What Is Revival?

I think we’ve all participated in a prayer assembly through which it was not fairly clear what, precisely, we have been asking God to do. Maybe we have been praying for “traveling mercies,” or “blessing on this situation,” or for God to “be with” so-and-so. These issues sound good. However what are we actually asking, why do we expect God desires us to ask for that, and would we even acknowledge the reply if God stated sure? For many people, I believe revival is one other a type of fuzzy-around-the-edges blessings that we’re fast to hope for and sluggish to know. Positive, we pray for revival. Revival sounds nice. However what precisely is it?

J. I. Packer offers a useful definition. Summarizing Jonathan Edwards’s important work on the topic, Packer writes: “Revival is an extraordinary work of God the Holy Ghost reinvigorating and propagating Christian piety in a community.”1 With a view to higher perceive revival—and to ask God for it with larger confidence—we’ll look at and apply this definition one phrase at a time.

It’s important that we pray collectively for revival however not possible that we are able to compel it. We ask humbly, and we await his good reply.

Right here, we discover first that revival is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit—given by the Father and the Son—empowers the Phrase (1 Thess. 1:5), convicts of sin (John 16:8), offers new life (John 3:6), helps us to hope (Rom. 8:26), opens our lips to sing God’s praises (Eph. 5:18–19), allows new obedience (Rom. 8:4), and manifests his fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22–23). Revival is God’s work and, subsequently, is below God’s sovereign energy. He brings it when, the place, and the way he pleases in accordance with the aim of his will. He does it, as he does all the pieces, for his personal glory. And he does it in a way constant along with his unchanging character. Revival, from starting to finish, is one thing solely God can do.

Ask for Revival

For that reason, it’s particularly applicable that we make revival a topic for prayer. Prayer is an admission of want, asking God to do for us what we can not do for ourselves, and our most pressing want is for the Holy Spirit.2 Jesus himself offers us this encouragement: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). And once we pray for the Spirit, we’re praying alongside Christ, who asks the Father for the Spirit on our behalf (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit, the divine agent of revival, is a present that Christ guarantees to produce once we pray.

Recognizing that revival is the Spirit’s sovereign work additionally retains us from demanding revival or from considering that revival hangs on the power of our prayers. Christians can generally strategy prayer like a math downside, believing that sufficient folks praying with sufficient boldness will pressure God to reply in the way in which we would like. As an alternative, within the phrases of Ian Murray, “God has chosen to make prayer a means of blessing, not in order that the fulfilment of his functions turns into depending on us, however somewhat to assist us study our absolute dependence upon him.”3It’s important that we pray collectively for revival however not possible that we are able to compel it. We ask humbly, and we await his good reply.

The second factor we discover about revival is that it’s a unprecedented work. “Extraordinary” right here doesn’t imply new or completely different, however larger in measure or diploma. Within the New Testomony, the Spirit definitively stuffed the Christians at Pentecost (Acts 2:4) after which later stuffed the identical Christians once more in additional measure (Acts 4:31).4 After we pray for revival, we’re asking the Spirit to do what he normally does (“reinvigorating and propagating Christian piety”) and to do extra of it. Actually, we’d not acknowledge revival instantly as a result of it seems to be a lot like what the Spirit is already doing. Murray writes, “From Pentecost onward, the work of the Spirit can be viewed in two aspects, the more normal and the extraordinary. These two differ not in essence or kind, but only in degree, so much so that we can never determine with certainty where the normal ends and the extraordinary begins.”5

In Charles Dickens’s traditional novel Oliver Twist, the title character is distributed as a younger orphan boy to a workhouse. There he receives a single serving of gruel each night time for dinner. After months of the scant ration, Oliver one night finishes his porridge, gathers his braveness, and approaches the workhouse grasp along with his empty bowl and the well-known phrases: “Please sir, I want some more.”6

Pray Collectively

We do one thing related once we pray for revival. Having skilled the Holy Spirit, having tasted a portion of his presence and his energy, we strategy the Father with a daring request: Please, sir, could we’ve some extra? However in contrast to the workhouse grasp, who met Oliver’s request with dramatic incredulity (“‘What!’ said the master at length in a faint voice”7), our gracious God delights to reply our petition with one other beneficiant ladling of the Spirit into our church buildings and our communities.

With this understanding then, we keep away from praying for revival as one thing completely different, a magic bullet, that bears no resemblance to God’s regular work in our midst. Michael Horton just lately critiqued the evangelical need for revival as a aspect of our fashionable, stressed quest for “The Next Big Thing,”8and Murray himself factors out that “too often in the twentieth century there has been faith in ‘revival’ where there has been little faith in God himself.”9 However prayer for revival shouldn’t be remoted from our prayers for God’s glory (Matt. 6:9), for the development of Christ’s kingdom and obedience to his Phrase (Matt. 6:10), for the success of gospel preaching (Col. 4:3; 2 Thess. 3:1), for the build up of the church and the tearing down of Devil’s dominion (Matt. 16:18), and for sinners’ repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). We pray collectively for revival by praying for God to do his extraordinary work—in a unprecedented measure. Brothers and sisters, we ask for extra.

Lastly, we see that when God solutions our prayers for revival, he does it in a group. As Packer explains, revival is a piece of the Spirit, it’s extraordinary, and it involves a bunch of individuals. This isn’t to say that God can not or won’t revive people; the psalms are filled with wealthy testimony to God’s reviving grace within the hearts of specific saints. However simply because the Spirit stuffed the entire church at Pentecost after which added three thousand extra to their quantity (Acts 2:4, 41), revival is most particularly God’s work on a company scale, starting first within the church after which extending outward to the encompassing group.

And since revival is a company blessing, given to the church and to her group, it’s particularly applicable that we ask God for it collectively. This was the sample of the church in Acts, and it’s rightly our sample, too. As a household, as a pupil physique, as staff, as members of a group, and—particularly!—as a church, we collect collectively to hope for a solution we anticipate to obtain collectively.

Brothers and sisters, allow us to pray collectively within the Spirit for the Spirit,10 figuring out what we’re asking and from whom we’ll obtain it.


  1. J. I. Packer, “Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival,” in Puritan Papers: vol. 2, 1960–1962, ed. J. I. Packer (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2001), 33.
  2. Jonathan Edwards referred to as the Spirit “the chief of the blessings that are the subject matter of Christian prayer.” See Jonathan Edwards, An Humble Try, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 5, Apocalyptic Writings, ed. Stephen J. Stein, WJE On-line, accessed December 26, 2014, http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path =aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9n
    ZXRvYmplY3QucGw/Yy40OjUud2plbw==. Additionally, cf. Matt. 7:11 (“How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”) with Luke 11:13 (“How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”).
  3. Murray, Pentecost At this time?, 69; emphasis authentic.
  4. Ibid., 18. Additionally, the Westminster Bigger Catechism declares that the Spirit is current in each believer however doesn’t at all times work “at all times, in the same measure.” Westminster Bigger Catechism, in The Confession of Religion Along with the Bigger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs, third ed.(Lawrenceville, GA: Christian Training & Publications, 1990), 182.
  5. Murray, Pentecost At this time?, 17.
  6. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress, third ed. (Leipzig, Germany: Bernard Tauchnitz, 1843), 13.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Michael Horton, Extraordinary: Sustainable Religion in a Radical, Stressed World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 74–81.
  9. Murray, Pentecost At this time?, 78.
  10. D. M. Lloyd-Jones, “Revival: An Historical and Theological Study,” in Puritan Papers: vol. 2, 1956–1959, ed. D. M. Lloyd-Jones (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000), 318.

This text is customized from Praying Collectively: The Precedence and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Houses, Communities, and Church buildings by Megan Hill.

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