Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.
So many American Christians expect nothing more at this late and dangerous hour than the wrath of God to be poured out on their wicked country, even as a Just and Holy God poured out judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. And this is surely what we deserve. And yet, dear friends, I am convinced that God wants His people to hear what His Spirit is saying to His Church, to meet His conditions for revival, in order to show the world His merciful and amazing end-time plans.
It is not our pagan society in its appalling moral darkness that prevents the mighty revival so desperately needed. It is the sleeping majority in the Church that is responsible for the spiritual famine in the land. Revival tarries because of the self-righteousness, the hardness, coldness, blindness, carnality and arrogance in the Church. Five of the seven churches addressed by our Lord in the book of Revelation were commanded to repent. That same call is going out to the slumbering body of Christ at this hour. May we have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches! Revival is the marvelous work of the Sovereign Holy Spirit, but He begins it by preparing the hearts of His people for repentance and obedience. Revival is a new beginning of obedience to God’s Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit.John the Baptist was used of God to prepare Israel for the coming of Her Messiah. As the forerunner of Christ, the Baptist quoted Isaiah to show the urgency of preparing the way. The people could not sit around in apathy and really expect a visitation of the Lord.
John the Baptist was used of God to prepare Israel for the coming of Her Messiah. As the forerunner of Christ, the Baptist quoted Isaiah to show the urgency of preparing the way. The people could not sit around in apathy and really expect a visitation of the Lord. Preparation was urgent and it began in repentance. By repentance John the Baptist meant to straighten up one’s heart and life in accordance with the Word of God.
In ancient times the city fathers would send a delegation to the royal court to petition the king to honor their city with a visit. In response, a representative from the palace would show up at the gates of the city to visit with the fathers to test the validity and sincerity of the invitation. Did the leaders and citizens of the city realize the significance of a royal visit? Were they aware of all the necessary preparations? Would they be willing to build the kind of roads over which the royal chariot could roll — filling in depressions, leveling high places, straightening sharp curves and smoothing out the rough places? The king would be delighted to visit the city, but there must be more to a special visitation than a cheap invitation.
Ready for Revival
Some of our revival talk is cheap, but genuine revival preparation is costly. I’ve been in revival work long enough to know that only a small fraction of the churches sending out invitations are willing to get down to business and meet the biblical demands of preparing for a Holy Spirit-inspired revival. I’m reminded of what Charles G. Finney used to say in trying to get the communities in New York ready for revival: he said that if farmers planned for their crops the way churches prepared for revival, the whole world would have starved a long time ago.
Unbelief concerning revival in our churches is our number one problem. Many pastors who verbally call on their people to pray for revival are not themselves engaging in Spirit-anointed prayer for revival. They don’t believe it’s going to happen. They think they will grow a church some other way than by beginning in the Upper Room. They cannot bring themselves to call for solemn assemblies during which we repent of our pride and prejudice, our carnality and selfishness, our lack of faith and surrender to the God of revival and power. Our leaders keep thinking that “something will happen” to turn the tide of a dead and fruitless church — some new program, some new scintillating personality, some new thing. But the church just slips more deeply into its slumber. When will we learn that the turn-around will come when we get back to God’s way of seeing revival? We must call for prayer, and then we must wait on the Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray. So much of our praying is just hollering at God, complaining about one another, never getting around to repentance and confession. This is repulsive to God.
We need to study some of the great prayers of the Bible to know how to pray for revival today:
- Ezra 9:3 – 10:12
- Neh. 1:4-11
- Psalm 51, 67, 71, 80, 83, 85, 86, 87:17-22, 138:6-8, 139:23-24, 145, 147 and 149
- Isaiah 58, 64, 65:24
- Jer. 9:23-24, 14:1-10
- Dan. 2:20-23, 9:3-23
- Hab. 3:2
- Zech. 10:1
- Matt. 6:9-13
- John 17:1-26
- Acts 4:23-31
- Eph. 1:15-23, 3:14-21
- Phi. 1:4-11
- Col. 1:9-12
- 1Thess. 5:23-24
Pastors, our people are waiting for some prophetic word from us as to how the Holy Spirit would have us pray. Of course, each believer has access to the enlightenment of the Spirit for prayer, but it has been an age-long practice for God to reveal His prayer agenda to His prophets.
One pastor gathered his people for revival praying, and said, “Now please turn with me in your New Testaments to II Tim. 2:11-26.” Most of the people followed the reading, and when it was completed the pastor said, “Now, I believe the Lord has revealed to me that I and the members of this church should pray and examine our hearts and let the Lord show us wherein some of us are ‘unclean vessels.’ Then we need to take our time and let the Holy Spirit come to us tonight and cleanse our hearts and our houses and our church.” The congregation went to prayer and the Spirit responded powerfully. They were there until nearly midnight confessing to God and to one another the reasons they had not been in a revival state. The revival came that night! Without an evangelist, without a schedule of meetings. But with the right kind of praying (Praying in the Spirit) the revival was on! And it’s still going on. That church has been taking prayer seriously. They soak every service in prayer, covering every phase of the service with intercession, pleading for the anointing upon preachers and teachers, members and visitors. That church is winning new people to Christ and the church. It came out of its decade-long stalemate because of Spirit-led praying.
Pastors, it’s all right to be hesitant as we go into a few things. But when it comes to militant prayer warfare, we must have bold leaders. The people aren’t going to follow the shy, timid, fearful leader. His or her unbelief will show up and the congregation will never get ahold of the experience of bold intercession. And such a church can never have revival. So the answer is not asking to be assigned to a new church, nor is it a new program or another staff person to lead in this or that; the answer will be found when that pastor and those appointed church leaders reach a point of hunger and desperation to seek God to move on the church body at any cost. Let me close this message by pointing to how some true revivalists (they saw revival) actually prayed:
About nine I withdrew to the woods for prayer. My soul was exceedingly enlarged and drawn out. I pleaded with such earnestness that when I rose from my knees I could scarcely walk. The sweat ran down my face. I was wholly free from selfish ends in my supplication for the poor Indians.
Whole days and weeks have I spent prostrate on the ground in prayer that God might pour out His Spirit on His people.
Oh, God, send us the Holy Spirit! Give us both the breath of spiritual life and the fire of unconquerable zeal. You are our God. … The Kingdom comes not, and the work is flagging. Oh, that You would send the wind and the fire! And You will do this when we are all in one accord, all believing, all expecting, all prepared by prayer.
–Charles H. Spurgeon
My dear friends, when will we come to realize that the main cause of powerless sermons, boring services, barren altars, declining attendance and the church’s lack of fire and vision is due to our lazy, passive, bankrupt praying? John Wesley once said, “Give me one hundred witnesses who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. For God does nothing but in answer to prayer.”
We’ve tried everything else; isn’t it time we tried it God’s way, which has never failed to work in the history of the Church! Prayer is the first and final condition for true revival!