In churches that desperately need revival, one can often hear the prayer being offered, “Lord, send revival to our church. You know how much we need it.”
But revival doesn’t come . . . because that is not revival praying. The words may be spoken passionately; the prayer may be uttered fervently and loudly; but revival doesn’t come just because we pray for revival. Praying for revival is not revival praying.
Revival praying is praying that addresses the conditions that have necessitated revival. Revival preaching is the preaching of repentance. Revival preaching calls upon the church to change—and it names the specific areas that need to be changed. Revival praying is the prayer of repentance. It is the aligning of the heart with the will and purpose and desire of God. Revival praying calls sins by their first names.
Nehemiah was engaged in revival praying when he said:
“Lord God of heaven, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands, let Your eyes be open and Your ears be attentive to hear Your servant’s prayer that I now pray to You day and night for Your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against You. Both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted corruptly toward You and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances You gave Your servant Moses” (Neh 1:5-7 HCSB).
In his book, IF GOD WERE REAL, John Avant says that the “essence of a genuine prayer for revival is this: God, change everything about me that you need to change. Change everything about our church too. Do in me—and in your people—whatever it takes to bring you honor and glory. Help us to be willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill your Great Commission. Even if it means I never like another song I sing or sermon I hear in this church, may we do things that will bring this community to you. May I never get my way on a committee or like the kind of people who come here or the times of the services or anything else if, instead, we can reach people who aren’t yet here. Bring this kind of revival to our church, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Revival praying is not prayer for revival; it is prayer that precipitates revival. It is prayer that responds to the conviction of the Spirit which has exposed coldness, callousness, and carelessness. It is prayer that “owns up” to the indictment that the Spirit has leveled against the people. It is both personal praying—personal confession and repentance—and corporate praying—confessing the sins of the church as a whole.
Many of us are good at confessing other people’s sins. Revival praying is confessing our own sins and the sins of our church. Revival is on its way when we hear and respond to the voice of the Spirit which says, “Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:5 HCSB).
This warning was spoken to the Church at Ephesus, where the Beloved Apostle John himself had been a leader and where Mary, the revered mother of Jesus had been a member. She may still have been living and attending the church. Yet they needed revival.
The church that confesses its need for revival and aligns itself with the New Testament picture of what the church ought to be has nothing to lose—but its chains. It has the favor and power of God to gain.
Let’s do revival praying.
© Alan Day
Alan Day (1948-2011): Dr. R. Alan Day was pastor of First Baptist Church, Edmond, for 25 years. He also previously pastored churches in Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. A prolific writer, Day is the author of two books, Lordship . . . What Does It Mean? and Family First, and a contributing author for Baptist Theologians. He served the Baptist Messenger as a columnist for several years, writing a weekly Baptist Doctrine series from 1999-2002, then an “I’m Glad You Asked” column in 2005.
Alan Day tragically passed away in February 2011 following a motorcycle accident.