Is It Right To Pray For Revival? (1)
The Interceders Encourager No.2
In this, and subsequent issues of The Encourager, we are going to look at some
of the reasons people put forward as to why we should not pray for revival. The
examination of these views should help us to understand the importance of what
we are doing, and increase our determination to pray.
Some people think that we shouldn`t pray for revival now because the
judgment of God has already come upon this country, and it is too late to stop it.
According to Clifford Hill, the judgment of Britain had already started before
May 2001. Therefore, he said, there was no point in asking the Lord to send
revival, or even to stop the judgment, as it was too late to do that We should be
praying that the judgment would be effective, and that God would achieve His
purposes as speedily as possible, in order that He could then pour out His spirit
in revival and restoration. Hill believed that this nation was like the state of
Judah at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, when the judgment
of God on the nation was inevitable.
In response to this, I would say:
1. It is dubious whether we can equate the Old Testament state of Judah,
which was a theocracy, with a secular state such as Britain in the twenty first
century, even with its past record of God dealing so graciously with her. However
let us look at that situation. While it is true that the prophet Jeremiah was
forbidden by the Lord to pray for Jerusalem, nevertheless the prophet Ezekiel
stated that before the destruction of Jerusalem God was looking for a man to
stand in the gap before Him to stop the judgment being carried out.(Ez.22:30)
This tells us that God did not really want to carry out the destruction. It is His
"strange work." (Is.28:21) Even at that late hour, somebody could have stood in
the gap, and stopped the judgment. Therefore, even at this critical time, it cannot
be too late for us to stand in the gap for this land.
The reason that God could not find a man to stand in the gap was that
a) no one, apart from Jeremiah, who had been told the truth directly by God,
would believe how serious the situation was, and would, therefore, be so
concerned as to earnestly interpose himself between God`s wrath and the nation
b) no one was morally able to do so, for the prophet had just said that all the
people were sinful beyond measure.(Ez.22:1-29) But today, surely, God can
find those, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and seeking to be obedient to Him
by the power of His Spirit, who will take Him seriously and stand in the gap
and make a wall between God`s wrath and this sinful nation.
If Moses could stand in the gap, and turn away God`s wrath at the last moment
(Ps.106:23), then we can do it. When Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah,
God would have spared even those wicked cities if only ten righteous people
had been found there, and he prayed only hours before the cities were due to be
destroyed. There are many more than ten righteous people in each city in this
land, so we have every justification to ask God to spare our cities and the whole
land, even at this late hour.
2. Hill`s statement shows a basic misunderstanding of the nature of revival.
Revival is not a reward for a church or a nation having learnt the lessons of
repentance. God does not come down in power because a church or nation has
done something to deserve it, or has lived through judgment. He comes because
one or more righteous intercessors have stood in the gap and stopped His anger.
He comes because one or more repentant, cleansed believers have risen up in
faith and boldness, and pleaded His promises back to Him. He pours out His
Spirit on a sinful community, and sends an awakening, when one or more
righteous, anointed preachers declare His word and preach against sin with
authority. Then in response, God has had mercy on disobedient and unbelieving
people, and brought conviction of sin, thereby creating the repentance that He
3. If this nation were really under the judgment of God, the fact would be
far more obvious, and we would be seeing far worse things happening than we
are seeing at present.It is certainly possible to see in some events that have
occurred in our recent past, such as floods, hurricanes, outbreaks of B.S.E. and
Foot and Mouth Disease, God`s warnings to this nation. But they have been
only warnings. Real judgment would have been far worse. It seems to me that
these warnings, or acts of judgment, if they are called that, have been fairly small
because God is still dealing graciously with us, and people have been praying
that God would hold back his anger. So we should continue to pray that God will
stay his hand and bring the nation to Himself before the acts of judgment become
4. To say that the Church is under judgment now is nothing new. Over forty
years ago, in 1961, Dr. J.I.Packer asserted that God had been active in judgment
against the Church. Even then, he saw the signs of God`s displeasure with the
Church; candlesticks being removed and churches closing down, and the
withdrawing of God`s manifest presence from much of the Church. So, if these
signs of displeasure that are often quoted today as indicators of God`s
judgment on the Church, mean that the decline is irreversible, and we should not
be praying for revival, then the Church should not have been praying for revival
for the last forty years, at least. We know that cannot be right, for otherwise,
we would not pray for revival at all. The Church is always in a state of decline,
unless it is being revived, so we are always to pray for its renewal and revival.
Dr. Packer also pointed out the weakness and impotence of the Church, yet
said that it was just as right to pray for revival as to hope for Spring in the
middle of Winter, even though such praying must begin with a sorrowing
confession of our sin and impotence, an acceptance of guilt for the state of the
Church and the nation, and a seeking of God`s forgiveness and cleansing.
These lessons still need to be learnt, and the fact that we are still here, over
forty years later, relatively unscathed by the anger of God, shows the patience
and longsuffering of the Lord. However, we should not presume about His
patience continuing, for His Spirit will not always strive with man. We need to
cry out with greater urgency for God to have mercy and renew His work.
5. Even if it were true that judgment has already started, that is no reason for
not praying for revival. In the time of the prophet Joel, when the Lord`s
judgment of destruction had already come upon the people and their land, to a
large extent, the Lord still promised:"Even now, turn to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning,...and return to the Lord your God, for
He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness." The people
were told to fast and pray, and the priests were told to weep and plead to the
Lord to spare His people. Then, the Lord promised, He would answer their
prayers, pity them and restore them and their land.(Joel 2:12-27)
We can notice two things from this. a) Firstly, the punishments by themselves
did not bring the people to repentance, just as in the book of Revelation, all the
plagues sent from the Lord did not cause the people to repent of their sin.
(Rev. 9:20-21) The prophet had to point out to them what the events meant,
and what they had to do. In the same way, God`s warning shots or preliminary
acts of judgment will not bring the people of this land to repentance unless we
explain what they mean, what God is saying to them, and what He wants them
b) Secondly, we can learn that whatever our situation and whatever level of
judgment we think God has brought upon us up to this time, the Lord still expects
us to turn to Him in genuine repentance, with tears and fasting, and plead for Him
to have mercy on us. There is never any justification for us to sit back and let
things take their course. He expects us to respond to what He has done, and to
bring His mercy to bear on the situation.
6. The testimony of Church History is against Hill`s theory. If any country
was ripe for a judgment that could not be stopped, then Britain was in the
eighteenth century. This nation had had a Protestant Reformation, it possessed
the Bible in its own language, it had passed through the wonderful times of the
Puritans and the Commonwealth, yet within a short time it had sunk to a
deplorable condition, where its sins were so many, so foul and so flagrant, where
the Church was completely sidelined, that people despaired of any future for
Church or nation. Yet even then, God did not bring judgment on this land, but
showed mercy as, through the prayers of His saints and the preaching of fearless
warriors, this nation was not only saved from ruin, but changed into a God
We cannot deny that this nation has sunk to a very low level, but it is not so
low as it was in the early eighteenth century. If God could spare the country then, He can do so now, provided we stand in the gap and plead with Him to hold back
His hand of judgment until the Spirit is poured out from on high, and preachers
are raised up as they were in the eighteenth century.
7. Preachers with experience of revival testify to the fact that judgment is
avoidable. It is not a case of judgment followed by revival, but of judgment or
revival. Charles Finney said,"A revival of religion is indispensable to avert the
judgments of God from the Church. The fact is that Christians are more to blame
for not being revived than sinners are for not being converted. And if they are
not awakened, they may know assuredly that God will visit them with His
Robert Murray M`Cheyne, quoting Finney, said that revival is indispensable
to avert the judgments of God from the Church, and nothing else will preserve
the Church from annihilation.
W.P. Nicholson prayed, "O Thou Triune God of Sinai, Calvary and Pentecost
....send us a storm of Holy Ghost power and fire, before You send the storm of
Your judgments upon us."
" When revivals cease to flow from the mercy of God, judgment must come."
Apart from a few exceptions, it is now a hundred years since revival came to
Britain, and even then, only to some parts. The country is over ripe for
judgment, but it is also over ripe for revival. It is not too late for God to move
in power and mercy, provided we stand in the gap, and earnestly plead for Him
to stay His hand and revive His work.
"O Merciful God, You are rightfully angry with Your Church and with this
nation, for we have sinned. In these ways we continue, and we need to be saved.
...Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord, nor remember our sins for ever.
O look upon us, we pray, for we are all Your people. This land that You have
blessed so much in the past, has become a spiritual desert, and the churches of
this land have been laid waste.....After all this, O Lord, will You hold Yourself
back? Will You keep silent, and punish us beyond measure?" (Is.64:5-12 alt,)
O God, "in wrath, remember mercy." (Hab.3:2)