Revival: The Holy Spirit Works Through the Weak

At the end of his book about the 1859 revival, written in the midst of the 1859 revival, Samuel Moore addresses a prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Holy Spirit! who art now doing great and mighty works by very weak instruments, wilt Thou graciously bless this [my weak work] for promoting the glory of Jesus!

This prayer highlights something very important and very true. True revival doesn't revolve around powerful people. Earlier in the book, Moore writes of how he had come to realise that there were plenty of places which hadn't been touched by revival which had preachers at least as faithful as the places where the revival came, and so it couldn't be down to the power of the preacher's preaching:

I am forced to the conclusion that however indispensible a faithfully preached gospel is ... it is not by the might nor the power of preaching but by the mighty, sovereign, free Spirit of the Lord that a genuine revival of religion is commenced and carried on here or elsewhere. The Holy Spirit, therefore, has all the glory, and any man who would present himself as a “revivalist” would be pitied by all, praised by none. 

(Samuel J. Moore, The Great Revival in Ireland 1859, 13-14.)

As the Lord spoke of old through the prophet Zechariah, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’ (Zech. 4:6).  Revival doesn't come by the hand of a powerful revivalist. Revival is the gracious work of the sovereign Lord, who will not break a bruised reed nor snuff out a smoldering flax (Matt. 12:20; Isa. 42:3), whose strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). 

And how often that has been his way in revival. In the last post, I mentioned Peggy and Christine Smith, the two elderly women who prayed in Barvas on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Peggy was 84 years old and completely blind. Christine was 82 and severely impeded in her mobility by very painful arthritis. Due to their health conditions they hadn't been able to get out to church for quite some time. In the eyes of the world, they were weak. In the eyes of many people in churches today, they might have been forgotten about because they weren't there on a Sunday. But they were faithful women of God who called upon the Lord. And God heard their prayers, and God used them. 

The two sisters began to set aside three nights a week from 10pm to 3am for dedicated prayer for the Lord to pour out floods on the dry ground. Then, one night, the Lord gave blind Peggy a vision. She saw the village church filled with young people—a church which at that time didn't have a single young person. And to these young people, a minister was preaching—a minister she didn't know. 

So Peggy sent for her minister. Telling him the vision, Peggy told him that revival was coming. ‘I'm sure that you're longing to see God working.’ She told the minister, and encouraged him to call the elders and deacons together to wait on the Lord in prayer two nights a week. ‘You've tried missions, you've tried special evangelists. Have you tried God?’ 

The minister accepted this as a word from the Lord. And Peggy and Christine made a promise too: 

Give yourself to prayer; give yourself to waiting upon God. Get your elders and deacons together and spend at least two nights a week waiting upon God in prayer. If you will do that at your end of the parish, my sister and I will do it at our end of the parish from ten o'clock at night until two or three o'clock in the morning.

So that's what they did. The minister called the elders and deacons to pray in a barn two nights a week. This was winter time in the Western Isles, but they were desperate enough for the Lord to go outside to a barn to seek Him. And they continued for months, simply pleading the promise of Isaiah 44:3. (Until one night a young deacon got up among the elders, and read to them from Psalm 24, but that's a story for another time...)

Two practically housebound, weak, elderly women praying in Gaelic in a small village on an island 120 miles out into the Atlantic—that's who God used. The Lord called Peggy and Christine to pray, and He gave them the faith to persevere in prayer. Then He gave Peggy the vision to get the minister and the elders and the deacons to pray. 

No matter how weak you might feel, no matter how unlikely you think it would be for God to use you, no matter how much you might think your days of serving the Lord and His people in significant ways lie behind you—the Lord can still use you now. And if you give yourself to prayer, He will use you now. 

Peggy and Christine were called to pray. So they prayed. They didn't pray once and stop. They gave whole nights to prayer, until 3 in the morning. And they kept at it for months on end. And when the minister and elders finally started praying, Peggy and Christine didn't stop, but promised to keep on praying. 

That's not even the end of the story of how God used those sisters. They were 82 and 84, one bent over nearly double by arthritis and the other blind. 

The days of God using you are not over. 

Neither your weakness nor your age, nor anything else can stop the almighty God. 

So let's pray.