Prayer And Revival
By Sammy Tippit
The following message was given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2004 at The Cove, Asheville, North Carolina U.S.A.
Normally when revival comes, historically and biblically, it comes on the wings of a person or a small group of people who pray and seek Him desperately, wanting Him to move in their hearts and in their lives. From my experience and from the Word of God, I believe the only way God visits His people in revival is when His people seek His face.
Years ago God established a pattern in our ministry. It began in Romania. In 1980 I went to Romania for the first time. There I saw what I had read about in history books of the great revivals of the past, where churches were packed, and the people were so hungry for the Word of God that men were memorizing not just verses but chapters and books of the Bible. I didn’t go to any church where there was room for all the people who came. It wasn’t because I was there because in those days you couldn’t announce if there was a speaker coming. The packed church was their regular attendance, and God was working in such a wonderful way.
The revival began in the northwestern region of Romania, in Transylvania. A pastor went there, to the Second Baptist Church of Oradea, now the Immanuel Baptist Church. He called the people to pray, and he preached on repentance. The people actually entered into a covenant of repentance. There was a prayer movement that was birthed in that church that birthed the revival that took place in that region of Romania.
In the southeastern portion of Romania the churches were small and they had not experienced revival. It was very dangerous to go into those areas. While I was visiting Romania I met a man who challenged me by saying to me: "There are some areas in our country that are untouched and unreached, and the churches are very small and very weak. Would you go there and preach the Gospel in those places?"
I said, "Yes, I’ll go there. My heart is for going to the unreached people of the world."
So we began going to those areas. Then God spoke to my heart and said that before we could do the work of evangelism, we had to do the work of intercession. My first call was not to go there to preach the Gospel, but my first call was to go there and set the people to praying. So we ministered in those areas that were so hard and so difficult and so dark, and we called the people to prayer. The wonderful thing about the Romanian Christians, at least in those days, was that you issued a call from the Word, and they obeyed the Word. We fill our minds with the knowledge of the Word of God, but they filled their hearts with the Word. They obeyed the Word of God and applied it. They began to pray, and we would come back a year later and hold evangelistic meetings. We saw God work in marvelous ways.
As I read the Scriptures and as I study the histories of great revivals, normally the Spirit of God touches someone’s heart or some small group of people’s hearts, and He calls them to pray and to seek His face. There follows a movement of the Spirit of God among His people, where there is brokenness, confession, repentance, forgiveness and cleansing. Then there is great proclamation of God’s Word that results in a great evangelistic harvest. The greatest evangelistic harvests have always come during the periods of revival. That’s why as an evangelist my heart burns to see revival among God’s people. Revival always comes on the heels of those who have been praying.
There is much praying going on in America today. There are prayer movements that are happening. The most powerful kind of prayer movement is what I call biblical praying. When we pray according to the Word of God, we can rest assured God is going to do something, because the Scripture says: "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will He hears us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).
The key to praying and seeing God move and work is praying according to His will. How do we know what His will is? His Word tells us what His will is. If we will pray according to the Word of God, God will do extraordinary things. When we line up with the Word of God, when our hearts come into agreement with His heart – and the Scripture is simply a revelation of His heart – He will do extraordinary things.
Let us look together at Matthew 6 beginning with verse 5. This is that great portion of Scripture in which Jesus taught His disciples to pray. In the parallel passage in Luke 11, it says the disciples came to Jesus and they said, "Lord, teach us to pray." What He taught them in that passage is what He teaches in this passage:
"But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
"This is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’"
In relationship to prayer, there is nothing we can do that is better than to pray as Jesus taught us to pray. When we begin to pray the way Jesus taught us to pray, we can rest assured that He is going to answer those prayers.
The Place of Prayer
I want us to see basically three things, and the first thing is the place of prayer. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, "Do not be like the hypocrites," like the scribes and Pharisees who like to be seen by men. They go to the street corners; they show off their spirituality. They do not understand what prayer is. Jesus said that when the disciples pray, they should go into their room, close the door, and find that secret place with God the Father, and meet with Him. And the Father who sees in secret will reward them publicly.
These past two years God has done many things in my ministry beyond anything that I would imagine or dream. It is a great temptation for me to get so busy in the work of revival and of evangelism that God has called me to, that I neglect the secret place with God. God wants to do through each of us more than we’ve dreamed or imagined. But as we see God moving and doing things, it is a great temptation to forget what God wants above all else is a relationship. He wants fellowship with us. He wants us to draw away into that quiet place and meet with Him and get to know Him. Jesus said we should not get caught up in the religiosity of the day.
In any human relationship, whether a husband/wife relationship, whether a parent/child relationship, whether it is our relationship with God – the key to the effectiveness and the intimacy of that relationship is basically communication of two hearts. With God, it is the heart of God with our heart. More than He wants to do something through us, He wants to spend time with us. He wants us to have a place where we shut out everything that is around us – even the ministry – and we meet with Him.
If we are going to see revival, it is going to be because God is in our lives. To be much for Him we must be much with Him. We are all busy in the things that God has called us to do, trying to obey God, but we must never neglect the secret place of prayer. We must not neglect it personally nor in our ministry, among our staff, among the teams that work with us.
Ron, my co-worker, and I went on a prayer walk to Afghanistan last year. We spent a week or so walking through the country and cities and praying. While we were there, we stayed at the Shelter Now guest house. Shelter Now is the group that was arrested by the Taliban just before 9/11 took place, and the two girls from the United States who were associated with Shelter Now, were held in captivity for a time. I believe the greatest blessing I received while in Afghanistan was staying in the Shelter Now guest house. Every morning, before they start their workday, for about two hours they get together and meet with God, praying and seeking His face. Every Friday night they have an all-night prayer meeting. This has been going on for years, long before the Taliban arrested them. When they were thrown in jail, all they did was what they had been doing all along, seeking God and praising and worshiping Him.
God spoke to my heart, and it seemed He said what Jesus said in Matthew 6, that if we have been with Him in the secret place, He will reward us publicly. The Taliban is one of the darkest, most evil groups in the whole world, with a stronghold on people’s lives, killing Christians, destroying the dignity of women, etc. When God wanted to break through that, who did He choose to break through with, but a group of people who every day, before they went to their jobs to serve people and to provide shelter for people, spent two hours alone with God as a group.
I came back to our staff in Texas, where we have devotions, and I said, "We’re not going to have devotions. We’re going to have prayer time. Before we do anything else, we need as a team, to have time every single day before we start our work, to go to God and say, ‘God, we can do nothing without You,’ and start off our day seeking the face of God." As teams, as ministries, as churches, as church leaders, we need to seek the face of God together! The work we are doing is God’s work. We can’t do it, whether it is a secretarial position or a preaching position or whatever it might be, we can’t do the work of God without God Himself.
Having a place of prayer is something we must be committed to if we are going to see revival. We must have a place and a time where we meet secretly with God, where we’re not trying to impress anyone, or not trying to do anything. We just need to be with Him.
The Power of Prayer
The second thing I want us to see is the power of prayer. Let us notice five principles that Jesus taught here.
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name." That is the principle of thanksgiving. The first focus, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, is not on their needs. The focus is on who God is. "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." The focus is upward, not inward; it is upward, not outward. As we get our focus on Him, as we come into His presence, as we behold Him, as we worship Him, as we give praise and thanks unto Him – then everything else flows from that. As we see His heart, and who He is, then we begin to pray according to what’s on His heart and not what’s on our heart. Powerful praying is praying what’s on the heart of God.
There are a lot of prayer meetings going on today, but too much praying is praying what’s on our heart. Most of our prayer meetings are about our personal concerns rather than what’s on the heart of God. When we begin to pray what’s on the heart of God, He will do extraordinary things.
Jesus gives us four principles to follow after we get our focus on who He is, what He’s done, His magnificence, His greatness, His goodness, His Fatherhood, His holiness, etc. When we see Him for who He is, then we begin to pray these principles.
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done" is the principle of intercession. If we see what’s on His heart we will pray what is on His heart. What is on His heart? The world is on His heart. If you pray for the kingdom of God to come and the will of God to be done; pray for the rule and the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of men and women; pray that men would come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – God is going to hear and to answer those prayers because that’s what’s on His heart.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Pray for people and people groups. I find it one of the hardest things to get American Christians to pray for people they will never meet and to pray about things that don’t affect them and their lives. We pray about the little circle of our lives, but fail to pray for things beyond us, to pray for people and people groups that we’ll never see. Pray the kingdom of God would come and the will of God would be done in the world.
The next principle is that of God’s provision, the principle of supplication: "Give us this day our daily bread." This is going before God and saying, "Oh, God, without You I cannot exist. I need You! I need sustenance from You. I need You to provide for me!" See Him as our provider.
The next thing is the principle of forgiveness: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." As we go before God and see Him in His holiness, and in His greatness, we are broken before Him. When we see God as He is in His holiness and His purity, how it exposes the little things: how I speak to my wife, how I treat my staff, how I interact with others.... The little hidden agendas in my heart become exposed. I have to go before Him and say, "Oh, God, it’s not my brother, nor my sister, but it’s me. How I need You to cleanse me and forgive me…." There is brokenness that takes place, and cleansing. Forgiveness begins to flow, not only in us, but through us to others, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Then another principle: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." God becomes our deliverer. He becomes the One who leads us and takes us on into victory. He gives us the victory over the things that Satan will throw against us. We are in a spiritual battle. God will be our victor. He will be the One who will defend us.
These principles can be summed up in one thing – the power of God. It is the power of God changing the lives of men and of women, the power of God providing for us to do His will, the power of God cleansing us from anything that is displeasing to Him, the power of God delivering us from the evil one. So when we pray, we need to understand that the reason revival descends on the wings of those who are praying is because when we pray according to the Word of God, the power of God is released to accomplish His will.
I met Ron, my present co-worker, at the end of 1997 or the beginning of 1998. I was speaking at a pastors’ conference in California in the evening meetings. Ron was the Marketing Director for many years for the Jesus Project, and was at this conference to speak about the Jesus film. I had never met Ron before then. I was anxious to hear him because God has used the Jesus film all over this world. People who have never heard about Jesus, people who are illiterate and can’t read the Bible, are able to see the story of the life of Jesus. The films are shown in places you would not imagine. It is an amazing thing.
That morning as Ron was making his presentation – telling numerous stories about the things that were happening with the Jesus film project, I was sitting there and taking notes when, in the middle of his presentation he said, "I want to challenge Sammy Tippit to go to Iran." I looked up startled, for I had never met Ron. He said, "I hear that Sammy goes to difficult countries, and I want to challenge Sammy to go to Iran and to pray for God to open doors."
Then he said that Campus Crusade had been challenging staff members to adopt a country and pray for that country. Ron asked the leader, "Where is the hardest country we have?" The reply was, "Iran." At that time pastors and Christian leaders were being martyred in Iran. So Ron and his family took Iran as the country for which they would pray. They prayed that God would do a work in Iran.
After the meeting I went to him and said, "Tell me about this." He shared his burden for the Iranian people and how God had put this burden on his and his family’s heart, and how they were praying and interceding for Iran. And he said, "I want to challenge you…."
I became excited, because our ministry has been first, to go and pray, and then after we prayed, go and do the actual preaching and teaching, etc. So I said, "That fits our ministry. I might go and do that."
He said, "There’s one other thing I forgot to tell you. Americans cannot get into Iran. So before you go and pray, you have to pray that God will open the door so you can go in and pray that God will open the door for the Gospel to go forth."
For several months we prayed. Then one day Ron called me and said, "Sammy, God’s opened the doors. We can get visas. Do you want to go?" I said, "Yes, let’s go!"
There were about ten of us who went in and walked the streets of Tehran and the streets of other cities of Iran, and we prayed for eight or nine days: "God, do whatever You want to do in this country." As I was walking I noticed several things. The first thing was when we would go into a hotel, Iranians welcomed Americans. They would say, "Oh, we’re so glad you’re here." This was contrary to what I had expected. The second thing I noticed was that there were satellite television dishes spotted all over the country. It was illegal to have a satellite television, but almost everyone had satellite television.
The Lord began to speak to my heart about broadcasting the Gospel into the country. As we were walking and praying, we began to say, "Oh, God, would You somehow open a door that we might get the Gospel in? ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done’ in Iran as it is in heaven." That was something close to the heart of God. God so loved every radical, fundamentalist Muslim, that He sent His own Son Jesus to die on the cross for him. Jesus took the punishment for all their hate and anger, and He died for their sins. He wants to establish His rule and His reign in their hearts. That was in November 1998 that we began to pray that God would open those doors.
After returning home, we met with a group of Iranian pastors from southern California and consulted about what we should do. We started meeting with the pastors and leaders and teaching them on prayer, revival and principles of spiritual leadership. Then we started filming the sessions.
This past November we were in a conference in Cyprus, and Ron came to me and said, "Sammy, we may have an opportunity to broadcast the Gospel into Iran now!" Three weeks ago we began a weekly one-hour television broadcast of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the nation of Iran.
Earlier, in February we did a test run to see what kind of response we would get, because there’s never been an American sharing the Gospel on television inside Iran. I was overwhelmed at what happened. I went into the studio in San Jose, California, where it was going to be broadcast by satellite into Iran. As the broadcast started, they introduced me, and I shared my testimony. I opened the Scripture and shared a Gospel presentation. By the time I finished the presentation, every phone was ringing. People were calling from inside Iran and from all over western Europe, wanting prayer. We spent the rest of the program praying with people on the air, asking God to do a work in their hearts, for His kingdom to come and His will to be done in their lives, for them to come to Christ, for God to move and work in a mighty way in their lives.
When we finished the program after an hour, the phones kept ringing in this secular studio. We spent about an hour there answering long-distance phone calls from Iran, from London, from Germany, and all over the Middle East. When we went back to the Iranian church in San Jose, we found they had received seventeen calls.
Ron was in Iran this past week in the homes of Iranian people as they watched the broadcast. God will do extraordinary things which no government nor religious group can stop when we begin to pray the Word of God – "‘Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth’ in this place…in this situation…" The power of God is released because that’s what’s on the heart of God.
The Purpose of Prayer
The purpose of everything that Jesus taught was the bottom line: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever." That’s the purpose of prayer. That’s why prayer and revival go hand in hand. The ultimate purpose of prayer is not anything else but the glory of God. All revival praying points to that one end – the glory of God. What is revival? Revival is simply the manifestation of God’s glory among God’s people. It is when God comes and visits His people with His presence. That’s revival.
When you pray according to the Word of God, you are praying revival praying. You’re praying for the glory and the honor of Jesus Christ. When you pray like that, God will do extraordinary things. He will move heaven and earth that He might manifest His glory. When our hearts have one heartbeat, one purpose, one desire, and that is the glory of God – not the bigness of our church, not the greatness of our ministry, not the number of people who attend my crusade – but oh, that God might be glorified! When that’s our passion, when that’s our desire, when that’s our heart, God will do extraordinary things!
The Glory of God in a Nation
In Romania for years they prayed for the glory of God. They prayed for over twenty years, consistently, for the glory of God in Romania, and the longer they prayed, the darker it became, and the more difficult it became. Instead of getting easier, it got worse. But the darker the sky, the brighter shines the star. It got darker and darker and darker, and they kept praying with one purpose in mind – the glory of God! They prayed and they prayed and they prayed. In 1988 I was arrested and put out of Romania and was told I would never be allowed back in the country. The last thing they said to me was, "You will never again set your feet on Romanian soil. As long as you live, you’ll never be allowed back in this country." There was something they didn’t understand, and that is that God is on His throne, and He answers the prayers of His people!
In 1989 my wife and I were visiting my mother. My son was watching news on CNN and he said, "Dad, you need to see what is going on." We discovered that our Romanian pastor in the northwestern region of Romania where the revival was taking place, was to be arrested. Christians went to the apartment building where he lived, and they made a circle around the apartment building, joining arm in arm to try to protect him. The secret police came in and began to fire into the crowd, killing innocent men and women and children. As the blood of the Christian martyrs began to flow in the streets of Timisoara, there was a release from heaven of the glory of God.
Two hundred thousand atheists – people who had been brainwashed from kindergarten to postgraduate university level, who had been taught all their lives that there is no God – gathered in the main square to protest what was happening. The pastor of the Baptist Church stood up and began to preach, and as he preached, there came a release of the glory of God. Two hundred thousand people were melted to their knees and began to pray out loud: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…." They stood and they began to shout – 200,000 atheists – "Existe Dumnezue! Existe Dumnezeu! Existe Dumnezeu!" which translated means, "There is a God! There is a God! There is a God!" This scene spread to every major metropolitan center in the country. The theme song of the revolution was a song about the second coming of Jesus Christ!
A friend of mine phoned to me in Texas and said, "Sammy, you must come to Romania now! That for which we have prayed for so many years has finally happened. The glory of God is among our people! You must come and see!"
I left everything I was doing and flew to Vienna, Austria. We drove across Hungary to the Romanian border. We prayed the whole way because we knew my name was in the computer as not welcome in the country. We pulled up to the Romanian border in the middle of the revolution, and border guards came out. Before the revolution, the first question they always asked was, "Do you have Bibles?" If you had Bibles you were in trouble. These border guards came out at the same border where they had said to me, "You’ll never be allowed back in this country," and they said, "Get out of the car." The first question they asked was: "Are you Christians?"
My heart began to beat hard; and I swallowed and said, "Yes, we’re Christians." I’ll never forget what happened next. Those soldiers threw their arms open wide, and said, "Welcome to a new Romania!" And on the very spot where they told me, "You’ll never be allowed back in this country," we knelt and we gave glory and honor and praise to Jesus Christ!
As we pray for our nation, it may get darker before it gets lighter. What we need to pray for is not a deliverance from all our problems and our troubles and our economy. What we need to pray for is the glory of God in this nation: one longing, one purpose, one desire in prayer – the glory of God!