In our last Langstaff Letter, we looked at ‘What is Revival?’ drawing upon the insights of Australian author and teacher Dr. Barry Chant. In this issue, I want to share some more thoughts on revival.
I have about five offices where I meet with people, besides my study at home and my office at church. They are all coffee shops. Recently, I was meeting with a fine young pastor who is planting a church in a nearby suburb. As we talked in the Caribou coffee shop down the hill from our church, he asked me what I sensed God was doing at this time. Amongst other things, I shared with him that I was expecting a new move of God to begin in our area of the Twin Cities (and indeed many other places too). He asked me what I thought this move of God might be like. I quite honestly answered, ‘I don’t know exactly. I suspect God has some surprises for us.’ I went on to share more about this.
I pointed out that when you look back in the history of the moves of God in the last 100 or so years in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, it is interesting to reflect on the places God chose to use when He poured out His Spirit.
In the early 1900’s, the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, with African-American preacher William Seymour, took place in an abandoned livery stable.
In the Latter Rain Revival, that swept through North America in the post-war years, it began in a Bible school in Canada.
The Healing Revival of the 1950’s and 60’s, with great evangelists like Oral Roberts, Jack Coe and others, took place in tents, big and small.
The ministry of the Full Gospel Businessman’s Fellowship International, which was used mightily to introduce people to the Holy Spirit, happened in restaurants and convention centers.
The Catholic Charismatic Movement, which touched millions of people, began in a University setting in 1967.
When the Charismatic Renewal came along in the 1960’s and 1970’s, for many it started with small groups of people meeting in homes or the basements of churches.
Then there was the Jesus People Movement which centered on coffee shops and the like in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The Revivals in Toronto, Canada, Pensacola, Florida and Redding, California all happened in local churches.
Indeed, one of the interesting studies is to observe how God can move in such a diverse set of places. Come to think of it, when Jesus came on a mission of salvation it all began in a stable. I wonder where it will begin next?
REVIVAL AND PRAYER
Does revival every happen without prayer? I very much doubt it. In cases were it is not recorded in detail, I suspect that behind the scenes there where people praying, especially when you observe what a difference prayer made to great evangelists like Billy Graham and Charles Finney and others.
In many ways, the most powerful revival I observed in Australia was the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade. Billy Graham and his team spent three months in Australia, including four weeks in Sydney, culminating in the final meeting with 150,000 in attendance in two arenas – the showground and the adjacent Sydney cricket ground.
It is interesting to trace the explosion of Billy Graham’s crusades to the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade. Billy Graham, at the time, was convinced, ‘That if a revival could break out in the city of Los Angeles, it would have repercussions around the world.’ One factor, not always recognized, is that it was in Los Angeles Crusade that, ‘For the first time, that organized prayer support was set up weeks in advance of a Billy Graham Crusade. By the time the Crusade began, more than 1,000 prayer groups had been formed in and around Los Angeles . . . . to regularly pray for the Crusade.’ There were many prayer chains in which volunteers divided the day and night into half hour periods, so that twenty-four hours around the clock, the crusade was continually prayed for. This crusade in Los Angeles was the launching pad for Billy Graham’s ministry that eventually reached out all over the world.
Behind the ministry of revivalist, Charles Finney was another man’s ministry. The man was Father Daniel Nash. “Charles (Finney) and Nash began to pray together in meetings, and Charles was deeply moved by the power of Nash’s prayer and the magnitude of his faith.”
“They established a pattern of ministry. Nash would go into an area three to four weeks ahead of Finney to prepare the ground for his arrival. While the meeting was happening, Nash rarely attended. Instead, he would stay in a house nearby and continue praying as the services took place.
“For seven years until his death, Nash became a key part of every revival Charles Finney led.
“There is no doubt concerning the impact of prayer in the ministry of Finney, including his own prayer life. He wrote on one occasion, ‘I gave myself to a great deal of prayer. After my evening services, I would retire as early as I will could but rose at four o’clock in the morning . . . . I frequently continued from the time I arose at four o’clock, till the gong called to breakfast at eight o’clock.'” (quoted from God’s Generals by Roberts Lairdon)
A RESPONSE TO ‘WHAT IS REVIVAL?’
Paul Anderson, a long-time leader in the Lutheran Renewal, wrote this response to the Last Langstaff Letter. “Revival is a wonderful dance between heaven and earth, just like the gifts of the Spirit. God gives them sovereignly according to His holy will, but we have a part to play. We desire them, earnestly seek them, and exercise them. Peggy and Christine heard from heaven, prayed passionately, then urged their pastor to call Duncan Campbell. I think that heaven credits them with doing their part to bring revival down. Likewise the group at Asbury. They prayed faithfully for a long time. God spoke to them the day before He came and said, “I will come tomorrow.” God loves to work through people. That is why He went after Jonah a second time. God can convert people on His own, as He does sometimes with Muslim people. He usually uses people: “How can they hear without a preacher?”
Paul, here, highlighted prayer, as in the New Hebrides Revival.
Two praying women moved on God to see revival come to their community. Peggy Smith was an eighty-four-year-old blind prayer warrior and her sister Christine suffered from severe arthritis. They prayed fervently for revival. God answered them by giving Peggy a vision of Duncan Campbell, a Scottish evangelist, preaching in their island. She saw the church filled with young people. She called her pastor and said, ‘I believe Duncan Campbell ought to come.’ The pastor said, ‘Oh my wife feels the same things, this must be of God.’ Campbell came, and the spirit of God came down, and they experienced revival.
Once could give many other examples such as the move of God in Korea, etc.
The tragedy today is that so many churches in America today do not make prayer a priority. Often churches no longer have prayer meetings of any kind. Christians don’t earnestly pray (except perhaps prior to presidential elections every four years).
Praise God for what is happening in ministries like IHOP, the International House of Prayer, etc., but every church is called to be a house of prayer. May God restore prayer to its rightful place in the life of the Body of Christ and every local church. Then we will see revival come!