|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
The greatest need of our day is genuine revival - a spontaneous, sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit beginning in the hearts and lives of saints who prepare for its coming through fervent prayer. What happened in America and Britain in 1857-58 can happen again.
Christians living in this present age can easily feel as the people of Judah did while in exile in Babylon. In many places it appears that the Lord's voice has gone silent, and that He has abandoned even His elect remnant. Violence and rebellion dominate the headlines. We certainly live in a spiritual Babylon today - and that includes much of the visible church, which seems ineffectual against the demonic onslaught.
But the Lord through Jeremiah told the remnant of the exiles this: Despite your share in the exile because of Judah's national spiritual adultery, I have not stopped thinking of you.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
As the verses that follow tell us, God had great plans for His remnant. We see those plans coming to fruition in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and beyond:
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
The key, the Lord told them in verses 12 and 13, would be prayer for revival.
The Nature of Genuine Revival
Many churches hold a tragically mistaken view of revival today. They believe that they can "have a revival" or "hold a revival" simply by having a series of special meetings with a special speaker and special entertainment in the service. But nothing could be further from revival as God defines it. True revival is a work initiated not by man but by God the Holy Spirit - first in the hearts of His own people, and beyond them in the hearts of unbelievers He draws to Himself to be saved. The key is for His people to prepare themselves through prayer and holy living.
In this time of worldwide upheaval, we encourage you to pray especially with us that the Lord would, by His ordained means, bring revival among His people - a special, glorious moving of the Spirit in and through our homes and our churches. All of this is " 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).
The American & British Revivals of 1857-58
Secular historians take little note of the fact that there was such a moving of the Holy Spirit in the United States in 1857-1858. It began when a group of six men met for prayer at the noon hour in an upper room of a Dutch Reformed Church in New York City on Wednesday, September 23, 1857. They had met at the urging of a Christian businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier, who had for several years sat under the preaching of Rev. James Alexander of Nineteenth Street Presbyterian Church. Alexander had continually emphasized the necessity of the special, sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of souls, and the necessity of prayer for that moving of the Spirit, and Lanphier had taken his words to heart. The following week there were three times the number present at the first mid-day prayer meeting, and the week after there were nearly forty. The "agenda" for these meetings was simple: prayer for the salvation of individual souls by name, along with prayer for a moving of the Holy Spirit to revive righteousness and commitment to the authority of the Scriptures among God's people.
By March 1858, prayer meetings on the same basis were being held in churches and public buildings throughout the city. The prayer meetings spread to other cities - there are accounts of them in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, and many other places - and to smaller towns and villages. All of this was spontaneous - not the result of human organization but of the Spirit moving hearts and bringing people into contact with one another, often for other reasons. A businessman from Albany, New York came to New York City to have a large order of goods for his business filled. He urged the owner of his supply firm to expedite the order so that he could return to Albany that night. The owner told him they would do their best, but that the business would close during the noon hour so that he and others could attend a prayer meeting for revival. The man from Albany went with him to the meeting, was converted, and when he returned to Albany was instrumental is starting prayer meetings in that city.
During 1858 thousands of Christians were meeting for the sole purpose of prayer for revival. Based on contemporary accounts, church historians estimate that as many as one million people (the entire population of the country was then only thirty million) were converted in 1857-58 - not by highly organized, heavily promoted crusades conducted by big-name speakers featuring various forms of entertainment, but by the power of the Holy Spirit upon the preaching and witness of pastors and laypeople who sought as never before to be clean vessels for the Spirit's use. There were similar revivals in parts of Britain and Ireland during those years, and through these great trading nations the revival spread to other continents. All of this was the work the Lord Jesus described to Nicodemus one night long ago, a Divine work vitally real yet unseen - except in its effects:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
A little over two years later, civil war began in the United States. But God had prepared a people, a holy spiritual nation within the physical nation, to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3) and to be a godly influence throughout a divided nation at war.
Dear friends, let us pray fervently and persistently for such a revival in our time, not only in America, but across the globe - a spontaneous moving of the Spirit of God beginning among Spirit-prepared Christians and drawing many lost souls to salvation, to the eternal glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15)
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