A focus on prayer for revival emerged from the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore yesterday. The election of Ronnie Floyd as president–a friend who has been leading pastors’ gatherings for prayer–will doubtless continue the focus begun by outgoing president Fred Luter. I for one am grateful for this, and have in my own heart had a growing burden to pray for revival in my life and in the Church.
No small controversy broke out on Twitter last night from a statement made by a leader questioning the need to pray for revival. Rather than go into apoplexy over someone’s 140 characters, perhaps it is better to ask: what should we think about praying for revival?
1. If we simply use prayer for revival as an excuse for our unwillingness to obey God, we should not pray for revival, we should repent. Prayer for revival is not a bandaid cure; it is a call to repentance. If we are not passionate about sharing the gospel, honoring the Word, and bringing glory to God, our prayers for revival are meaningless. Note the words of Tozer: “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late–and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.”
2. If we see revival as God’s stamp of approval on our status quo Christianity, we do not know that for which we pray. In the past, awakenings brought fundamental and at times radical change. Music changed, methods emerged, both gospel proclamation and social ministry happened, and churches were planted. Revival will not affirm many of our preferences in the Christian subculture many of us cherish, it will explode them.
3. That being said, we should pray for revival, starting with our own hearts. I know I am experiencing a fresh touch of God when I stop confessing everyone else’s sins and start with my own. I am less concerned about what is said by a person on social media and more concerned with what the Spirit is saying to me.
4. We should pray for revival because of Biblical teaching. Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2, among others, offer examples of revival prayer. Don’t let the fact that these passages are in the Old Testament keep you from obeying all of Scripture! Paul calling the Roman church to be awakened (Romans 13:11-14) and our Lord calling the church at Ephesus to repent (Revelation 2) offer examples of the need to constantly seek the Lord. Michael Haykin offers insight on the apostle Paul and prayer for revival here. Ray Ortlund has a fine article on biblical revival praying here.
5. We pray for revival because of our study of history. I’m far more interested in the opinions of those from history whose lives have endured as examples of godly leadership than contemporary spokesmen–including myself–who will likely fade into historical obscurity.
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