Study the history of revival. God has always sent revival in the darkest days. Oh, for a mighty, sweeping revival today! (Adrian Rogers)
When we study church history, we learn of exciting outbreaks of revival and renewal which have had profound global impacts. Today Christians rightly long to see similar moves of God’s spirit as well. We all desire to see God move in new and dynamic ways. We long to see God’s people renewed, the lost converted and society turned upside down for the Gospel. Yet I sometimes wonder whether we are doing all we can to see God’s spirit break forth in Australia. Is our desire for revival matched by a willingness to pay the price for revival? Are we really willing to make the necessary sacrifices to see revival erupt here?
Sure, in one sense revival is the result of the sovereign work of God. It is his work, and we depend on him to move on our behalf. But in another sense, there are things we can do as well to help bring about revival. An earnest and heart-felt seeking after God would be one such thing, along with a willingness to pray and seek God and cry out to him for a spiritual breakthrough in our land.
Of course most churches have organised prayer groups and the like, and intercessory prayer groups are increasing. But usually those praying, fasting and seeking God for revival are few and far between. While there are many morning prayer meetings and the like, they are usually sparsely attended.
Now I am certain that most Christians, if asked whether they would like to see God break forth in marvellous revival, would respond in the affirmative. Yet for all our interest in, and hope for, revival, it seems very few Christians are willing to take the necessary steps to see it birthed. While I realise that revival is generally due to the sovereign move of God, a study of church history indicates that concentrated passionate prayer is often the means by which revival breaks forth.
That such prayer is so noticeably absent in most churches today is a sure sign of our spiritual impoverishment. My hope and prayer is that Australian Christians will develop a desire and a thirst for revival, and for the most important means to procure such revival: prayer.
What does revival look like?
If a revival were to break out in Australia, what would it look like? Let me seek to paint a picture for you.
Newspaper headlines regularly discuss the revival. The Australian, the Age, the Courier-Mail and the Sydney Morning Herald, for example, often spend several pages each day on the revival, with daily listings of converts. Words of new praise songs are reported, along with maps of where the revival is raging. Media personalities such as Kerry O’Brien and Tony Jones devote much time to stories of the revival, and are personally touched by it. Current affairs shows such as 60 Minutes spend most of their time discussing the revival. Numerous journalists experience conversion, and hostility to Christianity in the media is greatly reduced. Media magnates like Rupert Murdoch can only find good words to say about the revival.
The police report that jails are emptying out, streets are quiet and little police work is necessary. Crime is way down, and gambling, drinking, drug abuse and other previously common vices are cut in half. Sex shops and porno theatres are closing down. The large casino parking lots are no longer filled with cars. Many police devote their time to singing in choirs or helping out at church services.
Federal and State Parliaments are often closed, because so many politicians are involved with or observing the revival taking place. Parliamentary prayer meetings have increased in number and size. Federal leaders, opposition leaders, and most MPs and Senators attend regular prayer meetings.
The working class is especially touched by the revival, with blue collar sectors like the Western suburbs of Melbourne becoming new Bible belts. There are far fewer strikes, and tensions between unions and companies have greatly lessened.
Many young people and children are saved, with many of them taking active roles in leadership, evangelism and worship. Churches often double and triple in size, with many new church buildings being built. Whereas congregations of a thousand or more were rare before the revival, now they number in the hundreds right across Australia. Many denominational barriers have come down, and remarkable unity is experienced.
Many of the large sporting facilities like the MCG or the GABBA sit empty, partly due to lack of interest, and partly due to so many athletes converting to Christ. People like Chris Judd, Lleyton Hewitt, Stephanie Rice, and Ricky Ponting now spend most of their time holding evangelistic crusades and attending prayer meetings.
Major Australian entertainment figures such as Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Elle MacPherson are no longer much interested in entertainment, but are devoting their time, money and talents to Christian ministry.
People from all over the world have come to Australia to see for themselves the mighty work of God taking place. The tourist industry is experiencing a major boost in visitors, and extra flights have had to be set up to accommodate the large influx of visitors. Christians and churches throughout the world are encouraged, refreshed and blessed by the revival taking place in Australia.
Now, lest anyone think that all of this is the product of an over-ripe imagination, or a bit of wishful thinking, let me say that the above description is the exact equivalent of what took place during the great Welsh revival of 1904-05. That revival impacted the whole world, and its effects are still being felt today. For example, the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, which helped to give birth to the modern Pentecostal movement, was touched off by the sparks of the Welsh revival.
When we read of such exciting revivals in the past, we can only say, God do it again. If revival is the desire of our hearts, let’s help to make it a reality. One sure way to help see revival to break out in Australia is to pray it through. If your morning prayer meetings are only attended by a handful of people, ask God to put a burden on his people to become a praying church. For as church history clearly reveals, a praying church is a church that will experience revival. And revival is clearly the need of the hour, not just in Australia, but around the world.
A few choice quotes on revival
“If you want revival, let me remind you that God only plants the seed of His life in soil which has been broken up by repentance.” – Alan Redpath
“Are we jealous for God’s glory? To me that is what revival is all about.” – Leonard Ravenhill
“Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one’s will to God in deep humility.” – Charles Finney
“If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that ‘It is not by might, but by My Spirit’.” – Jonathan Goforth
“In the Irish Revival of 1859, people became so weak that they could not get back to their homes. Men and women would fall by the wayside and would be found hours later pleading with God to save their souls. They felt that they were slipping into hell and that nothing else in life mattered but to get right with God… To them eternity meant everything. Nothing else was of any consequence. They felt that if God did not have mercy on them and save them, they were doomed for all time to come.” – Oswald J. Smith
“An awakening is ready to burst on the dismal scene when Christians have a deep, profound Spirit of prayer for an awakening.” – Lewis Drummond
“A revival almost always begins among the laity. The ecclesiastical leaders seldom welcome reformation. History repeats itself. The present leaders are too comfortably situated as a rule to desire innovation that might require sacrifice on their part. And God’s fire only falls on sacrifice. An empty altar receives no fire!” – Frank Bartleman
“Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival – men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations.” – C. H. Spurgeon
“Whether it be in the personal life, or in the church life, or on the mission field, we need revival – we need revival urgently – we need revival desperately!” – Stephen Olford
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.
Edwards, Brian, Revival: A People Saturated With God. Evangelical Press, 1990.
Hill, Stephen, Time to Weep. Creation House, 1997.
Kaiser, Walter, Revive Us Again. Christian Focus, 2001.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Revival. Crossway, 1987.
Murray, Iain, Revival and Revivalism. Banner of Truth, 1994.
Pratney, Winkie, Revival: Its Principles and Personalities. Huntington House, 1994.
Warner, Rob, Prepare for Revival. Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.
The Welsh Revivals (of 1859 and 1904-05)
Evans, Eifion, Revival Comes to Wales . Evangelical Press of Wales, 1959.
Evans, Eifion, The Welsh Revival of 1904. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1969.
Jones, Brynmor, Voices from the Welsh Revival 1904-1905. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1995.
Phillips, Thomas, The Welsh Revival . Banner of Truth Trust, 1860, 1989.
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.