God Works When Men Pray
If we pray aright in such a time as this, much of our prayer will be for a worldwide revival. If ever there was a need to cry unto God, "Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?" it is the day in which we live (Psa. 85:6). The wide awake watchman on Zion's wall may well cry with the Psalmist of old, "It is time for Thee, Lord, to work, for they have made void Thy law" (Psa. 119:126).
The reason why a worldwide revival is needed is that spiritual dearth and desolation is worldwide. It is not confined to any one country. It is found in the mission fields as well as in the home fields. We need revival, deep, widespread, worldwide, in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is either a worldwide revival or the dissolution of the church, of the home, of the state.
The need is clear. It admits of no honest difference of opinion. What then shall we do? PRAY! Take up the Psalmist's prayer, "Revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee!"
Take up Ezekiel's prayer, "Come from the four winds, O breath (breath of God) and breathe upon these slain that they may live." Shall we not pray and pray and pray till the Holy Spirit comes, and revives His people?
Prayer Is the Backbone of Revival
The first great revival of Christian history had its origin on the human side in a ten-day's prayer meeting. We read of the disciples, "These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer" (Acts 1:14). Every true revival from the day of Pentecost to this has had its earthly origin in prayer.
The great revival under Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century began with his famous call to prayer. The marvelous work of grace among the Indians under Brainerd had its origin in the days and nights that Brainerd spent before God in prayer for an enduement of power from on high for his work.
A most remarkable and widespread display of God's reviving power was that which broke out at Rochester, New York, in 1830 under the labors of Charles Finney. It not only spread through New England but to Great Britain as well. Mr. Finney attributed the power of this work to the spirit of prayer that prevailed.
The great revival of 1859 in the United States began in prayer and was carried on by prayer more than anything else. "Most revivals," writes Dr. Cuyler, "have humble beginnings and the fire starts in a few warm hearts. Never despise the day of small things. During my own long ministry nearly every work of grace had a small beginning…a humble meeting in a private home…a group gathered for Bible study by Mr. Moody in our mission chapel…a meeting of young people in my home."
If Two Agree, It Shall Be Done (Matt. 18:19)
Dr. Spencer tells of a flaming revival in his church which sprang from the fervent prayers of a godly old man who was confined to his room. Dr. Thomas Skinner tells of a remarkable coming together of three earnest young men in his study when he was pastor of the Arch Street Church in Philadelphia. They literally wrestled in prayer. They made a clean breast in confession of sin and humbled themselves before God. One after another church officer came in and joined them in prayer. The heaven-kindled flame soon spread through the whole congregation in one of the most powerful revivals ever known in that city.
In the sixteenth century there was a great awakening in Ulster, Ireland. The lands of the rebel chiefs, which had been forfeited to the British crown were settled by a class of colonists who were governed with a spirit of wild adventure. Real piety was rare.
Ministers from Scotland and England settled in this lawless country. One of these, named Blair, spent many days and nights in prayer, alone, and with others, and was vouchsafed great intimacy with God. Mr. James Glendenning was a man similarly minded as regards prayer. The work began under this man Glendenning.
The historians of the day say, "He was a man who never would have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this wild land. Yet this was the Lord's choice to begin with him the work of God in making a holy nation of this profane land. The revival changed the whole character of northern Ireland.
"In his preaching men and women felt great anxiety of conscience. They looked upon themselves as lost and cried out, 'Men, and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?' They were stricken into a swoon by the power of the Word of God. They were carried out of the doors of the church as dead…. These were not weak women, but the boldest spirits of the neighborhood, ‘some who had formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town into a fray.' The work spread to neighboring counties. So great became the religious interest that Christians came thirty or forty miles to communions and continued from the time they came to the time they returned neither eating, nor drinking nor sleeping, and their souls filled with a sense of God."
The story is told of an invalid in the Middle West who prayed daily for revival in surrounding towns and communities. From time to time he made this entry in his diary: "I was enabled to pray the prayer of faith today for ________." After his death revivals swept over each of these thirty places in the order he had noted them down. The prayer of faith is the key that unlocks the door of God's storehouse.
In the early days of Methodism, preacher after preacher had been sent to a town called Filey. The town was a stronghold of Satan and preacher after preacher had been driven out until the place was given up as hopeless.
John Oxtoby hearing of the desperate needs of Filey asked the Methodist Conference to send him there, assuring them that the Lord was going to revive His work in Filey. Obtaining the consent of the conference he started on his journey. As the town burst upon his sight, his feelings became so intense that he fell on his knees under a hedge and wrestled and wept and prayed for the souls of the people there.
He pleaded for hours. The struggle in prayer was long and heavy but John Oxtoby continued until the glory of God flooded his soul and he rose from his knees shouting, "Filey is taken! Filey is taken!"
And it was taken and every soul in it. Fresh from the Mercy Seat he entered the place, and commenced singing on the streets, "Turn to the Lord and seek salvation." A crowd of stalwart fishermen flocked to listen. Unusual power attended his address. Hardened sinners wept, strong men trembled, and while he prayed a dozen of them fell on their knees, and cried aloud for mercy and found it.
If we through prayer can bring revival – and we can – and we fail to do so, what will be our excuse before God?
"It seems to me," writes W. G. Bennett, "that in God's great plan for the recovery of a fallen race through grace, He has included in His plans the ministry of intercession. And let me say it reverently that the Divine waits for, and is to a large extent dependent upon, intercession."
When our Lord looked upon the whitened harvest fields of the church harvest, His only method for obtaining laborers was to PRAY. Christ's last words to His disciples, gathered with Him at the Last Supper, just before His suffering, were crowded with thoughts that all the future of His church depended upon prayer and the coming of the Comforter.