Every now and then we get a report about some revival that has occurred in some corner of the world and we are urged to pray for that revival to spread to our own community.
I must say, I have some problems about the concept of "revival" and the way it is often presented. I have no problems praying with my brothers and sisters for the work of the gospel. I have no problems asking God to revive his people, to renew us as individuals and as a fellowship of believers, Isa.32:15, Hab.3:2. The Bible shows us it is within God's will that we pray for such. Yet, what of this phenomenon called "revival"?
The "revival" phenomenon has occurred at different points of time in human history, notably in England during the nineteenth century. Whole communities came under a conviction of sin and sought forgiveness. The Welsh were still being touched by revival early into the twentieth century. Australia was even touched by it, primarily among the Welsh community. At Helensburgh, a parish I once served in, revival touched the Methodist church in the early 1900's. This occurred in many mining communities and it's not hard to establish a Welsh link. Most of the mine workers were Welsh.
We are told that revival is a regular phenomenon and that it is proceeded by prayer. For this reason, we should pray and we will see revival. My question is, on what Biblical basis do we make this assertion? My own view is that revival is a social phenomenon. Do we have Biblical warrant to pray for the repeat of a social phenomenon? At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Methodist church at Helensburgh was filled to overflowing as the mining community was touched by mass hysteria. Yet, the men didn't stay in the church. They ended up in the Welsh Choir, the Orange Lodge and the Workmen's Club. The church went back to its traditional role - what the miners used to call, the "women's police."
We are told that revival rests on regular confession and that for revival to progress we must constantly recognize our sin and seek God's forgiveness. Against our Lord's own command, we are encouraged to proceed with "much speaking", Math.6:7. What more needs to be said other than "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner"?
Much of what we do and think is prompted by pious assumptions. I include myself in the "we". So, we have to be very, very careful that our aims and objectives reflect the Will of God revealed in the Bible. We must ask of the call for revival, does it reflect the mind of Christ?