If So, What Are You Praying For?
I often meet believers who say, “We’re praying for revival!” But I wonder, “What exactly are they praying for?” Are they praying that God will clean up America’s deficient morality so we will no longer have to face the headwinds of a hostile culture? I think many of us think it would be wonderful if we could settle back to our former American way of life, which by and large, accepted our Christian values.
Such people—bless them—might not know that revival doesn’t make life easier; the obedience it demands is often painful, gut-wrenching, and costly. Having encountered a revival first hand in western Canada in the early 1970s, I can tell you that sometimes the people who prayed for revival rejected it when it came. They didn’t know that revival was to begin with them; they thought revival meant that the unconverted would turn to God, corrupt politicians would be exposed, and their children would repent. Best of all, life for them would be much easier…
I have not been to Asbury where signs of a revival began in February 2023, but I can tell you that I did see and investigate widespread, similar events throughout western Canada 50 years ago. The Canadian revival began with a pastor, who, along with a few others, fasted and prayed for two years for a spiritual breakthrough in his church. Then he invited the twins, Ralph and Lou Sutera, to lead meetings. On the first night, two brothers who had not spoken to each other for several years were reconciled. The next evening, they shared their testimony and sang a duet. From that spark, a revival began that affected hundreds of churches.
Signs of Revival
This is what I saw:
First, a great sense of the presence of God (His holiness) resulting in deep repentance of sin. There was an awareness that personal sin could no longer be overlooked or excused. A businessman who had cheated on his expense reports called his pastor weeping, “God showed me my heart and it was as if I was looking into the pit of hell!” God’s grace became indescribably sweet when sin became indescribably bitter.
Second, we all experienced a new obedience, a desire to have “a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16). In other words, people not only got fully right with God, but also tried to rectify their relationship with others. One Christian businessman, who owned a construction company, built houses with materials inferior to what he had promised his clients. As God shone a light into his soul, he mortgaged his own house and, as far as possible, returned money to those whom he had defrauded. The Canadian equivalent to our IRS received unsolicited checks from people who had cheated on their income tax. Stories of costly obedience were numerous and widespread.
Long-standing family feuds were resolved. Often forgiveness was requested and granted with tears of reconciliation. Teenagers left their seats in church to find their parents and ask their forgiveness; parents in turn confessed their own faults to their children. Hopeless marriages were restored through confession and counsel. Stories of reconciliation are legion.
Believers became united. In one city, more than 20 churches cancelled their Sunday evening services to join in a larger church building where meetings were held. As one person said, “We are walking knee deep in love.” Of course, I must add that there are differences of belief between churches and denominations that are important, but for several weeks during the combined meetings, those differences faded into the background.
Finally, services had worship, preaching, and sharing. It was important that the sharing sessions be monitored by a pastor and guidance was given as to what was appropriate to share and what should not be shared. But these testimonies stimulated faith in others; if a widow shared a story about being delivered from the bitterness she had toward God after the death of her husband, other widows thought, “If God did that for her, why can’t He do that for me?” The prayer room was open and in use during the meetings. People who came to pray were told they first had confess whatever was on their heart to God before they would receive guidance from a prayer partner.
Fruits of Revival
Did the results continue? In some instances, no, but in many others yes. God used this time to call people to the mission field and into full time service. And many would still testify even today that the revival of the 1970s represented a turning point in their lives. Yes, revival can be messy; in some instances, things were done or said that were unwise, but on balance, I look back and can say that revival had a lasting impact on my own life and ministry.
But here is a caution: Those churches whose pastors were able to guide their people with solid biblical teaching on topics such as walking in the Spirit, worship, and the continuing need for the personal disciplines of the Christian life—in such churches the results of the revival were conserved. Those who thought the meetings would just keep happening, were disappointed when they ended, and the long-term effects were lost.
Prayer for Revival
I am not able to comment on all that is happening in Asbury, but I do know that the fame of revival spreads the flame of revival. Let us pray that God might do in our day what He has done in the past. Let us also pray that God will raise up leaders who can shepherd what God is doing so that the work of God will not be diverted by those who wish to take advantage of it.
“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).
Let us pray that God will cleanse His church first, and in His mercy, bring our country to true revival.