olford is: "Revival is ultimately Christ Himself seen, felt, heard, living, active, moving in and through His body on earth."

    The whole idea of revival is a Christ awakening. The true Church believes that Jesus is in their midst, but is somehow failing to experience it. There is a great divide between our intellectual, theological, biblical belief and what we actually experience. Revival crosses that divide.

    Without thoughtful definitions in mind, we find ourselves praying for revival amiss. So in praying for revival, don’t discount the time you spend at the beginning of a prayer meeting or even in your own personal prayer life on understanding, "What is it we are praying toward? What are we asking God to do?" You might be asking something you want but something He does not desire.

    So what we are going to talk about in relation to revival praying is in regard to opening God’s Word and learning to pray Scripture, learning to pray what God desires to have happen. I prefer the term "revival praying" rather than "praying for revival." If I am praying for revival, I become revival focused sometimes rather than focused on Christ. I get more interested in something that happens with meetings. For some this is a small distinction, but for me, revival praying is the type of praying that prepares the ground, that prepares the way for revival. Sometimes we ask God for something for which we are not ready.

    I like to think of revival praying in terms of preparing ourselves for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament talks about plowing up hard ground, fallow ground, so that if the rain were to fall on it, it would not just run off. If nothing has been done to the ground, it will not be prepared to receive anything from heaven.

    I think the same thing has happened when we persist in praying to God, "Give us revival! Give us revival!" What happens will be short-lived if the ground has not been prepared, if we have not prepared ourselves for the Holy Sprit to be poured upon us and to stay and to make some significant changes in our lives.

Why Prayer Is Necessary

    Prayer and revival seem tied together. As far as we have been able to tell, there has never been a revival without there first being a move of prayer. A. T. Pierson said, "From the day of Pentecost there has not been one spiritual awakening in any land which has not begun in a union of prayer, though only among two or three. No outward, upward movement has continued after such prayer meetings have declined." It is interesting that he would suggest that it is the prayer meeting that not only helps usher in revival but even sustains it. As you look at some revivals there is that truth that after revival has come and the prayer meetings are left behind, you soon find a decline in that revival.

    Charles Spurgeon wrote, "O men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival, men whose faith is large enough and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here as in the times of former generations." What would happen if there would be men from this conference who would go home and have almost continuous intercession that God would move in our midst?

    A. T. Pierson wrote, "Closet communion needs time for the revelation of God’s presence. It is vain to say, ‘I have too much work to do to find time.’ You must find time or forfeit blessing. God knows how to save time for you, time that you sacredly keep for time with Him."

    A. J. Gordon wrote, "To arouse one man or woman to the tremendous power of prayer for others is worth more than the combined activity of a score of average Christians."

    It was McGregor who wrote, "I would rather train twenty men to pray than a thousand to preach. A minister’s highest mission should be to teach His people to pray."

    Leonard Ravenhill wrote, "The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church, grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil."

    Andrew Bonar said, "We must continue in prayer if we are to get an outpouring of the Spirit. Christ says there are some things we shall not get unless we pray and fast. Yes, prayer and fasting. We must control the flesh and abstain from whatever hinders direct fellowship with God."

    John R. Mott said, "The missionary church is a praying church. The history of missions is the history of prayer. Everything vital to the success of the world’s evangelization hinges on prayer. Are thousands of missionaries and tens of thousands of native workers needed? ‘Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest’ " (Luke 10:2).

    Samuel Chadwick wrote, "We give ourselves to prayer. We preach a Gospel that saves to the uttermost and witnesses to its power. We do not argue about worldliness; we witness. We do not discuss philosophy; we preach the Gospel. We do not speculate about the destiny of sinners; we pluck them as brands from the burning. We ask no man’s patronage; we beg no man’s money; we fear no man’s frown. Let no man join us who’s afraid. We want none but those who are saved, sanctified and aflame with the fire of the Holy Ghost."

    Robert Speer wrote, "The evangelization of the world in this generation depends first of all upon a revival of prayer. Deeper than the need for men, deeper far than the need for money, deeper down at the bottom of our spiritless life is the need for the forgotten secret of prevailing, worldwide prayer."

    John R. Mott again said, "Prayer alone will overcome the gigantic difficulties that confront the workers in every field."

    Pierson wrote, "The Word of God represents all the possibilities of God as at the disposal of true prayer."

    William Carey wrote, "Prayer, secret, fervent, believing prayer lies at the root of all personal godliness."

    One of the men whose writings have impacted me greatly, Paul Billheimer, wrote, "Satan does not care how many people read about prayer, if only he can keep them from praying. When a church is truly convinced that prayer is where the action is, that prayer will so construct its corporate activities that the prayer program will have the highest priority."

    Something has to change at the level of the local church. We have to do things differently. We cannot use prayer any longer just to open and close meetings. If we are a house of prayer, it means that it has to be woven into the very fabric of who we are as a congregation.

    Matthew Henry said, "When God is about to give His people the expected good, He pours out a spirit of prayer and it is a good sign that He is coming toward them in mercy. Then when you see the expected end approaching, then you shall call upon Me. Note that promises are not given to supersede but to quicken and encourage prayer, and when deliverance is coming we must go forth by prayer to meet it. When Daniel understood that the seventy years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord."

    Hudson Taylor said, "Since the days of Pentecost has the whole Church ever put aside every other work and waited upon Him for ten days, that the Spirit’s power might be manifested? We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power."

    George Whitefield wrote in his journal, "Whole days and weeks have I spent prostrate on the ground in silent or vocal prayer."

    I love history. I love to hear about Whitefield and Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. Most of us love to hear those stories but most of us aren’t willing to pay the price. But these men prayed. "Whole days and weeks have I spent prostrate on the ground in silent or vocal prayer." It was not just his great preaching. It was great praying as well. As we look at how we might be used by God in praying for revival through revival praying I believe that above all we must learn to become men and women who take God’s Word back to Him in prayer.

    Back in my high school years, someone put a book on revival in my hands, and I began praying for revival. I spent well over a decade praying for revival, not knowing exactly what I was praying for and not doing much of what I would call revival praying. It was simply, "Lord, send revival!" But that is a childish prayer. It is a beginning place, but it is just an introduction to this. We’ve got to move beyond that to the kind of prayer that prepares the ground, prepares our hearts, prepares the life of the church. Part of my hope for a coming revival is that I am seeing the Church increasingly grow in this area. Not whole churches but groups of people. Many times revival comes through small groups who are passionately praying and literally laying before God the promises that He had expressed of His desire for His people, learning to pray His heart.

Effective Revival Praying

    A key to praying for revival, although it can be moved into any area of our lives, is that we must learn to pray the Word of God and allow it to format our prayers. It helps us learn to pray not so much what is on our hearts but what is on God’s heart. It gives us a vocabulary for prayer. We pray on a different level with much greater effectiveness when we learn to take God’s Word and come before Him and say, "Lord, You have said…. You have revealed Your heart on this matter. Will You fulfill Your Word in our day? Would You do what You have promised to do?" Do not pull things out of context and do what you want with it, but have an earnestness of seeking God’s heart, of coming to the Word and saying, "Lord, what is it You want to happen?" In 1 John 5:14-15 we read: "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him."

    I want to share with you some of the passages of Scripture that you can use, some "fuel for the fire." You may want to start reading your Bible again with "revival glasses" on. Look for a move of God in the midst of His people, when God had left His people because of their sin and disobedience and then difficulties came in and in desperation God’s people began to cry out to Him. See how the Lord responded. Sometimes you will see things in a verse or two, and sometimes it will be in a whole chapter.

    In the Old Testament there are at least seven major revivals at which Bible scholars look. From my study, if you take away the word "major," I find fifteen or sixteen distinct times of decline and revival in the Old Testament. If you read from the perspective of Church history, you see how God’s heart is to draw His people back when they have moved away and then cry out to Him. He responds to that cry. This gives us great expectation in our day.

Picture of Revival in Psalm 80

    Psalm 80 is a powerful picture of revival. "Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken Your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (vv. 1-3).

    "O Lord God Almighty, how long will Your anger smolder against the prayers of Your people?" At what kind of prayers is God angry? "You have fed them with the bread of tears; You have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us." Then here again is the cry, "Restore us, O God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (vv. 4-7).

    Continuing on we read: "You brought a vine out of Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. Why have You broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it. Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, the root Your right hand has planted, the son You have raised up for Yourself. Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at Your rebuke Your people perish. Let Your hand rest on the man at Your right hand, the son of man You have raised up for Yourself. Then we will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name. Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (vv. 8-19).

    Can you imagine your congregation coming together and praying that prayer? Let the congregation begin to pray that passage which is repeated until it becomes a passionate cry of the people of God: "Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved!" The Church has to begin to cry out like this.

Revival in Psalm 74

    The Psalms are filled with prayers of revival. One of my favorites is Psalm 74.

    Read Psalm 74 and let it be the cry of your heart. Verse one reads: "Why have You rejected us forever, O God? Why does Your anger smolder against the sheep of Your pasture?" Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel left to yourself? There is a story of the Chinese brother, the house church leader, who was arrested again and again and beaten over and over again and finally was expelled from China. He came to the United States and spent a year traveling to churches here. Everyone treated him royally, but finally the door opened up for him to try to get back into China. Before he left he met with a number of American church leaders and they asked him to honestly tell them his opinion of the Church in the U.S. He thought carefully and then he said, "It is amazing to me how much you have been able to accomplish without God." Oh, might the Church in America beware of being an abomination to God because she is not depending on Him!

    As we read on in Psalm 74 we find an important principle of revival praying. There is a passion for the honor of God. It is not so much, "God, we are in trouble! Help us!" That is part of it, but there is also revival praying that says, "O God, rise up and defend Your Name, Your cause. Lord, You are the One being mocked. We are concerned about Your reputation, Your glory, Your Name." One of the effective ways of praying for revival is this concern about God and about how people are reproaching God. Being concerned about His honor and His glory is a principle found in a number of Psalms.

    Here are several other Scriptures helpful for revival praying: Psalm 85; Acts 3:19-20; Hosea 10:12; Habakkuk 3:2; Zechariah 8. I suggest you take it on yourself to search God’s Word for ways to do revival praying through His Word. Ask the Lord to show you pictures of revival – maybe just a verse you can begin to use in your own life. [Editor’s note: See also "Revival Praying From Psalm 107" in the June 2008 issue.]

    A movement of prayer, even though small, is essential for us to see revival. If we can gather even a small group to pray for revival, we may learn some day in heaven, that that group was the "tipping point" that God used to determine, "They’re ready!" It is in His hands; He is the One who stirs us to prayer. God looks upon His people and says, "Oh, how desperately they need Me! I will start stirring them up" and He begins to stir up His people. Those who are responsive to His Spirit begin to pray and to teach others. God keeps calling us back to Himself, to humble ourselves before Him to prepare our hearts for the work that He wants to do.

    I believe that the revival that is to come will prepare the Bride of Christ for the Bridegroom. The Word speaks of the Bride being prepared, dressed in white, spotless, without blame. I believe what God is doing today is a process of preparing our hearts for a move of His Spirit, and part of that move is to bring in all who are coming. We live in significant times!