[b]'AGONIZING' PRAYER - VITAL KEY TO REVIVAL[/b]
[i]by Andrew Strom[/i]
I have been concerned lately that despite all our discussion on
this site about the key features of Revival, I have still not
really put enough emphasis on one of the most vital keys of all -
'AGONIZING' PRAYER. We have spoken about many aspects of true
Revival - REPENTANCE, HOLINESS, 'DARING' FAITH, the 'NEW WINESKIN'
movement with it's NEW LEADERS that God will raise up to house His
new move, etc. But Revival history shows again and again that if
there are two key elements to obtaining true Revival, they would
have to be DEEP REPENTANCE and 'AGONIZING' PRAYER. Frank Bartleman
(a leader in the famous Azusa Street Revival) wrote: "I received
from God early in 1905 the following keynote to revival: `THE DEPTH
OF REVIVAL WILL BE DETERMINED EXACTLY BY THE DEPTH OF THE SPIRIT OF
REPENTANCE'. And this will obtain for all people, at all times."
So we must certainly remember that deep repentance lies at the heart
of true Revival. But the other thing that Bartleman emphasised in his
book was the hours of agonizing travail and intercession they went
through before Revival hit.
Anyone who has studied past Revivals will tell you that above all
else, it is the key elements of repentance and also heart-rending,
Spirit-fired prayer that first lead to Revival, and then keep the
flame burning on. As Matthew Henry stated, "When God intends great
mercy for His people, the first thing He does is set them a-praying."
And Leonard Ravenhill wrote that "the man who can get believers to
praying would, under God, usher in the greatest revival that the world
has ever known." What an amazing statement. Yet, all Revival history
confirms the truth of it. Truly, if we could get God's people to
AGONIZE IN PRAYER for Revival, as did believers of ages past, then
the glory of God would surely come down. But there are all too
few 'agonizers' today.
Of course, it is always far more powerful if such intercessors can
GATHER DAILY to interceed together for a great outpouring, just
as did the disciples before Pentecost. As A.T. Pierson wrote, "From
the day of Pentecost, there has been NOT ONE great spiritual
awakening in any land which has not begun in a UNION OF PRAYER,
though only among two or three; no such outward, upward
movement has continued after such prayer meetings declined."
Charles Finney is often regarded as possibly the greatest Revival
preacher in the history of the church - a mighty preacher of conviction
and repentance. But Finney had some very interesting views (-almost
'scientific' in a spiritual sense) on how and why Revival came. He was
convinced, through many years of Revival ministry, that God intended
the church to live continually in a Revival state - that this was the
"normal" state of the church. And he was also convinced that if the
church would just meet the basic conditions for Revival - deep repent-
ance and heartfelt, 'agonizing' prayer for the outpouring of God's
Spirit, then Revival would ALWAYS result. He likened it to a field of
wheat. If a farmer tills the soil (-deep heart-searching repentance)
and provides the right seed and conditions, then a great crop will
always result. This is normal and expected. Finney said: "Revival is no
more a miracle than a crop of wheat. Revival comes from heaven when
heroic souls enter the conflict determined to win or die - or if need
be, to win and die! 'The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the
VIOLENT take it by force.'" John Wesley was of a similar mind:
"Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace
and persevere therein, and mercy will come down."
Interestingly, when Finney's "Revival Lectures" were published and
Finney's "methods" and teachings were put into practice, there were
outbreaks of true Revival all over the world. Deep repentance and
agonizing prayer - the simple keys to true Revival. Some years
later, a missionary to China named Jonothan Goforth, desperate to
see God move amongst the seemingly-hardened locals, discovered
Finney's writings. Before long he was 'revived' himself, and went on
to see mighty outbreaks of Revival wherever he preached in China.
Jonothan Goforth became one of this century's great Revival
preachers, all through following the simple "methods" of Finney in
seeing the convicting power of God unleashed.
When we speak about 'Revival' here, we are not speaking about
some mere evangelistic crusade or passing excitement. We certainly
are not speaking about the kinds of movements that are sweeping
through the church today under the labels of 'revival' or 'blessing'.
We are talking about mighty moves of God, where conviction of
sin and deep repentance often spread out of the churches and
into the communities round about, utterly transforming thousands
for Christ. One writer described this latter stage of Revival as
being "a community saturated with God". Jonathan Edwards said of
the 1735 New England Revival, "The town seemed to be full of the
presence of God. It was never so full of love, or so full of joy;
and yet, so full of distress as it was then."
When Revival spreads out into the community in this way (as
happened with the 1904 Welsh Revival, and many others), it is not
uncommon for bars to be transformed into prayer meetings, for large
numbers of notorious criminals to be converted, and for judges to
even be left without cases to put to trial! Such is the impact
of a mighty general outpouring of the Spirit of God. In the Welsh
Revival of 1904 under Evan Roberts, the entire nation was literally
transformed, with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS converted in a matter of
a few months in this tiny nation. And it was all through prayer
One eyewitness said of this famous Revival in Wales that it was not
the eloquence of Evan Roberts that broke men down, but his tears.
"He would break down, crying bitterly for God to bend them, in an
agony of prayer, the tears coursing down his cheeks, with his whole
frame writhing. Strong men would break down and cry like children...
a sound of weeping and wailing would fill the air."
The following is a typical excerpt from Evan Roberts' preaching:
"First, is there any sin in your past with which you have not honestly
dealt,- not confessed to God? On your knees at once. Your past must
be put away and cleansed. Second, is there anything in your life that
is doubtful - anything you cannot decide whether it is good or evil?
Away with it. There must not be a trace of a cloud between you and
God. Have you forgiven everybody - EVERYBODY? If not, don't
expect forgiveness for your sins..."
This, then, is the kind of Revival that we are talking about. A
mighty outpouring, a deluge of the Spirit of God - a 'Pentecost'
of God's convicting glory, where His presence floods down amongst
men once more. And such outpourings always start with God's
people, before they spread out into the community at large. In fact,
right at the beginning, Revivals almost always begin with a small
'prayer core' - the believers who are wrestling in prayer - begging
God in an agony of Spirit-led travail, to outpour His Spirit upon
them, upon their fellow believers and upon their city or nation.
What exactly is 'AGONIZING' PRAYER? Well, it is not too easy
to describe. But I know it when it happens. When I was 17 years
old, and I was first filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in
tongues, I had access to many old Revival books which I devoured
with a Spirit-driven hunger. It did not take long for me to notice
that the keys to these past Revivals seemed to be deep repentance
and this kind of 'wrestling, agonizing' prayer for the outpouring of
God's Spirit. I simply decided that I was going to 'agonize' in
prayer for Revival! And I did. Every day would find me on my knees
for a period of time, with liquid fire on my lips, begging God to
fill me more and more with His Spirit, to glorify Himself in the
earth and to bring mighty Revival to our nation. Before long I
noticed that there was often an awesome sense of being in the
very throneroom of God when I was praying. I could really tell
that my prayers were being heard and that they were making an
impact. Glory to God! And they were making an impact on me as
well. When I look back now, I can see that basically every break-
through in God that I have experienced has been because of this
early, ongoing 'agonizing' prayer. It's been so crucial.
Of course I do not ALWAYS pray this way. I think praying
quietly in tongues is very important and effective also (-and you
can pray in tongues driving your car or whatever - it is REALLY
important). And simply worshipping God and enjoying His presence
is also a vital part of communing with God. But I believe that in
connection with REVIVAL, this kind of 'wrestling, agonizing' prayer
is essential. However, in order to pray this way, we must have the
Holy Spirit empowering and leading our prayers. This is why Finney
and others would talk about the 'spirit of prayer' coming upon them:-
"... unless I had the spirit of prayer I could do nothing. If I lost
the spirit of grace and supplication even for a day or an hour I
found myself unable to preach with power and efficiency, or to win
souls by personal conversation."
I remember a very significant moment in the book 'Anointed for
Burial', which is Todd and DeAnn Burke's account of the mighty
Revival in Cambodia in the 1970's. It occurred when God had
already been moving powerfully for some time. Todd wrote: "I
briefly shared with them some of the things God had been showing
me through my Bible readings. Referring to Genesis 32, I told them
how Jacob wrestled with the Lord until He blessed him. 'If we
expect power and blessing from the Lord, we are going to have to
be willing to wrestle with Him in prayer and fasting, in self-denial,
in taking up our cross,' I said. 'Then I shared with them from a
devotional book by Hudson Taylor, "An easy-going, non-self-
denying life will never be one of power." With that, everyone began
to wrestle in prayer, and before long, the blessing came.' (Pg 216).
Several powerful outpourings of the Holy Spirit were the result.
What a difference such concerted, 'agonizing' prayer could make in
every city and nation today. God has promised Revival, but I believe
that He is waiting for a people who will take hold of His promise and
begin to make a stand together in prayer for it's fulfillment. Friends,
could we agree together to lay hold of God in this way? Believe me,
it could make all the difference in the world.
The key with such prayer is to firstly see the desperate need for true
Revival, both in the church and the world, and then to ask God to send
His Spirit to help us pray. 'Agonizing' prayer pleads with God that
He might glorify Himself and that His Spirit might be poured out.
It is for HIS GLORY that we pray in this way.
Another key is truly having "clean hands and a pure heart" before God.
No secret sin. No unforgiveness. Only those with clean hands and a
pure heart can ascend to the holy place of God in prayer.
My great hope is that God would inspire as many as possible to join
in prayer to see His mighty purpose fulfilled in the earth. The fact
that GOD IS NOT GLORIFIED in our world is the tragedy of this late
hour. Friends, it is high time for this to change. And be assured that
we can truly make a difference. The time has surely come to join
together in 'agonizing' prayer for a mighty deluge of His grace
and mercy in our day. If everyone reading this would simply begin to
pray in this way, what glorious outpourings could result!
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon