Heart-Cry For Revival
By Wesley L. Duewel
Edited from a message delivered at the “Heart-Cry for Revival” Conference in Lancaster Pennsylvania, May 26-29, 1998.
Will there be at least one great revival before Jesus comes again? I greatly suspect there will be. One reason why is this: God has privileged me these last few years to minister in many countries, and wherever I go I find God’s choice children hungering for revival. I find it in place after place. I believe that it is the Holy Spirit who is the author of this holy hunger that brings us at times to tears before our Lord, as we long to see His church revived and to see all that will take place when that mighty revival comes.
Often when the atmosphere becomes saturated with revival, people who have withstood the prayers of family and friends and church, yield to the grace of God. And I know that Jesus wants a beautiful bride, holy and without spot or wrinkle. Revival does wonderful things for the Bride of Christ. It makes us more like Jesus.
I believe the greatest longing for revival in the church is in the heart of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I believe the hunger in our hearts is but a minor reflection of the deep, deep hunger in the heart of God.
Not only has God created the desire for revival in our hearts, but history testifies that God sends revival. Isaiah 64:1-2 records that prophet’s heart-cry for revival: “Oh, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence, as when the melting fire burneth...make Thy name known...that the nations may tremble at Thy presence.”
It was occasional times of revival that spared Israel to survive until the Son of Man was born. Satan attacked that nation, doing everything in his power to prevent the fulfillment of Scripture in the Messiah’s coming. There were revivals under Jehoshaphat and under Josiah. When it came to King Ahaz, it seemed too late. It seemed everything was gone. King Ahaz did his best to crush the worship of Jehovah. He put idols in the street corners of every town and village, the Bible says, and finally ordered the temple to be closed and the fire put out on the altar. Idolatry prevailed across the country.
Yet in two week’s time, the tide turned! You can be sure there had been years of praying by the prophet Isaiah, and that God had caused that young Hezekiah was tutored by Isaiah and had been praying. When wicked King Ahaz died, the very next day, when Hezekiah took charge, he gave the orders for the temple doors to be unlocked and for the Levites to clean out the temple. For two weeks they were sweeping and cleaning and carrying out the trash.
When they came and reported to Hezekiah, “It’s all clean,”—he gave the orders, “Tomorrow morning the worship starts.” Leading citizens came to the temple and the worship of the Lord began. The song of the Lord was sung again; the fire was lit on the altar of the Lord; the nation was turned around. That revival was part of what spared the nation until the Messiah was born.
God is a God of revival, and history testifies that God sends revival. Through the Middle Ages on occasion God sent revival. We don’t know a great deal, but we do know God worked in the time of St. Francis of Assisi, and especially through John Savonarola, whom God used to turn the tide for eight years in Florence, Italy.
The godly man, Savonarola, under God caused the Army of France to turn back when it was already at the borders of Italy. Savonarola went and confronted the invading king and his army. He said, “Yes, you are here because we are a sinful nation. We deserve God’s judgment and God is using you to punish us, but, Your Majesty, have you no sins of your own? Turn around and go back to Paris lest God’s judgment come upon you,” and Charles the 8th, at the urging of this one young man, without the aid of any accompanying person or army, turned the French army around and went back to Paris.
That’s when the revival began on the streets of Florence. They began singing revival songs, and they went from house to house collecting what they called “vanities.” They piled up a bonfire in the center of Florence, sixty feet high, 250 feet around, a heap of pornography, obscene objects, occult objects sixty feet high. Then while the people held hands in a circle around the bonfire, they lit the fire and someone started tolling the bells. While the bells rang and the people sang gospel songs, that was all burned up.
Who was the revival team? What organization? What churches cooperating? One man obeying God; one man who had been crying out to God for revival! It’s never too late for God.
You remember the condition of Britain when God raised up John Wesley and George Whitefield. The Prime Minister was openly flaunting immorality. Some of the social occasions of the nobility and the royalty advertised all the wine you wanted to drink, and your neighbor’s wife as well. Sin was so corrupt at that time, it was unsafe to be alone outside of the cities of London, Manchester and Birmingham. People traveled in armed bands with escorts because there were armed roving bands of hoodlums roaming the countryside. But it wasn’t too late! While France had a bloody revolution, England had a revival. Practically the same conditions were prevailing in both France and England. England had revival because God had Wesley, Whitefield and a people of God. It’s never too late for God!
Carriers of Revival
God has raised up people who became persons of revival, or maybe I should say, carriers of revival. Can man carry revival? Of himself he cannot, but he can be used. Do you realize that often George Whitefield in this country as well as in the British Isles, and John Wesley in Britain, would be only for a few hours or days or sometimes a longer time, in a given city or place, and they would leave revival behind them, a church aglow with the Spirit of God—because they were carriers of revival?
The early circuit riders in this country seemed to be carriers of revival. Paul Revere was famous for his going from farm to farm and shouting, “The British have come!” calling the citizens to assemble for the protection of the independence of the United States. With the circuit riders it was a similar situation. The stories tell us that circuit riders would light a fire in two or three different places, often once or twice a day and occasionally three times a day. The circuit rider would arrive at the courthouse or the village or town square and immediately Christians would jump on their horses and start out across the countryside from farm to farm calling: “The circuit rider has come! He will be at the town square!”
We are told that the farmers would drop their equipment in the field, get on their horses or hook up their buggies or whatever they traveled with and hasten to the place where the meeting would be. The circuit rider would preach for a couple of hours and pray with people, and then get on his horse and start away to another center. Across the frontiers of some of the Midwest states, they seemed to carry revival. They would leave behind some people starting to worship God with new devotion, new commitment. They would leave churches behind where there was none before. They were carriers of revival.
Charles G. Finney seemed to be a carrier of revival. Year after year he would go from place to place, to where he felt led. He would stay there for two or three months or until revival would come. Year after year he was involved in this ministry.
From the time of his conversion he seemed to be on fire for God. After he received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon him, he carried that fire with him. The night after he was converted, people were gathered in the church although no meeting had been announced. The church filled up. Charles Finney was a lawyer, and had been born again only a few hours and then anointed with the Holy Spirit. He was sitting there with the rest of the people. No one was in charge, so finally he got up and began to preach.
He preached a revival message and began to travel. Revival came again and again wherever he went. He seemed to be a carrier of revival. Finney expected that in any place where he preached if there were any unsaved people present, someone would be converted by the time the service was over. He expected that if he visited in a home and if there was any unsaved person in the house they would be converted before he left.
But he says that sometimes he came to a place in his ministry and for two or three meetings no one was savingly converted. Sometimes he would visit in one or two homes and no one found Christ. He said, “I would immediately betake myself to two or three days of fasting and prayer. Whereupon the power would come upon me in all its fullness. This has been the experience of my life.” He was used of God; he expected God; and God honored. He was a carrier of revival.
As he became older, due to his weak constitution, he had to take several months of recuperation and rest. He’d go back home to Oberlin, Ohio. They say almost every time he arrived at Oberlin, revival would start when he arrived there. After several months he would have renewed strength and health and start out again, and immediately—revival! He seemed to carry revival.
Once he went to the British Isles to rest and relax. The Lord made use of him while he was there too. Coming back on the ship he spent a whole day in fasting and prayer and out of that came things that God used, such as his Revival Lectures, which became a bestseller. There were only 25 million people in America in those days, but over 100,000 copies of his book were sold in a matter of months. It was phenomenal in those days. Why did they sell? The Spirit of God was developing a hunger among God’s people. People began to believe and to pray and no doubt, God used that to help prepare the way of the Lord for the ’58, ’59 and ’60 working of revival in our nation.
Jonathan Goforth was a faithful missionary in North China. Someone sent him a leaflet in a letter which had several pages of Finney’s writings. After reading it he said to his wife, “If Finney is right I’m going to prove it.” Someone providentially sent him a copy of the life of Charles Finney. He was all the more stirred up.
About that time the foreign missionary secretary from the Canadian Presbyterian Church in Toronto, arrived in North China and spent a few weeks there. He said to Mr. Goforth, “I’m hearing reports about revival in Korea. I’m going to go there to check it out to see if it is genuine or not. Would you like to go with me?”
Goforth was ready in heart, so he went with him and they saw what God was doing. Jonathan Goforth came back to China. The first night he was back he was asked to tell the story of what he had found in Korea, and revival began in China. Goforth moved from station to station, place to place, and every place that he stopped, revival came. He seemed to be the carrier of revival, probably especially chosen or prepared by God because of the hunger in his heart, the heart-cry for revival. He began to go, usually staying only six days, using one day for travel to the next place. Wherever he went for several years, revival began.
The missionaries would say, “Mr. Goforth, don’t expect to have that kind of results here in our station. You don’t know the people here. Our Chinese are so proud; they are so stubborn; they don’t want to lose face. Don’t expect them to confess their sins.”
But by the second or third or forth or sometimes the fifth night, once or twice on the sixth or last day, suddenly revival fire fell and people were confessing their sins and making things right with the Lord. Goforth became a carrier of revival for that period in his ministry. History proves that God is a God of revival.
Pandita Ramabai in India was a brilliant woman, a Hindu won to Christ. She heard about revival and longed for it. She sent word to the Keswick Convention in Britain, “Pray for God to send revival to India.” She heard that Torrey and Alexander were in meetings in Australia. She sent her daughter to Australia to ask prayer groups there to pray for India. She asked her widows to pray for revival. These were child widows and Hindu prostitutes used in the worship of Hindu gods, whom she had rescued and sought to win to Christ. She had over 2,000 of these young girls and women in her institution, living by faith as George Müller had done.
She formed the girls into prayer bands. The bands prayed at different times. One day God did something unusual in a prayer meeting. The girls were praying for God to send revival fire and all of the sudden they saw fire burning around one girl. One quickly got a bucket of water and was just going to douse her when she realized it was not ordinary fire. It did not consume. It was the glory of God. Revival began among the girls.
God began to use the girls. There were mission schools of different denominations and groups in India. They wrote, “Have you heard what happened to Pandita Ramabai’s girls at Mukti?” and they would send invitations for the girls to come. But the girls didn’t always wait for invitations. As they prayed, they would get a burden for a certain town. They’d go to that town and ask for a place in that town where sixty of them could be, and a place alone to pray. They went to places where there were mission stations. They went as far north as Allahabad, where I later spent 25 years of my life in missionary service. The record says that God sent revival to Allahabad at that time through those girls.
Nobody preached. They were not special singers. They would just shut themselves in a room and pray. Within one or two days people would arrive, oftentimes mission workers, evangelists, teachers, and would start confessing their sins. They didn’t know the girls were there but they were gripped by the Holy Spirit and drawn and revival fires were lit in place after place. The girls became carriers of revival. So history proves that God sends revival.
Nature of God to Revive
Not only does God send revival, but it is the nature of God to revive. God is a God of compassion. God is a God of love. God is a God who wants to pour out His Spirit. Even in the Old Testament times, in individual ways, God put His hand on prophets and on other people, and they knew when it happened and they said, “The hand of the Lord came upon me.” That was before our dispensation when we have the promise of God’s written Word about the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
God has built revival into the very fabric of nature. After the winter season in this part of the world, comes spring, and nature is revived. After sickness can come healing when the physical body is revived. After the weariness of a hard day’s labor comes sleep and the body is revived again and we are ready for another day. God is a God of revival. That’s His basic pattern in the universe.
Old Testament history records a few examples of revival. Old Testament prophets prophesied promises from God. Symbolically God promised things which point to revival, to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter in his first sermon after Pentecost, told how God would send times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19), as the Church was filled with His Spirit. He has continued to do that. Big, widespread revivals are rare. We haven’t had an international revival with the fires leaping from country to country since the first decade of this century. But we’ve had it before then and we can have it again if it please God, and I believe it will please Him.
We have every biblical reason to believe that God is both willing and able to send times of refreshing in our day. It seems from history that the more widespread the hunger and prayer for revival, the more widespread the fire when revival comes. It seems that God has people prepared just as God used the writings of Finney to get many churches in many places ready; then the fire could spread.
God can do the same thing today. Surely the holy yearnings in the heart of Jesus for His Bride to be pure, spotless, and gleaming with His glory, can be answered again and again. Surely the holy yearnings of the Holy Spirit which He shares with us, God’s children, causing us to dare to believe to hold on for revival, can be answered. What about the holy groanings of the Holy Spirit that sometimes come to you and to me if we are walking close to God and if we’re carrying a prayer burden for revival, sometimes groanings almost too deep for words, where do those originate? Not in us, but in the heart of God. When we get that close to God we begin to realize what God’s longings are.
Do you remember how many times Jesus was disappointed with His disciples’ lack of faith? Five times Jesus said, “O thou of little faith.” Three times He conditioned His mighty word by saying, “If you have faith.” Luke tells us He asked, “Where is your faith?” Again He asks, “How is it that you have no faith?” Jesus explained, as reported by Matthew, “Because you have no faith.” In John we read He said, “Be not faithless but believing.” Matthew tells us He could not do many mighty works because of their unbelief. Mark tells us that He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart. Eighteen times Jesus spoke with sorrow and disappointment, about the lack of faith on the part of His disciples.
Oh, God forbid that our weak faith hinder the coming of new, mighty times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord! May we somehow be able to believe that His promises are for us. They are for today. This is still the dispensation of the Holy Spirit; this is still the age of grace; this is still an age of revival, refreshment, renewal—whatever term you want to use—this is still that period of human history when God wants to bless His church with new revelations of Himself, new outpourings of His Spirit.
Revival Is the Heart-Cry of God
I believe with all my heart that the heart-cry for revival has been born in the heart of God. Isaiah 65:1-2 reads in one of the modern translations: “Ready was I to answer men who never asked Me, ready to be found by men who never called on My name. I held out My arms all day long to a faithless generation.” One uses these words: “I called out, ‘Here am I, Here am I!”
I see over and over in our country the same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem and was revealed to Isaiah. He is the One who said, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her little chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37). In Isaiah He says, “I called out, ‘Here I am! Here I am!’ to a people who never called upon My name.”
Why should we be surprised? That is the heart of our God. I believe that God looks down upon our Christian convocations at times and says, “Oh, children, Oh, My beloved, Here I am! Here I am, ready to do much more for you than you are grasping hold of!” I believe God longs to be gracious. I believe His heart of compassion is reaching out and I believe that somehow there is still much unfinished work for the church. Of course, Christ can make a quick work. Revival does in a few weeks, or if it lasts, in a year and a half or so, what has not been done in forty years before.
What speeds up the work when He comes in revival dimension and power? It seems as if He hovers over the church just as in the revival of 1858 and 1859 in this country, when the spark was lit by Jeremiah Lamphier. He started a prayer meeting in New York City, and in a matter of a few months there were prayer meetings all over the city. Then they began to spread across America.
In Washington, D.C., day after day the president of the United States went to the noon prayer meeting. Before many months were past there were more than 10,000 cities and towns across America where businessmen were shutting down their businesses at noon, every noon, and gathering together in a place large enough where they could assemble. Oftentimes on some of the business doors there was a paper saying, “Closed until after the prayer meeting.”
Who did the preaching? Nobody. They were not times of preaching. They were times of prayer. The assembly might sing a hymn and then people would get up and ask for prayer. They would pray for that and another request and another request. They would leave at one o’clock and go back to their businesses. It was an unusual movement of the Holy Spirit.
There was a canopy of prayer, an incense of prayer especially over the eastern part of the United States. You’ve perhaps heard the stories of ships approaching New York harbor, and how the Spirit of God would begin to work on the ship when they were within 150 or 250 miles of the coast. It was not because they had heard what was happening, for there were no radios in those days and they didn’t know what was going on in the city. On one freighter, the captain and every man of the crew were all converted within the last 150 miles. There was no evangelist. There was no preacher. The men were just seized by the Holy Ghost conviction of sin.
The North Carolina was a training ship for the Navy anchored in the harbor. Three young men who knew the Lord decided to have a prayer meeting several decks down. They started to sing and their voices reached the top deck. Someone heard them and said, “Listen! Christian songs on a battleship. What’s going on?” He started laughing and jeering and called other fellows. They ran down the steps and by the time they got to the deck of the prayer meeting they were so seized by the Holy Spirit that they fell on their knees calling upon God for mercy. Revival spread on the ship and burned for months. When a group of naval trainees graduated every two or three months and transferred from the training ships, they took revival back to their ships.
One ship captain arrived near the shore and didn’t know what to do. In the staterooms all over the ship, people were crying and praying. When he arrived at the outer harbor, he ran up the flags, the only way he could communicate, and signaled, “Send a preacher!” He had a revival on board, but he didn’t know what to do with it.
If we could see the heart of God we would see how He is longing to bless and to come upon His people. He wants to come upon our church boards and commissions and conferences and all the things we have. He wants to become predominant. He wants to revive His glory.
Oh, that revival would come, that God would come down, like Isaiah prayed. David was the first one we know about who prayed for the Lord to come down in revival power: “Bow Thy heavens, O Lord, and come down…” (Psa. 144:5). No doubt Isaiah read that and it encouraged him in his prophecies. Oh, may God come down upon our lives, that we will be dissatisfied with ordinary Christian living. Oh, that the glory of God might come upon us, His church! You remember how Isaiah prayed:
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before You! As when the fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make Your name known to Your enemies and cause the nations to quake before You! For when You did awesome things that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains trembled before You. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways” (Isaiah 64:1-5).
That’s what God wants to do again. It is nothing that we can work up. It’s what God gives. We have a giving God. We have a gracious God. We have a God who loves to revive. We have a God who loves His church. We have a God who knows His church is not yet ready. Oh, may God send His cleansing work, His purifying work, His motivating work, His enlivening work!
Can you commit to God that you will be a daily intercessor for revival! Is it Scriptural? I believe it is. I believe God is waiting to prove Himself gracious. May God send revival fire to blaze in all of our hearts, in all of our churches, across our nation and the world!