When can we count on revival to come—or can we count on it to come at all? I live in a spiritually dark city, in an even darker province, in a darker still country. God is doing some amazing things here, but it’s easy to lose hope sometimes.
But I don’t. Not usually, anyway. Because I know what I can do if I really care about seeing a gospel resurgence in London, Ontario. And it’s the thing I do fairly regularly: I can pray. I can pray for the churches that are faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus. I can pray that those who are falling away will be restored. I can pray for those who are hearing the gospel from friends, family, coworkers or even strangers.
That’s what I can do if I care about revival. I can pray. And you can, too.
Sometimes there’s an idea that gets in our heads about doing more than just praying. We start to think we can make it happen. That if we “revival” hard enough—we get the smoke machines going, get the volume on the music louder, get the emotions running higher, the tears run, then…
Put a hashtag on that photo, and you’re golden.
Except, maybe not.
Emotional responses can be an indicator of something going on in a person’s heart, but not always. Sometimes an emotional response is just emotions. And while I’m cool with emotions, we shouldn’t assume revival and crying are the same thing (in the same way we shouldn’t assume high quality music equals gimmickry).
So, if we know this—if we know that we can’t force revival to happen—is there a way for us to know when it’s happening? Or for us to see it happen at all? Here’s a little something D.A. Carson wrote that I found very helpful:
The authority of Jesus to heal and transform is implicit in his person and mission. The authority is already his. He needs only to will the deed, and it is done. Few lessons are more urgently needed in the modern church. Hope for reformation and revival lies not in campaigns and strategy (as important as such things may be), but in the authority of Jesus.…
Our generation is in danger of forgetting this.… The church is closest to heaven-sent revival when it comes to an end of its gimmicks, and petitions the great Lord of the church, who alone has the authority to pour out blessing beyond what can be imagined, who alone opens doors such that none can shut them and shuts them so that none can open them, to use the full authority that is his (Matt. 28:18) to bless his people with repentance and vitality and thereby bring glory to himself. Only his authority will suffice.1
Carson’s point is pretty simple: Revival, like everything else, flows from the authority of Jesus. And because it flows from his authority, we can’t make it happen on our own, despite our best efforts. While our gimmicks might not work, there is something we can do: we can pray. Because Christ has authority, Christ has the power to answer our prayers. He holds the keys to heaven and hell. He has the authority to give new life. He has the authority to transform hearts and minds as he continues his work of redeeming the world.
If we care about revival, the best thing we can do is the most obvious thing—the thing we should always be doing: we need to pray to Lord of revival. And when we do, perhaps it will follow.