The Prayer That Brings Revival
By Ernest M. Wadsworth
"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness...and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:31-33).
Prayer for revival differs from every other kind of prayer. Numerous examples of such effectual prayers are given in the Scriptures. In them we notice factors unknown in other prayers. They have a singular power to move God. The secret of Pentecost is in them. They embrace what God most loves in prayer. Fervency is greater. Union with God is more intimate. They are more intercessory. They vocalize the Spirit’s desires. Is it any wonder that they shake heaven and bring down showers of blessing?
Elijah, by this kind of praying, brought in days of revival blessing. He said: "‘Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again’...Then the fire of the Lord fell" (1 Kgs. 18:37-38).
Ezra’s revival prayer obtained the purification of the nation. The priests and the people had taken the daughters of the land for themselves and for their sons. The holy seed was corrupted. The hands of princes and rulers were chief in this trespass. Ezra prayed: "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens...Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore...and said...We have trespassed against our God, anacd have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God" (Ezra 9:6; 10:1-3). God thus saved the nation.
The apostles by union in prayer after Pentecost received a second Pentecostal revival. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is...And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:24, 29-31).
We now venture to name the salient features of effectual revival prayer:
1. Revival prayers are groaning prayers. Such were the prayers of Israel in the house of bondage. They "groaned" unto the Lord. This groan-filled praying was the order of the day. Samuel mentions this in his last address to Israel. He says: "Your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt" (1 Sam. 12:8). The prayers of Israel were groaning prayers. The Spirit prayed through them for deliverance "with groanings which cannot be uttered." Whenever God hears the groanings of His troubled saints He rises to their help. "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isa. 66:8).
2. Revival prayers are blushing prayers. Thus Ezra prayed: "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens" (Ezra 9:6). He confessed crimson sins with a blushing face. It is the right accompaniment for naming transgressions. Prayer that comes from a seething heart, offered with blazing zeal for the glory of God and with shame for His dishonor, will be offered with a flushed countenance. God never passes over such prayers.
3. Revival prayers are prostrate prayers. The sight of iniquity, awareness of impotency, inefficiency, and incompetence, and of dependence upon God, with alarm over the perils in crises, cause prostration before God. It is the only suitable attitude. Thus our Lord prayed in Gethsemane. Revival is near when people get down on their faces before God.
4. Revival prayers are based upon the atonement. They rest upon "the finished work" of Christ. Revivals prayers capitalize on the redemption in Christ Jesus. They plead the benefits of Calvary. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). On the basis of Christ’s atonement we must prevail in prayer for the coming revival.
5. Revival prayers are based upon the Covenant. The New Testament Covenant cannot be disannulled. It is unalterable. Therefore saints interested in its terms and provisions may make legal claim for revival at the court of heaven. The New Covenant has ever been the passkey by which men of faith have unlocked doors of revival blessing.
6. Revival prayers are united prayers. Union and agreement in prayer are essential to revival. It is given in answer to mutual prayer. Revivalists and reformers understood this necessity. Jonathan Edwards, father of the New England revival, bowed in travail of soul before God for revival. He issued a Call to God’s people, "To come unto union and explicit agreement in prayer for the revival of God’s work in the churches in keeping with His holy Covenant and promises." Prayer groups were formed all over the land. The spirit of prayer was upon the people. Whole nights were spent in prayer. Prior to his world-famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," his congregation spent the entire night in intercession.
We, too, need to travail in soul. We have greater reason for being bowed before God. It is time to seek the Lord with groanings and strong cryings. The church is in humiliation; the ungodly are bold; many youth are indifferent; God’s servants are in reproach; enemies are mocking the church; and ungodliness prevails. In similar difficult times Daniel set his face to seek the Lord with supplication and fastings. We need to wait upon God. We will see mighty manifestations of God’s supernatural presence and power when there are mighty wrestlings in prayer in closets, homes, and in services of public prayer. Increase of souls comes with travail of soul.
7. Revival prayers are selfless prayers. They seek only the glory of God and the welfare of the church, and of the world. Love "seeketh not her own." To save their people Moses and Paul were willing even to be blotted out of God’s book (Ex. 32:32; Rom. 9:3). Can we say: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake"? (Psa. 115:1). Are our prayers like these?
Such were the unique features attending the effectual revival prayers of men of old. In proportion as these qualities appear in our intercessions, our prayers for revival will be effectual. Spiritual concern will drive us, as it did Moses, to stand in the gap in an agony of prayer that leads us to say:
Lord, I know not how to go,
’Till a blessing Thou bestow.
The Spirit of grace will express Himself through our prayers in the fervid, inspired prayers of prevailing saints so that we shall cry out: "Save us, O Lord our God...to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise" (Psa. 106:47).
– From The Sunday School Times.