PRAYING FOR REVIVAL: A BOLD ACT
Church leaders understand that the world needs another Great Awakening. There are calls for Christians to pray for revival. Praying for a revival is a good thing. But I am not convinced that prayer alone is the solution to the spiritual desert that we live in.
Why would I say such a thing about prayer? It seems to me that much prayer to God about revival seeks for God to change us. The idea is that we are passive in the matter. God will change us in some dynamic way without any effort on our part. It leads to the conclusion that, until God changes us, we go on just as we are.
Before you think that I am saying that works save us, remember we are not talking about being saved, we are talking about being revived. The doctrine of justification is surely passive. God and God alone saves us. But when we pray for revival, the subject is our holiness, the doctrine of sanctification.
Every Christian should learn the word “sanctification.” Sanctification is the process of becoming holy. Holiness is not a subject that creates a burning interest in believers. The first thought we might have when we hear the word holiness is a woman wearing a dull, long dress with her hair piled up on her head. But we must not let stereotypes prevent us from understanding a very necessary doctrine.
In Scripture, Christians are repeatedly called live holy lives. As an example: “ . . . but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1Pe 1:14-16 ESV) No Christian should have to be convinced that he or she should live a holy life.
A holy life is not a passive life. The Christian takes an active role in his sanctification. Notice what saint Paul said: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phi 2:12-13 ESV) Paul tells us to work out our salvation. We are to act. Certainly God is at work in us, but we are no longer passive, we are to exercise our Christian faith. We are to carry out the good works for which we were created. In other words, there is a strong sense of intentionality in how we live the Christian life.
Prayer for revival must be made with the willingness to change. The biblical word here is “repent,” sometimes referred to as the “r” word because no one wants to talk about. Repentance is a deliberate act, an aggressive act by the believer. Repentance is the act of yielding oneself to God while turning away from whatever has been a distraction that caused to drift from God. Repentance is a judgmental act because it declares that something is wrong and should be replaced by something that is right.
It seems then, praying for revival must begin with an honest look out ourselves. We must be ruthlessly honest in that we see our own sin and are willing to destroy it, to use an old puritan term, we are to mortify it, to kill the sin. There is no place for political correctness here. We must call sin, sin, and must seek to destroy the wrongful desires and practices in our on life. We really don’t have time to judge the sins of others because we should be too busy judging and correcting ourselves.
There is wisdom in judging ourselves. In the Old Testament, God constantly called Israel to repentance. They were supposed to judge themselves and seek God’s forgiveness. The alternative was that God would judge them. To judge ourselves rightly and with repentance saves us from the judgment of God. God’s judgement, to be sure, is corrective but it can be very harsh. It seems to be that God’s plan is that we repent and be made right before God resorts to judgment.
The prayer for revival is the act of yielding to God. Yielding to God is an active, forceful event. It is like driving at night and falling asleep but waking soon enough to jerk the steering wheel to avert the tree you are about to hit. We aggressively steer our lives in the direction of God.
In some translations, paristemi is translated as “present” instead of “yield.”. It means to put at one’s disposal. Paul says that we present or yield ourselves either to God or to sin. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16 ESV) On a day to day basis, we are yielding ourselves either to sin or to God.
When we pray for revival, it must be with the boldness of mind that presents the self to God for change. Nothing should be left on the table. Anything and all things should be presented to God in that bold prayer of revival. What might appear to us as wise behavior, may be detrimental to us and to God’s Church. Prayer for revival is presenting ourselves to God for his adjustments, for his actions on our souls.
The prayer for revival is a bold prayer. It is real prayer only when we are ready to abandon ourselves to God. We are not asking God to passively change us. We are throwing ourselves on God to be changed. We are taking that step to work out our salvation because we know it is God who is at work in us. Asking for revival is not a wimpy request. Rather, we are casting ourselves on the wild and untamable God who takes us to places where we cannot go by ourselves.
Revival is no doubt a sovereign work of God. Yet, God himself has laid before us the path that leads to revival. We are to be honest with ourselves and repent of our sin. Daily we are to put sin to death so that righteous might live. Our prayer of revival must lead to action. Remember the old hymn, “I’ve wonder far away from God, now I’m coming home.” That is revival, we come home.
For further reading on Revival see:
Isaiah 1: 1-31
Luke 15: 11- 24. In fact, start at verse one for clearer understanding of revival.