Reports of Revival Fuel Prayer for Revival

So many times, in so many places, the Lord has rent the heavens and come down, bringing revival in His wake. At times, the Lord's people have lost sight of what that really means, and taken to themselves the name of revival or tried to manufacture it for themselves. And for that, we must repent and flee the temptation ever to walk in those ways. But the misuse of the name of revival shouldn't remove from us the desire for true revival. Rather, it should cause us to cry out even more deeply for the reality. 

‘Revival is a community saturated with God,’ wrote Duncan Campbell (who had seen just that, in the Hebridean Revival from 1949-1953). It is not a technique; it's not even an experience. It is God rending the heavens and coming down in grace and power. And that means we can’t usher it in with our wonderful worship or our great meetings. As Peterus Octavianus (whom God used during the Borneo Revival in Indonesia in 1973) said, ‘Revivals do not begin happily with everyone having a good time. They start with a broken and contrite heart.’

So that means, although the Lord suddenly comes, very often He first takes some time to work among His people. Two elderly ladies, Peggy and Christine Smith, and a few men of Barvas were stirred to pray for the Lord to flood the dry ground. And they did, praying night after night for some time—and God working among those who prayed—before the Lord suddenly came in power to saturate Barvas and the revival broke out. 

Peggy and Christine Smith with Duncan Campbell during the Revival.

On that occasion, they were stirred to pray because the Lord had revealed to Peggy that the church of her fathers would be crowded again. (Who says Presbyterians don't prophesy!) But many other times the Lord has used reports of revival elsewhere to stir His people to pray. When revival came to Wales in 1904, people started to pray for such revival in London and Sunderland and India and Los Angeles (and many other places too). And they kept praying. And through those prayers, revival came. And when the revival came to Los Angeles, many people around the world were stirred to pray by what they heard about Azusa Street, even though they'd never been there or met anyone who had. And through those prayers revival came to many more parts of the world. 

Back in the 1859 a revival broke out in Northern Ireland and America, and then in Wales and Scotland (and, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones liked to put it ‘even in some parts of England’!). When the first reports of revival came, the Presbyterian minister of Ballymena tells us, ‘our Church Courts directed ministers to consider this subject and to preach on it. This was generally done throughout our Presbytery, and, I presume, throughout the congregations of our Synod.’ Consider the subject of revival and preach on it — that's what the ministers were told to do. Not to critique what was happening anywhere else, but to give their attention—and draw their people's attention—to the reality of God's promises. Over one hundred thousand people in what's now Northern Ireland came to saving faith in Christ as that revival spread. 

So, when we hear reports of the Lord working in such ways, let's be stirred to prayer. We can give thanks to the Lord and pray for His protection on what He's doing elsewhere. And we can be encouraged by the snippets that we hear to be reminded of all that He has done in the past and give ourselves to prayer for Him to move in such ways where we are. 

The God we hear of in reports of revival from various places is the same God who is our God. The God of Azusa Street, the God of Barvas and the Hebrides, the God of the Welsh Revivals (all of them!), the God of the Ulster Awakening, the God of the Day of Pentecost—He is our God today. 

So pray to this God who revives. Pray to this God who rends the heavens over and over again and comes down. Pray to this God who has so many times saturated whole communities with His presence. And perhaps we ministers can still benefit from the instructions of the Presbyterian church courts in 1859—to consider the subject of revival and preach on it.

Now, let me leave you with a few words from Duncan Campbell:

There came a moment when the supply of oil stopped, not because the source had dried up, but because the capacity to receive what was flowing at that moment failed. It seems to me that the simple truth we have here is this, that God wills to give Himself; He wills to give Himself again, again, and again, so long as we keep bringing that into which He can pour Himself ... Is my sense of need and your sense of need the very ground on which God can work? Oh, how true it is that hunger, real hunger, creates a capacity for God. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” And the reason why we are not filled is simply because we are not hungering after God.

(Duncan Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival, 23-25.)

P.S. I had a chat with Chris Green on his podcast last night, and towards the end we spoke a bit about revival there too.