A Review of Why Revival Tarries. By Leonard Ravenhill.

BethanyHouse, 1959, 1987. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)

Fifty years ago Leonard Ravenhill wrote Why Revival Tarries. It is now a modern classic. It has sold over half a million copies, and is translated into numerous languages. It is still widely available today.

This book is a devotional classic because its author is one who was more concerned about the verdict of the Almighty than his own reputation; more interested in holiness than happiness; and more interested in the glory and honour of God than the praise and applause of men.

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It is actually composed of various articles he had written earlier, but because it flows from a heart on fire for God, and a life dedicated to holiness and sanctification, the words contain fire and power. No one who is sick of the ordinary and is desirous only of God and his best will be untouched by this powerful book.

How can one adequately review a book such as this? Every page has memorable ideas and burning words. Perhaps the best way to present this book to others is simply to feature many of its valuable quotes.

Ravenhill argues that we do not have revival for the simple reason that we really don’t want revival. We are simply too contented, too smug, too self-satisfied, and too carnal. Our hearts are not broken and we do not earnestly long for a powerful move of God.

“Revival comes as a result of a cleansed section of the Church, bent and bowed in supplication and intercession,” says Ravenhill. “The price of revival,” he says, “is travail.” But where is the prayer, the brokenness, the seeking after God?

As he says elsewhere, “The only reason we don’t have revival is because we are willing to live without it!” That is our problem. We have become too comfortable, too lazy, too apathetic and too indifferent. In other words, we are neither hot nor cold, but, like the Laodicean church, are simply lukewarm, and we deserve to be spewed out of the Lord’s mouth.

Prayer is the key to revival, and Ravenhill speaks as much to our prayerlessness as anything else. Unless we get serious about prayer, and forget our trivial pursuits and worldly amusements, we simply will not see revival break forth.

Prayer is the key says Ravenhill: “No man is greater than his prayer life.” Our greatness for the Kingdom will be directly proportional to our greatness in prayer. “To be much for God, we must be much with God.” The praying man is unstoppable: “He who fears God fears no man. He who kneels before God will stand in any situation.”

Ravenhill reminds us that “As the Church goes, so goes the world.” The world is in a mess because the church is in a mess. And the church is in a mess because so many of its leaders and preachers are in a mess: “The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.”

If our churches are not full of dead men and women, they certainly seem to be full of sleeping men and women. “In the church pillars have given place to pillows.” How can God move in such a situation? How can God work when the material in his hands is hard, unwieldy and crumbling?

Until we start to see our spiritual need, and start to cry out to God, revival will elude us. “If the Church today had as many agonizers as she has advisors, we would have a revival in a year.” Where are the men and women of God who travail and agonise over the woeful situation we find ourselves in?

Until we are broken and repentant, we will see no fresh move of God’s Spirit. “The church must first repent; then the world will break! The church must first weep; then our altars will be filled with weeping penitents.” Ravenhill goes so far as to suggest, “This generation of preachers is responsible for this generation of sinners.”

Strong words, but true. Our problem is ourselves and our spiritual leaders. We need to break up the fallow ground and seek for the new rains. We simply cannot keep blaming the world for all our troubles. In many ways we have only ourselves to blame:

“I do not marvel so much at the patience of the Lord with the stonyhearted sinners of the day. After all, would we not be patient with a man both blind and deaf? And such are the sinners. But I do marvel at the Lord’s patience with the sleepy, sluggish, selfish Church! A prodigal Church in a prodigal world, is God’s real problem.”

He reminds us of 1 Peter 4:17: “Judgement must first begin in the house of God.” This is where we must begin. It is long overdue. If we do not act, and act soon, then the chances of revival – at least in the West – look very slim indeed.

This book is spiritual dynamite. Those who already have it should pull it off the shelves and reread it. Those who do not yet have it need to go out and get it. The revival we all so desperately need basically tarries because of us – because of our coldness and hardness. This book will go a long way in helping to melt the ice and soften our hardened hearts.

[899 words]

28 Replies to “A Review of Why Revival Tarries. By Leonard Ravenhill.”

  1. Thanks Bill. 50 years ago – when this book was written – we had small awakening here during the Billy Graham crusades, as one man who meant business shared his passion.

    It seems the darkness, in general, has only grown since then – but those who have meant business with their Lord have grown brighter. Other revivals have started from that basis – but it requires people who are truly seeking (question to self first)!

    Stephen White

  2. “… one who was more concerned about the verdict of the Almighty than his own reputation; more interested in holiness than happiness; and more interested in the glory and honour of God than the praise and applause of men.” – what wonderful words! Oh that one could live in such a way that someone would wish to say this about one!
    John Thomas, UK

  3. It ought to be a sobering thought that as individuals and as a church we amount to no more and rise no higher than that place where we are, when on our knees. Tragically for many, this is a lesson not yet learnt.

    David Skinner, UK

  4. Yes a great book and a great review. Just a minor quibble, holiness is the path to true happiness – they should not be seen as mutually exclusive. I think it was Ravenhill when referring to a church context, said something like “entertainment is the Devil’s substitute for the joy of the Lord.”

    Ewan McDonald

  5. Thanks Ewan

    Yes quite right. Happiness is a by-product, as is joy, etc. C.S. Lewis made much of this theme as well. We must seek God for who he is, not for the benefits we might get from following him. But when we do seek Him and Him alone, all these other benefits and blessings will follow, including joy, happiness and so on.

    The trouble is, if we preach a gospel that emphasises the by-products, then a person will come to Christ for all the wrong reasons – e.g., simply to get all the goodies. But when the happiness or joy disappears, then so too does the person’s faith, because they were led to believe that they would always have all these goodies if they follow Christ.

    Indeed, in the Bible we are not promised happiness when we come to Christ, but often just the opposite: rejection, persecution, misunderstanding and enmity. But our joy is inward, and not based on our outward circumstances.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Bill,
    What exactly is meant by a revival? Many evangelistic meetings in the USA are often referred to as revival meetings. Todd Bentley, Rodney H. Browne etc claims the happenings in their church meetings are signs of a revival happening. What are the hallmarks of a true revival. Unless this is cleared in biblical terms, we will have different understanding and expectations of a revival.
    Barry Koh

  7. Thanks Barry

    Good question and thoughts. Finney said this: “A revival of religion presupposes a declension.” A revival brings back to life that which has died. Biblically, such revivals have usually involved a rediscovery of God’s word, repentance, putting away false gods and idolatry, and a decision to now fully obey the Word of God.

    Jonathan Edwards could conduct revival meetings without a hint of emotion on his part. He simply read his sermons, and the Holy Spirit did the rest. But yes, a whole article on the biblical view of revival would be worth writing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Please Bill enlarge on the Revival theme, which is not taught in most churches. Billy graham in 1959 quoted this verse from 2 Chronicles: “If My people who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to prayer offered in this place. For I have chosen and sanctified (set apart for holy use) this house, that My Name may be here forever. and My eyes and My heart shall be here perpetually.” (Amplified, 2 Chronicles 7:14-22)
    Our great God honours His Word when we meet His demands. As individuals and as churches, Australia desperately must be revived.
    Harrold Steward

  9. I was attending a church that had a change of leadership and one of the things the new leader did was to cancel all prayer meetings. In my current church, the leadership spends 10 minutes a month praying together. Nuf said.
    Roger Marks

  10. I was living in England not far from where Leonard Ravenhill lived when his book came on the market. I think nearly every home had a copy of it. Even then, when we didn’t have ear shattering music in the church, the prosperity gospel, mega churches, female leaders, a watered down gospel, personality preachers whose main aim was making money, adulterous pastors, bless me christianity and disregard for what the bible teaches we felt that we were missing the mark and needed to heed his words.

    It contributed to a spiritual awakening in the UK that took place in the 60s across all denominatons.

    God has got his work cut out with our anemic and superfical so called christianity where maintaining the status quo is almost sacrosanct. But we can take one positive from this and that is when things are at their worst, that is when God suprises us with his best.

    It doesn’t take many people to bring about revival (I think Azuza St was about six).

    Roger Marks

  11. Bill. Thanks for your comments; with our work on the streets it really helps me! God Bless!
    Jane Byrne

  12. I too would appreciate a Biblical discussion on Revival.
    I know that Prayer and Action must go together and nothing happens without prayer but it seems that too often nothing happens beyond the Prayer.
    A. W. Pink in early 20th century (over 100 years ago) stated something like “Many are praying for Revival, but it would be far better to pray that God would raise up labourers and thrust them into the harvest-field to do what Gods Word has told us to do which is designed to bring about revival”. I think too often we are asking God to do what He has told us to do. If we will get into the streets and share the Gospel – Mark 16:15 (all the church, not just a few), then we will see God move and we will find that the Church is revived. Simple obedience! – along with allowing Evangelists to have some access to pulputs to Equip the Saints for works of service (Eph 4:11-12) and train the church to be able to share the gospel – understanding what it is first, because I think we have lost that also – with our modern gospel of wordly benefits and neglecting to share on the righteousness and judgement of God and that the gospel is that Jesus died for our sins and He commands us to Preach Repentance unto Faith in Him.
    Geoff Dyer

  13. I used to really really love the Leonard Ravenhill books like this one and also lots of Charles Finney’s stuff….for years….but then found them very legalistic…..
    I did all that…prayed and prayed til i almost bled……
    but nothing happend and my parents both died without coming to Christ….and now i’m in torment myself….knowing that they are being tortured forever and ever……….was it my fault? Didn’t i pray enough?….so many questions ! So much self punishment…The word ‘revival’ is the most abused word in the christian world…..There will never be a ‘revival’ in the whole world sense cos people know out there instrinsicly that the idea of a tormenting hell is too much to bear -it send people to mental homes like it did to me.
    Finney’s theology too is very pelagian – based on human decision rather than grace…..In the end i had to give up his ideas as they are man centred.

    And if this type of theology is right than it’s already too late!….Most people RIGHT NOW are buring forever in torment….as most poeple who’ve ever lived are already dead and in hell and most of the world alive now are going to hell anyway.


  14. Here is Dr. Brown’s definition of revival:

    “Revival is a season of unusual divine visitation resulting in deep repentance, supernatural renewal, and sweeping reformation in the church along with a radical conversion of sinners in the world, often producing moral, social and even economic change in the local or national communities.”

    Ewan McDonald.

  15. Thanks exdroid

    I am not supposed to allow you on as you refuse to keep my rules about full name disclosure. And your choice of titles tells us a lot about your supposed Christian past, but let me make a few brief remarks anyway.

    I of course know nothing about your personal situation and so I cannot be expected to comment very helpfully here. As to your parents, only God knows in the end whether they became Christians or not. How can you be certain about this?

    And are you using this as an excuse to justify your own drifting away from God? At the end of the day it is only you, and you alone, who will have to give account of yourself before the living God.

    And did you really ‘almost bleed’? We can never pray too much, and I believe God does answer every prayer. But things must be done on his terms, and not ours.

    Also, no, it is not your fault that anyone faces a Christless eternity. You are responsible only for yourself. Everyone is responsible for his or her own choices.

    And yes some may have concerns about aspects of Finney’s theology, and so on, but that is not the real issue here. The real issue is simply this: Jesus did everything he possible could so that no one ever need go to hell, including yourself.

    The only people who end up there are ultimately those who want to be there. Our response to what Jesus did for us is the vital thing. All other concerns are secondary.

    As I say, I cannot offer pastoral counsel or words of wisdom because I know nothing about you. But I can pray to a loving Father who does know everything about you. So for now, my prayers will have to suffice.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  16. Dear Bill,
    Your review of Why Revival Matters shows virtually no understanding of the sovereignty of God in election. Going through your blog articles shows an abysmal understanding of Socialism and the same old rehashing of Religious Right rhetoric. As someone who use to live and breathe this rhetoric I would greatly appreciate it if you could write something that had some real substance when dealing with theological or political issues. To do otherwise is really just self indulgence on your part.
    Craig Nielsen

  17. Thanks Craig

    Normally I do not post comments which are primarily comprised of ad hominem attacks. But a few responses if I may. Biblical Christians are of course aware of the complex truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. This applies to revival as well. On the one hand it is simply the sovereign move of God. On the other hand, as both Scripture and church history demonstrate, we seem to have our role to play in bringing it about. It is a nuanced and multi-layered debate.

    As to socialism, given that I was once a Marxist, I think I know a little bit about it.

    And I will leave it to my readers to decide if the 1200-plus articles here on politics and theology are without understanding, lacking in substance, mere rhetoric, and a case of self indulgence.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  18. Thanks Bill. I don’t have this book, but will order it now.
    Annette Nestor

  19. I’m Building on the foundation of Leonard Ravenhill. The Baton is Passed On!!!

  20. WHY REVIVAL TARRIES: This is one of the most controversial aspects of christianity today, the world is diverting away from God daily, believers and church leaders seem to be sleeping. In africa where I stay (Nigeria), we have so many (“Great”) men “for” God but few followers of God, (ministers who are supposed to be fishers of men are now too busy fishing for complements from men), preachers taking the place of God in the christian community…
    If there is any solution to this perversion , then it has to do with bringing back that “true” christianity exhibited by the early Apostles. That is Christianity.

  21. please i want know how can i get a copy of the book, why revival tarries by Leonard Ravenhill and why revival still tarries by Chad. i am in Ghana in west Africa. thank

  22. I read this book in my early years in the Lord and it is one of the books that help me in my prayer ministry and this summary has really enforced that prayer hunger thank you for sharing

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