The Dancing Puritan

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Surprising Work of God

What are we asking for when we pray for revival? Are we asking for our world to be turned upside down? Revival does not come wrapped in a neat package that contains unmitigated happiness. Revival often brings shock. During times of revival people confess their sins to one another. They pray late into the night. They weep bitter tears of repentance. They ask for forgiveness. Schedules are radically altered, relationships are changed, and church leaders lose much sleep.

When revival has come in history it has not been a result of extraordinary miracles such as wide-spread healing. It has always come as God has stirred up the ordinary means of grace with a special anointing of his Spirit. It has always been God's Word that he has used to change people, whether in seasons of revival or not. However, in revival seasons there is a renewed awakening to his Word and Spirit. 

Revival is not something that can be scheduled or conjured up by sincere people. Revival is, as Jonathan Edwards wrote, a surprising work of God. Though no one can manufacture revival, it nevertheless is something that should be prayed and worked for. A key passage of Scripture that was often employed, preceding and during revival times, is Luke 11:5-11. That passage is a foundational one on prayer. It reminds us that God is favorably disposed towards us and that he wants us to ask, seek, and knock with a sense of expectancy. God is willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him according to verse 13. 

Of course the Holy Spirit indwells all Christians from the moment that they are converted. That being the case, Christians have still understood Luke 11 to teach that they are to seek God in prayer with confidence that God will give the Holy Spirit.  What are we to make of that?

John Piper in a sermon on Luke 11 writes: 

It is no accident that Luke tells us in Luke 3:21ff that while Jesus was praying, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. Or that the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost came as the climax of a ten-day prayer vigil. Or (in Acts 4:31) that when the church had prayed, the place where they gathered was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Prevailing prayer is the pathway to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
And lest you think God is distant from you, and inattentive to you when the Spirit tarries, listen to this encouragement. When you prevail in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, more is happening in your life through this prevailing prayer than you would ever imagine. God waits because our prevailing is good for us. May the Lord forbid that we would lose heart and fail in the very thing needful: mighty prevailing prayer.

Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers. And yet Christians are to ask God for what they need. The passage never says directly that Christians are to ask for the Holy Spirit but that they are to seek God for all of their needs. He is a Father (1,11) that desires to help his children. He teaches us to ask for our daily bread and promises to provide for our needs. The answer to our prayers is, that he not only gives what we need for physical life, but that he also fills our soul. He gives his Spirit.

During seasons of revival it seems that God displays the power of his Spirit in more emphatic ways. His Spirit is ever present and yet in revival times God works in surprising ways, by the ordinary means of preaching, prayer, repentance, witnessing, and godly fellowship. What must we do when it is not the season of revival?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

What we do when revival is not in season is continue to preach, pray, repent, worship, and witness. The season does not change our ordinary activities. We should always pray and do so expectant that God will send his Spirit. We may not ever see a wide-spread revival in our church, community, or nation. However, we know that God can send revival if he so chooses and that if and when he chooses he will send it in answer to prayer. It is a great mystery that God sovereignly does what he wants and yet he uses the prayers of his people to accomplish his purposes. Even if we never experience a widespread revival in our generation God will revive us by his Word (Psalm 119).

We are praying at our church. We are praying:

1.  For personal, family and church revival.

Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge write in their book A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir:

When they recognize that God sends revival so that his name may be praised, believers understand that no need will ever surpass their need for God himself. You can have signs and wonders, but if you don’t have God, you don’t have revival. God-centered revivals withstand the temptation to treasure the blessings of revival over the one who blesses. And what blessing is greater than God visiting his people by making his Word known and empowering them to live by it? This is what happens when God rends the heavens and comes down (Isa. 64:1). . . 

2.  For an awakening in our community, state, nation and world.

 Jonathan Edwards writes in A Narrative of Surprising Conversions:
 But wheresoever God works with power for salvation upon the minds of men, there will be some discoveries of a sense of sin, of the danger of the wrath of God, and the all-sufficiency of his Son Jesus, to relieve us under all our spiritual wants and distresses, and a hearty consent of soul to receive him in the various offices of his grace, wherein he is set forth in the Holy Scriptures.

3.  That God would increase our faith to really believe that he can change a people in an instant.

We see how easy it is for him with one turn of his hand, with one word of his mouth to awaken whole countries of stupid and sleeping sinners, and kindle divine life in their souls. Jonathan Edwards

Would you join us in praying for revival?