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Seven Marks of True Revival

Article by Ajith Fernando

Revival means many things to many people. I mean it to describe a situation where large numbers of people are fired up to seek God fully, yearn for obedience, confess sin in their life, and experience the joy and freedom of walking with God.

History shows us that there is no exact prescription for revival. It is an act of the sovereign God, and we can’t dictate what he should do and when he should do it. I have been praying for revival in Sri Lanka since 1975. Only once, while attending a conference, have I seen something close to revival. But I continue to pray that, in my lifetime or after, the Lord would send his showers of blessing upon our people through revival.

Seven Marks of Revival

While we cannot dictate to God what he will do, history shows us that there are some things that happen before and when revival comes that are worth noting.

1. Faithful Preaching

As all the revivals in the history of the church show, the preaching of God’s word is a key ingredient. The Holy Spirit often lights the flames of revival when pastors systematically and faithfully preach the word. Often, pre-revival preaching is characterized by a call to total commitment to God, repentance, and the extolling of the beauty of holiness.

2. Unceasing Prayer

The great historian of revival J. Edwin Orr has made famous the statement, “No great spiritual awakening has begun anywhere in the world apart from united prayer — Christians persistently praying for revival.” This is what the disciples of Christ did before the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). People with a burden recognize others with a similar burden, so they join in and pray. Many of the great revivals were preceded by united, persevering prayer by people who shared a similar burden for revival.

3. Precious Unity

Unity is often the trigger for revival, and sometimes the result of revival. Once, when Ugandan Bishop Festo Kivengere was preaching in South India, his interpreter, Samuel Ganesh, felt convicted of the need to make peace with a person in the audience. He took leave from the preacher, went to the audience, and made peace. This triggered a process of person after person making peace with each other. Revival had come; there was no need to complete the sermon. Bishop Festo left room for the Spirit to do his work.

The Bible speaks of the urgency of believers being united (John 17:21, 23; Ephesians 4:1–3). One of the most important callings of leaders is to yearn and pray for unity and do all they can to facilitate it. The Holy Spirit can use a leader’s yearning to trigger revival. Those who pray for revival should make sure that they have done all to be at peace with others.

4. Earnest Seeking

The famous revival prayer, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6) suggests a tone of earnest desire. Revival is preceded by people seeking God with all their heart and wanting to see God’s glory among his people.

My favorite example of such praying is the students at Pandita Ramabai’s school in India. The students prayed fervently, and God answered by reviving them and many others through them. The young Evan Roberts, whose ministry triggered the Welsh Revival, often prayed, “Bend me, O God.” We are open to whatever it takes for God to be totally in control of our lives!

5. Pervasive Repentance

Some so-called revivals have been characterized by exotic experiences without much emphasis on repentance. People go like tourists to such places to see what is happening. I wonder whether we could call that revival. After the revival at Asbury College and Seminary in 1971, many students came to the bookstore to return things that they had taken without paying. That is a powerful sign that they had become right with God.

Preaching against sin before the revival often contributes to revival and influences what sins are confessed. In the history of the church, there were times when some sins were neglected in revival preaching — like sexual impurity; exploitation; and race, class, and caste prejudice. This has resulted in revived churches perpetuating sins that the revival should have addressed. In other revivals, like the eighteenth century Wesleyan revival in the UK, revival helped influence social reform and attack injustice.

For Marks 6 and 7…

by Bill Muehlenberg

Revival is the need of the hour. All true Christians long for and pray for revival. Without sweeping revival we are in very dire straits. And it is certainly true that we NEED revival far more than what we need to read about revival. But offering helpful works on revival can help us to get more of a hunger and a thirst for genuine revival.

So there is a place for offering some key titles on this subject. Indeed, there are many thousands of books which could be offered here. I will be much less ambitious, and only present a few select titles. There are of course all sorts of general books about the various great revivals and awakenings which are not included here, nor the biographies of the main players, such as Whitefield or Wesley or Edwards, etc.

What is revival?

Before proceeding, let me offer just a few definitions of revival. Stephen Olford says that revival is “the sovereign act of God, in which He restores His own backsliding people to repentance, faith and obedience.” J. I. Packer says it is “God’s quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives.”

“Revival,” says Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “above anything else, is a glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the restoration of him to the centre of the life of the Church.” And Richard Robert Owens describes revival “an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results.”

Speaking of Richard Owen Roberts, since I include one of his books in my list, let me say a bit more about him here. One biographical blurb says this about him:

He worked with the Billy Graham Association and Wheaton College in the formation of the Billy Graham Center Library. His own private collection of some 9,000 volumes relating to movements of religious revival provides the nucleus of the Graham Center Library. From his youth, Mr. Roberts has been a student of spiritual awakenings. He has authored, edited and/or published numerous volumes relating to revival and revivalism.
rortrust.org/about

Given that his own library has 9000 volumes on revival, he is the one to turn to if you want a much larger listing. But if you want a much briefer selection, these books should be of use. I have divided them into two main sections: nearly 30 general works on revival, and then ten volumes on the incredible Welsh revivals.

General works

Backhouse, Robert, Spurgeon on Revival. Kingsway, 1996.
Davies, R.E., I Will Pour Out My Spirit. Monarch, 1992.
Dixon, Patrick, Signs of Revival. Kingsway, 1994.
Drummond, Lewis, Eight Keys to Biblical Revival. Bethany House, 1994.
Duewel, Wesley, Revival Fire. Zondervan, 1995.
Edwards, Brian, Revival: A People Saturated With God. Evangelical Press, 1990.
Finney, Charles, Lectures on Revival. 1835.
Hansen, Collin and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir. Zondervan, 2010.
Hill, Stephen, Time to Weep. Creation House, 1997.
Kaiser, Walter, Revive Us Again. Christian Focus, 2001.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Revival. Crossway, 1987.
Murray, Iain, Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival. Banner of Truth, 1998.
Murray, Iain, Revival and Revivalism. Banner of Truth, 1994.
Orr, J. Edwin, The Eager Feet. Moody, 1975.
Orr, J. Edwin, The Flaming Tongue. Moody, 1973.
Orr, J. Edwin, Full Surrender. Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1951.
Orr, J. Edwin, The Second Evangelical Awakening. Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1949.
Pratney, Winkie, Revival: Its Principles and Personalities. Huntington House, 1994.
Ravenhill, Leonard, Revival God’s Way. Bethany House, 1983.
Ravenhill, Leonard, Revival Praying. Bethany House, 1962, 2005.
Ravenhill, Leonard, Why Revival Tarries. Bethany House, 1959.
Roberts, Richard Owen, Revival. Tyndale, 1982.
Smith, Timothy, Revivalism and Social Reform. Abingdon, 1957.
Stibbe, Mark, Revival. Monarch, 1998.
Turnbull, Richard, Reviving the Heart: The Story of the 18th Century Revival. Lion, 2012.
Warner, Rob, Prepare for Revival. Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.
Whittaker, Colin, Great Revivals. Marshalls, 1984.
Wright, Fred and Sharon, The World’s Greatest Revivals. Destiny Image, 2007.

The Welsh Revivals (of 1859 and 1904-05)

Evans, Eifion, Revival Comes to Wales [1859]. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1959.
Evans, Eifion, The Welsh Revival of 1904. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1969.
Gibbard, Noel, Fire on the Altar: A History and Evaluation of the 1904-1905 Revival. Bryntirion Press, 2005.
Jones, Brynmor, Voices from the Welsh Revival 1904-1905. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1995.
Matthews, David, I Saw the Welsh Revival. Moody Press, 1951.
Paisley, Ian, The 59 Revival. Martyr’s Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, 1958.
Phillips, Thomas, The Welsh Revival [1859]. Banner of Truth Trust, 1860, 1989.
Railton, Nicholas, Revival on the Causeway Coast. Christian Focus, 2009.
Randall, Ian, Rhythms of Revival: The Spiritual Awakening of 1857-1863. Authentic Media, 2010.
Roberts, Richard Owen, Glory Filled the land: A Trilogy on the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) [H. Elvet Lewis, C. Campbell Morgan, I.V. Neprash]. International Awakening Press, 1989.

For the rest of the post…

“History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer.”

~ Edwin Orr

Prayer and Revival

A Compilation taken from materials found on the web, arranged and edited.

J. Edwin Orr

Dr J. Edwin Orr was a leading scholar of revivals who published detailed books about evangelical awakenings. His research discovered major spiritual awakenings about every fifty years following the great awakening from the mid-eighteenth century in which John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards featured prominently. This article, based on one of Edwin Orr’s messages, is adapted from articles reproduced in the National Fellowship for Revival newsletters in New Zealand and Australia.

There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.

Dr A. T. Pierson once said, ‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.’ Let me recount what God has done through concerted, united, sustained prayer.

Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution (following 17761781) there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.

What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennos, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.

The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’ Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on antiChristian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.

There was a Scottish Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh named John Erskine, who published a Memorial (as he called it) pleading with the people of Scotland and elsewhere to unite in prayer for the revival of religion. He sent one copy of this little book to Jonathan Edwards in New England. The great theologian was so moved he wrote a response which grew longer than a letter, so that finally he published it is a book entitled ‘A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of all God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, pursuant to Scripture Promises and Prophecies…’

Is not this what is missing so much from all our evangelistic efforts: explicit agreement, visible unity, unusual prayer?

1792-1800

This movement had started in Britain through William Carey, Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliffe and other leaders who began what the British called the Union of Prayer. Hence, the year after John Wesley died (he died in 1791), the second great awakening began and swept Great Britain.

In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States.

Churches knew that their backs were to the wall. All the churches adopted the plan until America, like Britain was interlaced with a network of prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each month to pray. It was not long before revival came.

When the revival reached the frontier in Kentucky, it encountered a people really wild and irreligious. Congress had discovered that in Kentucky there had not been more than one court of justice held in five years. Peter Cartwright, Methodist evangelist, wrote that when his father had settled in Logan County, it was known as Rogue’s Harbour. The decent people in Kentucky formed regiments of vigilantes to fight for law and order, then fought a pitched battle with outlaws and lost.

There was a ScotchIrish Presbyterian minister named James McGready whose chief claim to fame was that he was so ugly that he attracted attention. McGready settled in Logan County, pastor of three little churches. He wrote in his diary that the winter of 1799 for the most part was ‘weeping and mourning with the people of God.’ Lawlessness prevailed everywhere.

For the rest of the post…

J. Edwin Orr
Dr J. Edwin Orr was a leading scholar of revivals who published detailed books about evangelical awakenings. His research discovered major spiritual awakenings about every fifty years following the great awakening from the mid-eighteenth century in which John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards featured prominently. This article, based on one of Edwin Orr’s messages, is adapted from articles reproduced in the National Fellowship for Revival newsletters in New Zealand and Australia.
There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.
 
 
Dr A. T. Pierson once said, ‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.’ Let me recount what God has done through concerted, united, sustained prayer.
 
Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution (following 1776-1781) there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.
 
What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennos, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.
 
The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’ Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.
 
Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on antichristian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.
 
How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.

 

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