Revival has been on my heart, and I believe revival is what the church in America needs desperately. Not only do we need revival, but the world needs to see us come alive and be the Church…to be salt and light.
When is the last time our presence, speech and behavior made someone thirsty for more of Jesus Christ? That’s what it means to be salt. Can they see Jesus more clearly by being with us? That is being light. Our commission is to share the gospel with the world and show them it has made a difference in us. They need to see real Christianity in action! Where is our passion for Christ? Not for programs, personalities or activities, but for the Person of Jesus? Where is our compassion for lost souls? Where is our sense of awe and wonder of God’s majesty?
We need revival! When you think ‘revival’, don’t think of a series of meetings with a dynamic evangelist. Instead, picture a cold, dead body suddenly having warmth flow back into it and life returning to every part, causing it to rise up and live again! That’s what the word ‘revive’ means - to return to life; to be renewed or refreshed; to reawaken. We need a fresh wind of God’s Spirit to blow through us and cause us to return to life.
Most churchgoers are content to carry out the routine performances expected of them on a weekly basis. But the expectations of God are MUCH, MUCH more than that. If the Bible is not our guide for living, we are following another gospel. If we are not following the leading of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis, we are not a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us and enable us, just as He had done for His disciples while He was on earth. To follow His Spirit is to follow Jesus.
The book of Nehemiah provides numerous insights on revival that bring about a permanent change, not just for a season. God used Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. It didn’t just automatically happen. Before the people of God rose up to do it, some things had to change. Jerusalem had no walls, and a city without walls was vulnerable to their enemies, wild animals and the ridicule of those around them. When we are not actively walking in the Spirit, we are vulnerable to the wiles of the devil. We won’t have the power to stand against him.
The first thing this group in Jerusalem needed was to acknowledge how critical and urgent their situation actually was. They were existing, but not really living. They weren’t looking or acting like God’s people.
Meanwhile, back in Babylon, Nehemiah was carrying out his duties as the cupbearer to the king, but being a Jew from Jerusalem, his heart remained in Jerusalem. So when his relative Hanani and some other men came from Jerusalem to visit him, he asked how the Jews in Jerusalem were doing.
He didn’t get the old standard: “We’re fine” or “We’re doing alright.” Nehemiah got the unvarnished truth from them. In Nehemiah 1:3, they told him, “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.”
They explained the situation just like it was. They could have covered up what was wrong by bringing up only the things that were right, but they didn’t. A city’s wall was its symbol of strength…or, in this case, its weakness. Jerusalem was not the glorious city she had been even though the Temple had been rebuilt. That’s just how it was. We have to face things as they are before we can correct them. We can’t make excuses or polish it up.
When we admit our need for change it’s like taking the first step in a series of steps leading to freedom…ours and others’. Step #1 is to see things as they are and admit we are far from God’s design. We may be living in God’s design in some areas, but we need to face the areas where we are lacking and set ourselves up for change.
Charles Grandison Finney was the leader of the Second Great Awakening in the United States in the 1800’s. He knew what it took to bring about true revival and lasting change. Not just a stirring of emotions, but a deep inner change bringing spiritual maturity. He said, “A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”
Obedience. That first requires knowing what is expected. It requires reading the Word of God and accepting it just as it is written, not the way we have rewritten it over the years to accommodate our culture. As we read God’s Word, we should compare it to our personal beliefs and behavior to see any changes we need to make. We can ask, “Does that describe me?” If not, we need to change…Because God’s Word will never change!! If we have fallen away in any area, we need to be honest enough to admit it, repent and return to what God says about it. When we do that, we have taken the first step. As long as we believe what we have is enough, that it’s okay, we will not have a new beginning.
Sometimes it seems the American church is so far from the teachings of Jesus and the example of the early church that it’s discouraging, and we can feel there is nothing we can do about it. But we can begin to change it by experiencing revival one heart at a time, beginning with our own. After all, the church is made up of individual members. When one member sees the need for change and acts on it, one fire begins to burn. That fire can light another, then another, until there are fires everywhere. That’s how revival is. It spreads from one person to another.
So now Nehemiah knew the truth about Jerusalem and the people he loved. What was his response to the sad news? He didn’t say, “It can’t be THAT bad!” or “Well, I‘m just one man and I live too far away to make any difference.”? He would never have accomplished anything that way. Neither do we. As long as we excuse ourselves and wait for somebody else to do it, we will not see revival. Why wait for someone else when we can start now?
Nehemiah began to pray. In Nehemiah 1:4, it says “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven”. You may want to read his prayer. It is recorded in the first chapter of Nehemiah, verses 5-11. It is filled with repentance, sorrow, reminders to God of His covenant with His people, confessions of their failure to keep covenant with God, and asking for forgiveness, for renewal, for revival…for a new beginning of obedience to God.
Step #2 is prevailing in prayer. The recorded revivals in history began with and were sustained by prayer. Often they started with just two or three people praying…usually in obscurity at first. But once the fire begins to fall, it cannot be hidden! Jesus said in Matthew 18:19-20 – “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Here is Charles Finney’s perspective of the connection between prayer and revival: “A revival may be expected when Christians have a spirit of prayer for a revival. That is, when they pray as if their hearts were set upon it. When Christians have the spirit of prayer for a revival. When they go about groaning out their hearts desire. When they have real travail of soul.”
We spend ourselves, our time, our money, our thoughts and our energy on whatever is important to us. My question is this: Do we want revival? Is that the desire of our hearts? Some may pay the price and pray, but few will follow that course because prayer requires more than a little time and a few words. It requires our hearts. It requires our persistence, our energy. It requires laying aside the things of this world to lay hold on the purpose of God.
We say we want to see a revival. If we really want to see it, we will act on it. We can be the catalyst if we are serious about taking these first steps.
James 5:16-18 mentions steps 1 and 2 and the results. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
Prevailing, effectual, fervent prayer brings results. Prevailing prayer is prayer that won’t let go until we hear from God, until He blesses us. Remember when Jacob wrestled with God and said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”? God blessed him. He gave him the same promise He had given to Abraham and Isaac. He changed his name from Jacob (supplanter, schemer, trickster) to Israel (Prince with God, Contender with God). That was through prevailing prayer…prayer that overcomes! Jacob overcame who he had been and rose to a new live and a new covenant with God.
Effectual prayer is prayer that has power to get results…there are effects from it. It’s active and sees the answer come to pass.
Fervent prayer –is “white hot prayer”, a prayer that is zealous for God and for His will to be done in this earth as it is in heaven. It removes ‘self’ from the equation and comes into conformity to the mind of God.
In those hours of prayer, God will change our hearts and desires. He will change who we are and our priorities. AND He will direct us. He will give us a vision – His vision. Then we simply obey Him.
When Nehemiah prayed, God obviously gave him a plan to approach the king, because he came through those days of prayer with a plan in his mind. Once he had the plan, Nehemiah obeyed God. When he saw results, he didn’t say, “look what I have accomplished!” He declared that it came about because “The good hand of my God was upon me.”
Prevailing, effective, fervent praying leaves no room for pride, because when we enter into God presence, we see how weak we are and how strong God is. So we pray until we conform to God’s will, He shows us His plan, and we see the next step. Then we take it.
Step #3 is to obey Him. We must believe from the first moment of prayer, God is working, but we are not to step out until we have heard from God. Long before we see the breakthrough with our physical eyes, God may show it to us in the Spirit.
Mark Batterson likens the Old Testament watchmen to those who prevail in prayer. Those watchmen had a place on the wall where they could see farther than others and they could see people approaching (whether friend or foe) before others could. Those who pray often have this same insight from the Holy Spirit. Never doubt that God is doing the work. Our prayers can even change the heart of kings!
As Nehemiah prayed and stepped out, there was an amazing turn of events, a miraculous turn of events. Not only was the king allowing Nehemiah to leave his position in Babylon for an extended period of time, he was sending him to Jerusalem with an entourage and providing the materials to rebuild the walls!
Step #4 is to expect the provision of God, then accept it when it comes, and operate in it. Only through continued prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit can we do that. Accomplishing what God calls us to do can overwhelm us if we try to do it in our own strength. We need to stay closely connected to Jesus, listening to the voice of His Spirit every step of the way and following through the power He gives.
Nehemiah continued to be a man of prayer, not only when he first heard the news, but through every step of building the wall. We never stop doing any of the steps as we go along, we just keep adding on. To awareness and confession, add prayer, obedience and operating in the Holy Spirit.
Step #5 is a rather unpleasant part of revival, but it is necessary to recognize it. We must be aware of adversaries. Any time the church rises up and returns to life, there will be adversaries just as Nehemiah had adversaries who came against him. We have to be aware of them and guard against them, but never stop “building on the wall”!
Can you imagine the apostles calling a meeting and saying “This persecution is getting out of hand. We are going to have to stop the work of the Kingdom of God long enough to get rid of this persecution, then we can start back with God’s work.” Not hardly! They never even let it slow them down. When they were put in prison, they had a worship service in there! We don’t need to stop working in God’s kingdom so we can march against a cause. We need to be aware of the enemy’s devices, but we need to keep our focus on Jesus, not the propaganda of man or the enemy.
Revival…real revival….is within our grasp, but we have to reach out for it with a firm hand. It takes the whole body of Christ raising the torch of the gospel for the world to see. Remember, even Hanani played a part in the whole when he brought the bad news to Nehemiah. If he had covered up the bad news, Nehemiah would probably have never gone to Jerusalem to raise the walls. Hanani’s part was the catalyst for revival in Jerusalem!
God wants His people to rise up above mediocrity and seek Him. He wants us to care about the lost and those in need. He is waiting to hear from us. If your heart burns with a desire for God’s Spirit and you see the great need for revival, begin to pray.
I challenge you to join yourself with a few people who have a vision for revival and begin to pray together…really pray! Pray those prevailing, effectual, fervent prayers. The ones that bring results and overcome. It’s time to stop talking about it and do something. Can you imagine reaching the end of our lives and seeing all the things we could have had and could have accomplished if we had only prayed…but we didn’t?
Are we ready to do what it takes to see revival in the Church in America? It can begin with us today and spread to our community, our state, our nation, the world.
It can begin today…with you!