How many times have you heard people pray for revival in American churches? How many times have you done so yourself? Praying for the Lord to revive his Church in America is indeed a righteous prayer so please do not stop! But when you do pray for revival, for what are you truly asking?

Most people who grew up in the Bible-belt tend to think of revival(s) as a large group (or multiple groups) of emotionally racked people streaming down the aisles for an esoteric “conversion experience.” This picture comes straight from a Second Great Awakening model of evangelical Christianity. (Here is a brief article on that subject.) Men like D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham popularized Second Great Awakening revivalism in the minds of American Christians. These were the days of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

In more recent times (1980’s–present), you and I experienced such revivalism at staged church revivals, youth camps, Passion conferences, Promise Keepers events, or similar large(r)-scale productions. Those are the times when most of us have vivid images of the “Spirit’s leading”; and in nearly every instance, the “evidence” for the Spirit’s work was short-term emotional responses.

Disclaimer: To be clear, I am not denying the Lord’s goodness, grace, and mercy in bringing much good out of such things. He has indeed saved people through revivalist style events!

However, where are the long-term results? Revivalism focuses on short-term results, but true revival produces long-term change. In this regard alone, a revivalist mindset about the Spirit’s work has proven dubious, at best. How many were “converted” at revivals, youth camps, or Promise Keepers, but in only a few short weeks returned to their previous lives? In short, too many.

Brothers and Sisters, let us consider another type of revival, one that is biblical and lasting, yet at the same time, relatively unexciting and ordinary. In other words, let not think of revival as a short-term burst of emotionalism and spiritual fervor, but let us think of revival as the ongoing process by and through which God enables us “to die more and more unto sin, and to live more and more unto righteousness.” This is the Holy Spirit’s longstanding process for converting sinners into saints, is it not?

God’s people overflowing with the work of his Spirit is not the result of magical mountaintop experiences, but it is the fulfillment of God’s promise to all who faithfully and sincerely seek to know, to love, and to serve him according to his word. By far the most common precursor to and sign of true revival is persistence in prayer and God’s means of grace, not a staged production meant to manipulate emotions.

God alone is sovereign over when, where, and how the Spirit moves (John 3:1-8) – not men! You and I cannot stoke revival, but that does not mean we cannot pray for it. And if we do pray for revival, asking rightly (James 1:5-8; 4:1-10), how can we show our Lord we trust him to bring revival in his own timing? It is by and through our obedience to his commands on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. Plodding faithfulness, day-in and day-out (or Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day) produces the most fertile environment for the Lord to work great revival in the minds and hearts of many, ordinarily.

To understand this better, I encourage you to read the following article: Order, Preparation, and the Spirit’s Leading.

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