Archive: How Shall We Pray for Revival

Archive: How Shall We Pray for Revival

Archive: How Shall We Pray for Revival

By Nicky Gumbel
January/February 2001
Good News

“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 till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7).

In the autumn of 1857, New York was in the midst of what was regarded as a national disaster – a financial crash which ruined many of its 1 million population. On July 1, Jeremiah Lanphier, a middle-aged businessman, took an appointment as a missionary in the city center. Churches were suffering from depletion of membership as people moved out of town. Lanphier decided to start a lunchtime prayer meeting. On the first week, he prayed alone for half an hour until five others joined him. The following week twenty came. Within six months, 10,000 people came daily to pray and a revival in North America had begun. Samuel Prime comments, “the places of prayer multiplied because men were moved to prayer. They wished to pray. They felt impelled, by some unseen power, to pray.”

If we, too, want to see revival, how are we to pray?

First, we are to pray constantly. The watchman “will never be silent day or night” (v. 6a). We are to be different from Israel’s watchmen of the past who “lie around and dream, they love to sleep” (Isaiah 56: 10). lnstead, we are to “pray continually,” as the New Testament encourages us (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and told them, “Constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times” (Romans 1:9-10).

The source of the river of prayer which flows in the South Korean church today originated in the dedicated prayer among missionaries and South Korean church leaders at the turn of the century. The Pyongyang revival of 1907, for example, began at a mass meeting in which thousands were caught up in a wave of the Spirit which swept over the entire Korean church. An eye witness account described it like this:

“After a short sermon Dr. [Graham] Lee took charge of the meeting and called for prayers. So many began praying that Dr. Lee said, ‘if you want to pray like that, all pray,’ and the whole audience began to pray out loud, all together. The effect was indescribable. Not confusion, but a vast harmony of sound and spirit, a mingling together of souls moved by an irresistible impulse to prayer. It sounded to me like the falling of many waters, an ocean of prayer beating against God’s throne …. As the prayer continued, a spirit of heaviness and sorrow came upon the audience. Over on one side, someone began to weep and, in a moment, the whole congregation was weeping …. Man after man would rise, confess his sin, break down and weep, and then throw himself to the floor and beat the floor with his fists in a perfect agony of conviction …. Sometimes after a confession, the whole audience would break out in audible prayer and the effect … was something indescribable …. And so the meeting went on until 2 a.m., with confession and weeping and praying.”

Another example of constant, steadfast prayer is Dr. Jashil Choi, mother-in-law of David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church located in South Korea. Dr. Choi gave herself to praying for long periods on a mountain, living in fact, for three years in a tent on the site. In 1974 a permanent building was erected and prayer meetings which attract large numbers of people have been held every day since. Prayer Mountain has grown to be a place where thousands of people come daily to fast and pray. A modern 10,000-seat auditorium has been added which is now too small to hold the crowds that come. Attendance varies, but normally at least 3,000 people are daily praying, fasting, worshipping, and praising our holy and precious Lord. In this atmosphere of concentrated prayer, healings and miracles are a common occurrence.

David Yonggi Cho writes, “I am convinced that revival is possible anywhere people dedicate themselves to prayer … it has been historically true that prayer has been the key to every revival in the history of Christianity.”

Secondly, our prayer should be disciplined. Those who call on the Lord are exhorted to “give ourselves no rest” (Isaiah 62:6), to pray regularly, day in and day out. This is not always easy.

John Arnott, the senior pastor of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, which has been at the center of a remarkable move of God’s Sprit, wrote of his struggle to maintain a disciplined prayer life:

“In my own case, the struggle has been desperate and intense. There have been seasons of wonderful times ‘in the closet with my heavenly Father, praying to him in secret and being rewarded by him openly.’ During such times, one feels that everything is working out for the good, and one wonders why we could ever be so foolish as to not spend generous hours in communion with God. Then suddenly the cares of this life descend with such fury that the now-found prayer route is derailed once more, and the battle to regain it continues.”

Thirdly, we are to pray with urgency. Not only are we to give ourselves no rest but we are to “give him no rest” (v. 7). We are called to be passionate and pressing. Jesus told his disciples a parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18: 1). Although the judge in the parable “neither feared God nor cared about men” (v. 2), he gave a persistent widow justice because she kept on asking until he was concerned that she would wear him out – “I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” (v. 5).  Jesus comments, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off! I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (v. 7-8).

The persistent widow is a good model for us as we pray for revival because she challenges us to be honest about our present state and to ask God passionately for change. “Only when we realize and admit our true condition will we long for revival,” writes Brian H. Edwards in his book Revival! A People Saturated with God. “Praying for revival is not enough: we must long for it, and long for it intensely.”

The historian of revivals, R.E. Davies, wrote: “The most constant of all factors which appears in revivals is that of urgent, persistent prayer. This fact is acknowledged by all writers on the subject.”

Fourthly, our prayer should be persevering. The watchmen are to pray “till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of all the earth” (v. 7). They are to pray until the whole earth gives praise to the Lord.

Duncan Campbell writes of the 1949 Hebrides revival: “I believe this gracious movement of the Holy Spirit … began in a prayer burden; indeed there is no doubt about that. It began in a small group that was really burdened. They entered into a covenant with God that they would ‘give him no rest until he made Jerusalem a praise in the earth.’”

They waited. The months passed, and nothing happened, until one young man took up his Bible and read from Psalm 24: “Who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart …. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord.” The young man closed the Bible and, looking at his companions on their knees before God, he cried, “Brethren, it is just so much humbug to be waiting thus night, month after month, if we ourselves are not right with God. I must ask myself – ‘Is my heart pure? Are my hands clean?”‘ He asked God to reveal if his hands were clean and his heart was pure. As they waited on God his awesome presence swept the barn. These men came to understand that revival is always related to holiness. Three men were lying on the straw having fallen under the power of God. They were lifted out of the ordinary into the extraordinary. They knew that God had visited them and a power was let loose that shook the parish from its center to its circumference. In a house four miles away from the barn, two sisters – one was 82-years-old and doubled-up with arthritis and the other was 84-years-old and blind – had a vision of God. They saw the churches crowded, especially with young people. They had a “glorious assurance that God was coming in revival power.”

Their minister sent for Duncan Campbell to come for a 10-day mission, but he was booked up until the following winter. The minister read Campbell’s reply to the two old ladies. They said, “That is what man hath said, but God hath said otherwise. Mr. Campbell will be here in a fortnight.”

His convention was cancelled and he arrived on the island and went to the parish church. The meeting began at 9 p.m. and continued until 4 a.m. There was a crowd of more than 600 inside, with still more listening outside. No one could explain where they had come from. Strong men trembled in the presence of God, and many fell prostrate on the floor. Within 10 minutes Campbell’s voice could not be heard, as so many were crying out to God for mercy. The sound of singing had been replaced with a cry of penitence – “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” As people experienced the holiness of God, they committed themselves to seeking after him. The movement swept into the neighboring parish. There was such a sense of God there that one businessman visiting the island said, “When I stepped ashore I was suddenly conscious of God. He met with me and saved me.”

The challenge facing the church today is to pray for God to “rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64: 1), to give us “a consciousness of the presence of God, the Holy Spirit literally in the midst of the people.” We need a new righteousness, a new freedom, a new identity and new love. It is easy to give up interceding and to grow despondent when we do not see instant results, but we need to pray constantly, calling on the Lord in a disciplined and urgent way “till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” Individual and corporate prayer are a vital part of preparation for revival which in turn leads to greater individual and corporate prayer. As Billy Graham once said, the three keys to revival are prayer, prayer, and prayer.

Nicky Gumbel studied law at Cambridge and theology at Oxford, practiced as a lawyer, and is now ordained and on the staff of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. He is the author of the Alpha Course. He is also the author of Why Jesus?, Questions of Life, Why Christmas?, Searching Issues, and numerous other books. This article is excerpted from his book, The Heart of Revival. © 1996 Cook Communications Ministries, Heart of Revival by Nicky Gumbel. Reprinted with permission.