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?" (Psalm 85:6), it is the day in which we live. The wide-awake watchman on Zionís wall may well cry with the Psalmist of old, "It is time for Thee, Lord, to work, for they have made void Thy law" (Psalm 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 a 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.
What then shall we do? PRAY! Take up the Psalmistís prayer, "Revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee." Take up Ezekielís 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 Spirit comes, and God 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-daysí 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 Godís 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"
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 granted 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 Lordís 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, ĎMen and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?í 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, Ďsome who had formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town into a fray.í 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."
Mr. Moodyís wonderful work in England, Scotland and Ireland had its origin in the importunate prayers of a bedridden saint. The spiritual needs of her church lay heavy on her heart. Reading in the paper of the revivals of D. L. Moody in America and of his passion for souls, she from that day, with importunity, asked God to send him to her London church.
One Sunday morning her sister returned from the morning service and going to the room of the invalid said, "Who do you think preached in our church this morning? It was D. L. Moody from America!" The invalid sister, realizing God was answering her prayers, refused to eat dinner, but spent the entire afternoon pleading with importunity, that God would use Moody to bring revival to their church.
During the morning service Mr. Moody had been discouraged the way his message had been received and he had some trepidation as to the evening service. But as he began to preach he realized that the Holy Spirit was present in power. At the close of the service he gave opportunity for those who desired to accept Christ to stand up, and to his amazement over three hundred people arose.
Thinking they had not understood him clearly, he requested them to be seated, and then repeated the invitation. The second time an even greater number stood up. The prayers of the bedridden saint had broken through to God and from this time on wherever Moody ministered the place was swept by revival and thousands and thousands were saved in the British Isles.
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 Godís 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. 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 arose 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 Godís 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 (Luke 10:2). Christís 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.