Revival. What does it take to get revived? A lady received a talking parrot from her son for Mother’s Day. The problem was that the bird’s language was rather foul. He swore terribly. The first time it happened the dear lady threatened the bird. “If it happens again, I’m going to throw you in the freezer and leave you there until your vocabulary changes.” Within minutes he swore and was tossed into the freezer. After some time passed, the lady took him out and revived him. “Have you learned your lesson?” she asked. “Yes Ma’am, I’m sorry for swearing, I’ll never do it again,” but this lasted for a day. The next day, as the lady walked into the room she heard a torrent of terrible language coming from the bird’s beak. She grabbed him by the wings again and threw him into the freezer, this time for an hour. When he came out he could barely move. When he was revived the lady said, “Have you learned your lesson, are you going to keep cussing?” The bird replied, “No Ma’am, it’s deathly cold in there, I promise I’ll change.” He tried and tried, but a week later, when he didn’t get his supper on-time he swore again and told her to “Hurry up with the food!” Off he went into the freezer, this time for 3 hours. When he came out his head was nearly frozen, icicles hung from his beak and his tail feathers were stuck together. It took him over an hour to thaw out. When he came to he said, “Dear Lady, this time I will change. I’ll take speech classes. I’ll memorize the Beatitudes. I’ll do what it takes to change. I don’t ever want to go in that freezer again! The lady asked, “What brought about the change? The parrot said. “It was the frozen turkey beside me. What did he do to get tossed in there?”
I remember working with the Vancouver Fire Department and responding to an inhalator run, where a man had been eating at a restaurant, choked on some food and keeled over. When we arrived his pulse was weak, his pupils were dilated and I thought he was dead. His vital signs were weak and he wasn’t breathing. The first thing I did was to place him on the floor, face down, put my arms around his stomach, then I tried lifting him up off the ground, while simultaneously jerking my fist into his stomach. The motion caused him to vomit. Reaching inside his mouth I cleared his air passage and nose, put an airway in and started giving him CPR. His whole head had turned dark blue from lack of oxygen, but within minutes he threw up a second time and took a breath. His air passage has been plugged. Once we were able to unplug it and get some air in he was revived.
Revival comes when God is about to judge a nation. Usually, God raises up a man or woman or small group to pray. Prayer releases the Spirit of God to act.
Dr. A.T. Pierson said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.” I would like to talk to you about the role of prayer in revival. REVIVAL often comes when God is about to judge a nation for its immorality and Godlessness.
In the wake of the American revolution, drunkenness was epidemic. Out of a population of 5 million in the U.S. 300,000 were confirmed drunkards. They were burying 15,000 of them each year. Profanity was the common language of the time. For the first time since the establishment of the American colonies, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. The churches were in the throes of death. The largest denominations then were the Methodists and Baptists, who were losing more members than they were gaining. A pastor of a larger Church of that day said he had not taken a young person into fellowship in 16 years. The Lutherans were dying so fast that they contemplated uniting with the Episcopalians who were worse off. The Chief Justice of the U.S., John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop Madison of Virginia, “The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed.”
Voltaire said, “Christianity will be forgotten in 30 years’ time”, and Thomas Payne preached that message, “The Church is dead, all over America.” Kenneth Scott, Latourette, the renowned historian said, “It seemed as if Christianity was about to be ushered out of the affairs of men. The churches had their backs to the wall. From all appearances, the body was dead.”
How do you revive a dying body? How do you breathe life into a corpse? It comes through prayer- God’s breath-breathed through man. You see, that’s what prayer really is: It is the Spirit of God released through us, in communication back to God. Prayer is the Spirit of God released in man.
The ‘Great Awakening’ came through prayer, but it didn’t start in America. It started in England, through William Carey, Andrew Murray, John Sutcliffe and others; a prayer movement called the ‘Union of Prayer.’ They started the 2nd Great Awakening. In 1794 when conditions were at their worse he sent out a plea for prayer. In a poll of the colleges of that day, there was not one believer in the whole student body. At Princeton, there were 2 believers in the entire student body. Students rioted. They had a mock communion at Williams College. They had anti-christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down Nassal Hall at Princeton and forced the resignation of the president at Harvard. They took a bible out of the Presbyterian Church in New Jersey and burned it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus, they met in secret and kept their notes in code to prevent persecution.
Isaac Backus contacted pastors of every Christian denomination in the U.S. and pleaded with them to join him in prayer. The dying church was driven to its knees and a nationwide prayer network involving every church and denomination began to come together to pray. The breath of God was being breathed through God’s people. The Holy Spirit was being loosed to accomplish what God had always planned and purposed to do. It wasn’t long before revival came.
The Second Great Awakening began in Connecticut, spread to Massachusetts and when it reached Kentucky, historians say it found the people “Wild and Irreligious.” There hadn’t been 1 court of justice held in 5 years. If someone committed a murder in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, all they had to do was get across the Alegaines River to be safe. The decent people of Kentucky formed regiments of vigilantes to fight for law and order, but in a pitched battle with the outlaws, they lost.
There was a Scottish-Irish Presbyterian Minister names James McGrady whose chief attribute was that he was so ugly he attracted attention. These days you have to be good-looking to get attention, but McGrady was so ugly that people would stop and ask, “Who is he?” When they heard that he was a preacher, their response was, “A man with a face like that must have something to say.” McGrady set out to pastor 3 little churches in a small community in Kentucky. He spent his first years weeping and mourning with the people of God for their community. It was like Soddam and Gommorrah, but McGrady was a man of prayer who held a concert of prayer every Monday and had his people pray for him every sunset on Saturday evening and sunrise on Sunday morning. In the Summer of 1800 came the Great Kentucky Revival. 11,000 people came to a communion service. McGrady called long and hard for anyone who dared to come and help him, so pastors from a number of denominations came to start the great camp meetings. Revivals began and swept into Kentucky, Tennessee and into the Carolinas. That was the turning point. Out of that second Great Awakening, after the death of Wesley, came the whole missionary movement and all the missionary societies. Out of that came the abolition of slavery, along with hundreds of social benefits and outreaches. More than 600 colleges in the Midwest were founded by the revivalists.
Conditions deteriorated in the middle of the 19th century, when the country became seriously divided over the issue of slavery, just like with the Vietnam war. People were making money hand over fist and in so doing, turned their backs on God. However, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lampier, started a prayer meeting in a Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan. After much advertising, 6 people out of a population of a million showed up. The next week there were fourteen, then twenty-three. By the end of the month, they were meeting every day for prayer and had to leave the Reformed Church to another church and then another. By February of 1858, every church and every public building in downtown New York was filled. At that point, the landslide of prayer began along with the landslide of conversions. People were being converted-10,000 a week- in New York city. The movement spread through New England. Church Bells were ringing, calling people to prayer at 8, 12 and 6 pm. The revival swept through New York. The Baptists had so many people to baptize that they couldn’t fit them into their churches, so they cut holes into the ice and baptized them in droves. When the revival reached Chicago a young shoe salesman went to his church and asked if he could teach Sunday School. The Superintendent said, “I’m sorry young fellow, I’ve got 16 teachers too many but I’ll put you on the waiting list.” The young man said, “But sir, I need to do something now!” So the Superintendent told him, “Listen, why don’t you go out into the streets and find yourself a class. After you have had them for a month you can bring them here.” So he did. Dwight Lyman Moody hit the streets with a pocket full of Maple Candy, gathered a large group of kids around him and started a ministry that lasted over 40 years and impacted every continent for Christ. The Chicago Episcopal Church had 121 members in 1857. This was typical of all the Churches. Over 1 million people converted to Christ from a total U.S. population of 30 million all in one year. That revival jumped the Atlantic impacting Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, South Africa and India. Wherever there was an evangelical cause they were touched by revival and the effects were felt for 40 years. The movement lasted a generation but at the turn of the 20th century, there was a need for a turning again. There were special prayer meetings at Moody Bible Institute, at the Keswick Convention Center in England, in Melbourne, in India, in Korea. All around the world people were praying that there might be another Great Awakening in the 20th century. Of 50,000 people in Atlantic City, only 50 adults remained unconverted. In Portland, Oregan 240 department stores closed from 11 – 2 pm every day for prayer. That’s what happened in a revival in 1905: It all began as a movement of prayer.
The Welsh Revival began in 1904, out of a mighty movement of prayer. Evan Roberts was pouring out his heart in prayer, asking God for revival in Wales. An itinerant evangelist named St. Joshua came to the college where Evan Roberts was studying for the ministry. Evan Roberts, a former coal miner was 26. The students cancelled their classes in order to go to his next campaign nearby. As St. Joshua prayed, Evan Roberts came to the altar and prayed, “O God, bend me.” He felt overwhelmed by the need to return home, so he was excused from his classes. Roberts went back home and told the pastor of his church that he had come to preach. That pastor wasn’t convinced, so he allowed him to speak at the end of the Monday night prayer meeting; seventeen people stayed. Evan Roberts told them, “I have a message for you from God. You must confess unknown sin to God and put any wrong to man right. Second, you must put away any sinful habits out of your life. Finally, you must proclaim your faith in Christ publicly.” He was invited to speak at the next night’s service. He preached all that week, then the second week. On the third week the breakthrough came. Huge crowds of people began travelling from all over Wales to Lethor. People were closing shops early to get a seat. The church was overfilled. A reporter wrote, “The meeting closed at 4:25 am but the people didn’t seem to want to go home. As people came, stores were sold out of their groceries.” Every church was filled, as the wind of the Holy Spirit swept through Wales. More than 100,000 people were converted in that great movement.
Five years later, when a reporter tried to debunk the revival he said, “There were supposed to be 100,000 people who came to Christ in the Welsh revival, but only 80,000 of them are still in the church.” The social impact was astounding. Judges found there were no cases to try. There were no rapes, no murders, no robberies, no embezzlements, nothing. The district councils had an emergency meeting to discuss what they were going to do with the police, now that they were unemployed. In fact, they sent for a sergeant and asked, “What do you do with your time?” He replied, “Before the revival, there were two main jobs, one was to prevent crime and the other was to control crowds at the football games. Since the revival there is practically no crime, so we go with the crowds.” The councilor said, “What does that mean?” The sergeant replied, “Well, you know where the crowds are. The crowds are packing the churches. We have 17 police in our station and now have three quartets and if anyone wants a quartet they just call the police station.”
That revival swept through Wales. Drunkenness was cut in half. Nearly every tavern was filing for bankruptcy. There was even a slow down in the mines. So many Welsh miners were converted that when their language changed, the horses couldn’t understand what was being said to them. Transportation slowed for a while. The Welsh revival affected moral standards as well. The illegitimate birth rate dropped 44% within a year of the beginning of the revival. The revival swept through Great Britain, Scandinavia, much of Europe, New Zealand, Australia, North America, Africa and many countries in South America. It all began with a movement of prayer. The Awakenings and the Welsh revival began with concerted prayer, releasing the breath of the Spirit so the body can live.
“If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, then I shall hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God expects us to pray. Prayer works and is effective, if we work it. We need another Great Awakening. We need another revival, but we need to take that first breath.
“Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew, That I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do, Breathe on me breath of God, til I am wholly thine, Till all this earthly part of me, glows with thy fire divine.” (Edwin Hatch, 1878)