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The Interceders Encourager No. 13

Is It Right To Pray For Revival? (5)

There are those who say that we shouldnít pray for revival as the world is too sinful, and the return of the Lord is near. They believe that these are the last days, the world is getting worse and will never get any better, so all we can do is hold on until the Lord returns.

Bible passages such as 2Tim.3: 1-5, Lk.18:8, Mt.24: 3-13, Mt.24:37-39 and 2Thess.2:1-12 are quoted to show that in the last days everything will get worse; there will be a falling away, and a great increase in lawlessness and iniquity; evil men will have their way; and as it was in the days of Noah before the flood; so it will be before the Lord returns. "When the Son of Man returns", said Jesus, "will He find faith on the earth?"

1) While it is true that we are living in the last days, and such prophecies clearly predict that before the return of the Lord there will be an increase in sin and wickedness, we are still living in the age of the Holy Spirit. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he stated that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel that in the last days, God would pour out His Spirit on all people. So all the days from the Day of Pentecost onwards are "last days", i.e. the period of the Holy Spirit; so the possibility of the Spirit being poured out is exactly the same as it has been since the birthday of the Church.

We, therefore, have every right to claim the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our days, no matter how bad, for the sacrifice of Calvary has paid the price for all the benefits of the Holy Spirit to be made available to the whole Church for the whole period until Christ returns. The only hindrances to this ministry are our sin and disbelief. "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all, will He not with Him freely give us all things?" (Rom.8:32) All things must include revival. That assurance remains while the day of grace is with us.

2) Even if there is an increase in sin and wickedness, the power of God is greater. In times of revivals and awakenings, the worst sinners are brought to repentance and a radical change of life, places of drunkenness and debauchery are closed down, and whole communities are transformed. Increasing lawlessness is no barrier to the Spirit of God. "Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more."(Rom.5:20) Even during times of revival, the devil does all he can to stop it, and the work is maintained only through prevailing prayer. The work of the archfiend is never an excuse for not praying for his downfall, but rather the opposite. The alternative is to give in to him and admit defeat, which is a denial of our faith.

We need to remember that revivals and awakenings have not only been preceded by times of great declension, but have also been "signs spoken against". So we should expect nothing other before and during the last great revival than the greatest opposition that the Church has ever known. Yet manís extremity is always Godís opportunity, for "greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world."(1Jn.4:4) If there is widespread rejection of God, then "it is time for the Lord to work, for Your law has been broken."(Ps. 119:126) "If God has foreseen and predicted a tendency on the part of the Church in the latter days to decline in faith and devotion, He has not forewarned us of it so that we may apathetically await its fulfilment, but that we may be forearmed and strive together to avert it. There is no more effective way of doing this than by preparing our hearts and pleading with God for genuine revival. There is nothing more calculated to arrest the downward spiral trend and set a lukewarm church on fire than a mighty awakening of the Holy Spirit."(Arthur Wallis)

We see this illustrated in the life of Godís people in the Old Testament, where God warns His people of the consequences of disobedience, but where we also see some outstanding turnings back to God when everything seemed so dark. These kings and prophets did not argue, as some do today, that departure from God and judgment were prophesied, and, therefore could not be avoided. On the contrary, they knew He was still the God of mercy and grace, and if they would fulfil the conditions, He would change their situation. They knew, and we should remember, that the promise of 2 Chron.7:14 was given for a time of judgment, so they took God at His word, sought his face and saw a turn of the tide. God expects, and is waiting for us to do the same.

3) Those who have given up on the Church and the world, and who believe that the increasing wickedness is a sign that the second coming is near; and that we should just hold tight and wait; should remember that many groups of people over the last two thousand years have believed that, and they have all been wrong! It is true that we are to be ready for the return of Christ at any time, but Jesus has made it very clear how we are to be ready. It is not by bemoaning the terrible state of the world, and waiting for it to end; but by actively doing the Masterís will. None of us know when the Lord is coming back, but even if we knew it was tomorrow, Jesus would still expect us to use every moment to work, to use our talents, to witness, to watch, to pray; and not to sit and hold on! People who did that would be proving they were not his disciples, for they would be disobedient to the Lord.

"My every sacred moment spend, in publishing the sinnerís friend."

"Happy, if with my latest breath, I might but gasp His name;

Preach him to all, and cry in death, Behold, behold the Lamb."

(Charles Wesley)

I read of an American preacher, Francis Frangipane, who declared that even when the trumpet sounds and he arose at the command of God, you would still hear him pleading for mercy for America. That is the attitude that the Lord wants to see in all of us. Arthur Wallis points out the words of Peter in his address in the Temple porch,"Repent and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ," (Acts 3:19-20), and to note the order: repentance, seasons of refreshing, and then the return of Christ. The preparation for the return of Christ is made, not through passive waiting, nor even through firm believing and hoping, but through "seasons of refreshing", which are sent by his grace, in response to our prayers and obedience.

4) Another way of looking at it is to see this age of the Spirit as the time of rain, of the former and the latter rains, (Deut. 11:11-14, Jer.5:24, Joel 2:23-24,etc.) with Pentecost being the commencement of the former rains. Before this present age concludes with the personal return of Christ at the harvest time, (Mt.13:39-41), we must expect the latter rain of promise, which is the rain necessary to swell the grain before the ingathering. That latter rain or final season of the outpouring of the Spirit, so vital for the final maturing of the spiritual harvest, must come before the harvest can be reaped. Just as the rainy season in Canaan concluded with the same kind of rain with which it began, "so should we expect, before the coming of Christ, a season of mighty outpourings, eclipsing all that the Church has experienced since the Reformation, and only comparable in character and power with the former rain of the Early Church." (Arthur Wallis)

The apostle James also makes this clear when he tells us to be patient until the coming of the Lord, like a farmer waiting until the harvest crop receives the former and latter rains.(Js.5:7-8) Zechariah encourages us to pray for this when he urges,"Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain, the Lord, who makes storm clouds; and He will give...showers of rain."

"Pour Thy Spirit once again, dear Lord,

Our cry goes up to Thee for latter rain.

Unite Thy people as the heart of one,

And Pentecostal days shall come again."

(E.M.Grimes)

5) Furthermore we need to remember that Christ will return for the Church as His holy and spotless bride. It is inconceivable to think of Him returning for a weak, depleted, defeated and dejected bride, struggling to exist, and just holding out against the world and the devil. Christ will return for a bride, whose beauty will glorify and honour Him, not shame Him. It will be "a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish," a church abounding in love, with the hearts of the people unblameable in holiness before God. (Eph.5:27, I Thess.3:11-13) "He will return in triumph for a victorious people who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, a people who have experienced His reviving power, and are living in the joy and victory of a perfect redemption," wrote William Fleming, who had experienced a measure of the reviving Spirit of God in his own church. Only a holy church is ready for the Lordís return.

Recall the wonderful words of Isaiah 62 that we use when we pray for revival. God inspired the prophet to picture a time when the righteousness of Godís people would shine out like the dawn, and her salvation would be like a burning torch. All the nations will see the righteousness of the Church, and the rulers will see its glory. The Church will be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God. As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will our God rejoice over us. That is why we are told to pray and give God no rest until He establishes His Church as the spiritual Jerusalem, and makes her the praise of the earth, (Is.62:1-7, 2Cor.1:20, 1Cor.3:21-23, Gal.4:25-26, Heb.12:22,etc.), and why these verses were used to pray down the wonderful revival and awakening in the Hebrides in 1949. It is His intention that the Church should be restored and established, and be so wonderful that the whole world praises her. Such a church could not possibly be weak and just holding on, but would be strong, vibrant, beautiful and glorious.

6) "If God is not willing to pour out His Spirit in revival because He has predicted that things in the world are going to get worse, or that faith will decline in the Church, or because He would have us looking for the return of Christ, then these arguments must apply universally and continuously; they can admit of no exceptions," wrote Arthur Wallis. "We cannot, for example, apply such arguments to Britain and not to Africa, or to North America and not to South America... Now it is obvious to any student of revival that throughout this century...there have been in different parts of the world definite and unmistakeable outpourings of the Spirit." "These give the lie to the suggestion that God is not willing. The theory must beat a hasty retreat before the irresistible advance of the facts." Since Wallis wrote those words in the early 1950`s, we have seen many other examples of God working in reviving and awakening power in different parts of the world. These all give the lie to the prophets of doom who interpret the end time prophecies in purely negative terms. The "advance of the facts" is even more obvious and irresistible now.

7) Finally we should mention the interpretation of Luke 18:8. The words of Jesus about finding faith on the earth come at the end of his story of the persistent widow who kept on asking the unjust judge for her rights until he gave in. The question of Jesus is normally taken to refer to the attitude of the widow and our attitude in prayer. When He, the Son of Man returns, will He find such faith on the earth, the persistent, persevering faith that doesnít give up in spite of all difficulties. To make the words apply to a general kind of faith would be to take them completely out of context.

But we can seek to answer our Lordís question ourselves, and demonstrate to Him the kind of faith He is looking for, the faith that doesnít give up. We can go on trusting and believing and asking persistently, not giving up until He answers. Will He find such faith in the earth?

As far as I am concerned, He will, and I trust all those reading this will agree. We have committed ourselves to praying until He answers. Let us not fail Him.