A Call to Extraordinary Prayer for Revival

BY ERROLL HULSE

Concerning fervent, persevering prayer, the prophet Isaiah writes, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest, until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her a praise of the earth.” (Isa. 62:6-7) Revival is a reality about which we must give ourselves no rest, and the LoRn no rest, until He comes and makes His church the praise of all the earth.

      The Desperate Need. Throughout history, the church has been revived and enlarged through outpourings of the Spirit. Jonathan Edwards, a leader in the First Great Awakening, writes: “It may be observed that, from the fall of man to our day, the work of redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable pourings out of the Spirit of God . . . at special seasons of mercy.” Without periodic, extraordinary visitations of God, the church inevitably degenerates.

      Nearly a century has passed since the church has experienced widespread revival. Although the gospel has advanced into more places and nations than ever before, the church faces defeat in many ways. Glowing statistics can never measure the spiritual climate of the church.

      In our generation we have increasingly suffered from spiritual lethargy and powerlessness. There is a high percentage of weak and lukewarm Christians in western churches who evidence little interest in growing in grace and knowledge. The church may be bustling with activity and at the same time be infiltrated and permeated with the world’s thinking and doing. It is sometimes the case that our bright forms of worship camouflage a dead spiritual condition.

      Today the church world-wide is struggling. The impact of our churches upon the spiritual state of the world has, with all too few exceptions, been minimal. The missionary effort among us is feeble. The enemies of the gospel are winning the day in almost every area of the world.

      Our paramount need is for heaven-sent revivals of the kind that have adorned the history of the church. Nothing less than the powerful work of the Holy Spirit on a massive scale will meet the desperate spiritual poverty of our age, and remove the gross darkness that covers the nations. Only the manifestation of God in the midst of His people can give the church victory, making her the “praise of the earth.”

      The Divine Means. What should we emphasize in such spiritually degenerated circumstances? Prayer! This is the principal means of grace to be employed by the Lord’s people. Prayer occupies a primary place in the advance of all the Lord’s work, and especially in the quest for revival.

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By Jessica Lea

September 12, 2022

Image courtesy of Max Lucad

Speaking in tongues is something that pastor and author Max Lucado now does as part of his regular prayer time with God. Lucado shared this news in an interview with the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast, where he discussed his new book on the Holy Spirit. 

“When I was 64 on a July morning, as I was praying, I began praying in tongues,” Lucado shared with host Ed Stetzer and co-host Daniel Yang. “I had not done anything different, except I came across the passage where the Apostle Paul said, ‘Eagerly desire the spiritual gifts’…I prayed that every morning for two or three weeks. And then one morning, early in the morning, I began praying in a heavenly language.”

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“Jesus began (Luke 3.21) and ended (Luke 23.46) His ministry on earth with prayer. In between there are more than 45 Scripture references to Jesus praying. But His focus didn’t seem to be on the act of praying as much as on prayerful dependance upon His Father. In doing so, Jesus modeled seeking the Father’s will and trusting the Father’s way.”

~ Dann Spader, Pray! Issue 14., 16.

By Scott Barkley

 August 12, 2022

Bethany Baptist Church in Waubay, S.D. saw 35-40 children arrive each night for vacation Bible school. Photo courtesy of Baptist Press.

HURON, S.D. (BP) – A recent sermon at Huron Baptist Church included a concept held in high regard by pastor Ian Harp and his peers. It’s a concept that applies both to the life of a minister as well as to the farmers who populate his church, town and surrounding area.

Prayer and patience. They come in handy when crops go in the ground, but also when pastors are working to break through the hard soil of evangelism. That work takes place through their churches but also their secular jobs and other ways they serve the community.

“Ministry here? It’s the hardest place I’ve ever been,” Harp said.

The challenges of rural ministry – such as loneliness and lack of resources – aren’t specific to South Dakota. But even as a second or third job may be necessary for financial stability, so is the need to be around others whether as a pastor, employee or volunteer.

More than likely, others see you as all of the above.

Last month Harp helped smoke 300 pounds of pork tenderloin as a community outreach. Three people were saved at that event. Not long after arriving in June 2019, he cooked a full pig for others to enjoy.

Pastoral work is full-time, but he supplements his part-time pay by driving a garbage truck for the city.

That role also connects him with others outside of the church to hopefully build relationships and introduce them to Christ. Being a “garbage man,” as Harp says it, isn’t very glamorous. But his place as a pastor takes precedence, as his youngest daughter reminded him.

“You have to be patient,” said Harp, who left 21 years of driving a semi to become a pastor. “If we’re going to get where God wants us to be, we have to be patient and faithful.”

Eighty miles northeast, Billy Keeble preaches on grace and forgiveness at Bethany Baptist Church in Waubay. His passion comes not only from seeing this in Scripture, but knowing it through how he was delivered from alcoholism. It’s the story he tells others in his work during the week at a rehab and treatment center.

His mother’s death in 2014 sent him into depression and drinking. Addiction was not something new to him.

“My family has a lot of addiction in it, and I had trouble staying sober,” he said. “But God moved in my life and those chains are now broken. I can’t explain it, but I felt I wanted to give back. I’ve found my purpose in giving hope to others.”

Redfield, S.D., is known as the Pheasant Capital of the World, with its high school sporting that mascot. Its baseball team of high school students, however, is the Redfield Area Muskrats, taking that name as an independent club since the state doesn’t sanction the sport.

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A Pastoral Prayer to God Most High and Glorious

By Tim Challies

One key element of our worship at Grace Fellowship Church is a pastoral prayer, in which one of the elders prays for the church and on behalf of the church. Every now and again I like to share one of those prayers. This prayer was prayed last Sunday by Tristan, one of the elders.

O God, most high and glorious, who planned to bring salvation through Christ to unworthy sinners like us. We marvel that Christ Jesus so closely identifies and loves the church, that the church is called the body of Christ. Through him, you have united and equipped people from diverse backgrounds to carry out your purpose. We marvel that you use the imperfect church as a means and instrument to accomplish your good purposes.

We know that you are Almighty, so you don’t need our help. Yet, we praise you for displaying your power through feeble people. Our finite and faulty minds struggle to comprehend your infinite greatness. It’s true your thoughts are not our thoughts, and your ways are not our ways. So certainly, we need your help to know you.

We praise you for graciously revealing yourself to us in your Word and sending your Holy Spirit to empower us to understand with greater clarity your steadfast love. You have told us through your Word that “blessed are those who seek you with their whole heart”. Help us to do this today. Help every Christian here to continuously seek to know you better. As we do this, renew our minds with your Word. We want our minds to be filled with more of your Word and less of the world. That our minds would more closely reflect yours. That we might not sin against you.

O God, we want our lives to reflect our new identity in Christ.

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Revival is falling in love with Jesus all over again.

~ Vance Havner

“In times of revival, thousands may be found on their knees for hours, lifting up their heartfelt cries, with thanksgiving, to heaven.”

~ Henry Blackaby

There is a growing conviction everywhere, and especially among thoughtful people, that unless revival comes, other forces will take the field, that will sink us still deeper into the mire of humanism and materialism.

~ Duncan Campbell

“(E)ven when God’s people are praying just the right prayer about the concerns that God Himself has laid on their hearts, He still may keep them waiting , because the time He appoints for prayer-answering action is often not as soon as was hoped. So persistence in prayer, proving our seriousness of purpose as we keep our requests before the throne day after day, becomes a vital lesson that all God’s people in every age need to learn”

~ J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness, 63.

By Andrew Ballitch

Andrew S. Ballitch (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a pastor at Westwood Alliance Church in Ontario, Ohio.

06.14.2022

Modern evangelicalism emerged out of the series of revivals that took place in America and Britain from the 1730s through the 1830s, revivals which have left an indelible mark on the contemporary movement. The surprising work of God that took place in New England during the ministries of men such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield gave way to unprecedented, exponential growth of the Methodists and Baptists on the American frontier around the turn of the century. At the same time, other denominations and sects expanded along the colonial coast and elsewhere in the fledgling United States. This makes it difficult to neatly separate the First and Second Great Awakenings.

During the First Great Awakening Edwards had struck a careful balance that legitimized emotional expression and outward manifestation during times of revival without using them as the movement’s measuring stick. By the 1820s, this careful balance had began to be supplanted by revivalism.

This revivalism was by no means monolithic. Nonetheless, it had many consistent marks. Below I will offer six: reverse engineering, celebrity cults of personality, a reliance on high production quality, emotional manipulation, reductionist views of conversion, and inadequate ecclesiology. This list is certainly not exhaustive; nonetheless, my aim is to show the cohesion of revivalism with marks one and six as bookends that will hopefully demonstrate that the temptations of revivalism haven’t gone away.

MARK #1: REVERSE ENGINEERING

Revivalism at its core is the impulse to restore. In the first half of the nineteenth century, that meant men wanted to experience perpetually the movement of God that had occurred during the opening decades of the Great Awakening. Revivalism believes that humans can actually make this happen. As a result, preachers sought to recreate the conditions and results of spontaneous revival. The man most associated with this revivalism was Charles Finney.

Finney and other revivalists saw popular preachers (think Francis Asbury or Barton Stone), careful planning (Whitefield’s use of print media), and emotional and physical manifestations (as in Edwards’s Religious Affections) used to great effect for the conversion of souls. While he would never deny the necessity of grace, Finney taught that revival was not a miracle, but rather a work of man. It was the result of the right use of means. The means he practiced came to be known as the “new measures,” and it included mass advertising, long revival meetings, naming unsaved people in public prayer, and, most infamously, the “anxious bench.”

Finney’s animating principle was that revival was the responsibility of Christians. God had ordained means and if the faithful would simply implement the tools given to them, then souls would be saved. Revival wasn’t something divine and mysterious; instead, it could be actively engineered by studying past revivals, delineating their elements, and then putting those elements to work. Finney implemented his revivalism from upstate New York to Ohio. He left behind an influential legacy, even if most Christians today have never heard of him.

MARK #2: CELEBRITY CULTS OF PERSONALITY

Revivalism tends to revolve around well-known preachers, popular personalities, or even celebrities. This was not without precedent. People traveled by the thousands to hear Whitefield preach because it was Whitefield preaching. More people would likely have recognized Asbury than any of America’s founding fathers.

But something changed with the transition to revivalism. Finney defended his new measures vigorously in the face of criticism and controversy. They became the essence of true revival in his mind, such that his ministry came to be identified with revivals. This meant that any warning, even from his friends, was perceived as a personal attack. He refused to heed any efforts to temper his methods. One contemporary, Elizabeth Brainerd, noted of his ministry, “At first all stood amazed and glorified God. At length persons of ill-balanced minds and scanty knowledge of Bible truth, began to glorify Mr. Finney. To them it was plain he had caused the revival, he had converted souls.”

In his Memoirs, Finney himself made a revealing recollection. Remembering older ministers who were wary of his approach, he wrote, “Their opposition never made me ashamed, never convinced me that I was wrong in doctrine or practice, and I never made the slightest change in conducting revivals as a consequence of their opposition. I thought I was right. I still think so. I thought their opposition was impertinent and assuming, uncalled for and injurious to themselves and to the cause of God.” As is often the case in revivalist ministries, there was a lack of accountability, an unwillingness to be corrected, and an equation of an individual with the work of God.

MARK #3: A RELIANCE ON HIGH PRODUCTION QUALITY

Revivalism is usually marked by a reliance on expertise and professionalism in the execution of the means of revival. Why the emphasis on excellence? Because if success depends on humans deploying the right means, then everything must be done just right. This was true in America with Finney’s ministry, but also on the other side of the Atlantic.

The waning of spontaneous revivals and the move to arranged revivals took place in Britain in the 1840s. Finney’s methods were met with enthusiasm by some, especially young pastors. Seasoned American evangelists, such as James Caughey, with their tried-and-true methods, toured the British Isles. A magazine, The Revival, was started by R. C. Morgan as a herald to further the efforts in 1859. Planned events became the norm, such that, when true revival broke out in the village of Hopeman, in Scotland, the newspaper there was compelled to clarify that what was being experienced was not contrived, publishing that “no attempts were made to ‘get up’ this movement.”

MARK #4: EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION

Revivalism adopts strategies to promote emotion beyond preaching and prayer. This ranged in Finney’s ministry from language intended to alarm to private meetings that pressured individuals to naming lost people in public prayer and even to directly addressing particular people from the pulpit. It’s already been mentioned, but Finney’s most notorious weapon was the “anxious seat.”

There could be other physical gestures marking conversion, like standing, kneeling, or an altar call, but the anxious bench, also known as the “mourner’s bench,” was certainly the most dramatic. Here’s how it worked: a bench or a number of seats were placed at the center of a gathering, in plain sight of the whole congregation adjacent to the pulpit. People would come to this section when they were ready to surrender to Christ. Once they arrived, they would receive intense prayer and exhortations. Those already converted would surround them. Often, there was singing, weeping, confession of sin, and physical manifestations of the Spirit. In Finney’s words, the whole purpose of this exercise was that the unconverted be “brought right up to the single point of immediate submission.”

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September 2022
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