All true Christians should yearn for revival. We should all be tired of the sad state of things around us. We should all want so much more. And as I have so often stated, the world is in a mess because the Church is in a mess, and the Church is in a mess because you and I are in a mess. In other words, it all begins with us.
Care is needed however as we consider all this. On the one hand we cannot command revival to break out. We cannot snap our fingers and expect to see the blessings of revival. Even to speak of praying for revival needs to be qualified. Revival is something God brings about, and if we seek it while not living the sort of life God expects of us, we may not get very far in our prayers.
A. W. Tozer thought, wrote and spoke much about revival. In the book The Size of the Soul (Moody, 1993, 2018) we have many of the editorials that he penned for the Alliance Weekly and Alliance Life. The book includes a four-part series that he wrote on this matter titled “What About Revival?”
While they are all worth quoting from, let me focus on the last two of them. The third piece he called “Prayer Is Not Enough.” Here is part of what he said:
In nature everything moves in the direction of its hungers. In the spiritual world it is not otherwise. We gravitate toward our inward longings, provided of course that those longings are strong enough to move us. Impotent dreaming will not do. The religious urge that is not followed by a corresponding act of the will in the direction of that urge is a waste of emotion. The awe-inspiring power of a discharge of lightning may dissipate itself in the atmosphere and accomplish nothing, while a flashlight battery may provide illumination for a miner hours on end. One is a dramatic display of immense power without direction and the other a quiet application of modest energy to an intelligent purpose.
It is my conviction that much, very much, prayer for and talk about revival these days is wasted energy. Ignoring the confusion of figures, I might say that it is hunger that appears to have no object; it is dreamy wishing that is too weak to produce moral action. It is fanaticism on a high level for, according to John Wesley, “a fanatic is one who seeks desired ends while ignoring the constituted means to reach those ends.”
Granted that the man who seeks revival has stopped thinking in plurals and has narrowed his faith down to one single individual, himself, what then? How can he find that after which his soul is yearning? How can he cooperate with his hungers to the end that he may indeed be filled?
He must rid his mind of the false notion that prayer alone will bring the blessing. Normally all transactions between the soul and God are carried on by prayer. It is right and scriptural and according to the testimony of all the saints that any spiritual advance on any front, any deliverance, any purification, any enduement of power, comes by the prayer of faith. Our error is that we try to secure these benefits by prayer alone.
The correction of this error is extremely difficult for it entails more than a mere adjustment of our doctrinal beliefs; it strikes at the whole Adam-life and requires self-abnegation, humility and cross-carrying. In short it requires obedience. And that we will do anything to escape.
And the last piece was called “How To Have a Personal Revival”. I present here almost in its entirety:
1) Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself. Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is the stagnant soul. When speaking of earthly goods Paul could say, “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11); but when referring to his spiritual life he testified, “I press toward the mark” (3:14). “Thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Timothy 1:6).
2) Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life. Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they start. We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).
3) Put yourself in the way of the blessing. It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met. There are plainly marked paths which lead straight to the green pastures; let us walk in them. To desire revival, for instance, and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk another.
4) Do a thorough job of repenting. Do not hurry to get it over with. Hasty repentance means shallow spiritual experience and lack of certainty in the whole life. Let godly sorrow do her healing work. Until we allow the consciousness of sin to wound us, we will never develop a fear of evil. It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.
5) Make restitution whenever possible. If you owe a debt, pay it, or at least have a frank understanding with your creditor about your intention to pay, so your honesty will be above question. If you have quarreled with anyone, go as far as you can in an effort to achieve reconciliation. As fully as possible make the crooked things straight.
6) Bring your life into accord with the Sermon on the Mount and such other New Testament Scriptures as are designed to instruct us in the way of righteousness. An honest man with an open Bible and a pad and pencil is sure to find out what is wrong with him very quickly. I recommend that the self-examination be made on our knees, rising to obey God’s commandments as they are revealed to us from the Word. There is nothing romantic or colorful about this plain, downright way of dealing with ourselves, but it gets the work done. Isaac’s workmen did not look like heroic figures as they digged in the valley, but they got the wells open, and that was what they had set out to do.
7) Be serious-minded. You can well afford to see fewer comedy shows on TV. Unless you break away from the funny boys, every spiritual impression will continue to be lost to your heart, and that right in your own living room. The people of the world used to go to the movies to escape serious thinking about God and religion. You would not join them there, but you now enjoy spiritual communion with them in your own home. The devil’s ideals, moral standards and mental attitudes are being accepted by you without your knowing it. And you wonder why you can make no progress in your Christian life. Your interior climate is not favorable to the growth of spiritual graces. There must be a radical change in your habits or there will not be any permanent improvement in your interior life.
8) Deliberately narrow your interests. The jack-of-all-trades is the master of none. The Christian life requires that we be specialists. Too many projects use up time and energy without bringing us nearer to God.
If you will narrow your interests, God will enlarge your heart. “Jesus only” seems to the unconverted man to be the motto of death, but a great company of happy men and women can testify that it became to them a way into a world infinitely wider and richer than anything they had ever known before. Christ is the essence of all wisdom, beauty and virtue. To know Him in growing intimacy is to increase in appreciation of all things good and beautiful. The mansions of the heart will become larger when their doors are thrown open to Christ and closed against the world and sin. Try it.
9) Begin to witness. Find something to do for God and your fellow men. Refuse to rust out. Make yourself available to your pastor and do anything you are asked to do. Do not insist upon a place of leadership. Learn to obey. Take the low place until such time as God sees fit to set you in a higher one. Back your new intentions with your money and your gifts, such as they are.
10) Have faith in God. Begin to expect. Look up toward the throne where your Advocate sits at the right hand of God. All heaven is on your side. God will not disappoint you.
If you will follow these suggestions you will most surely experience revival in your own heart. And who can tell how far it may spread? God knows how desperately the church needs a spiritual resurrection. And it can only come through the revived individual.
Great words from Tozer. But who can bear them?
Bill Muehlenberg teaches ethics, apologetics and theology at several Melbourne Bible Colleges. His independent blog, Culture Watch, has over 5,000 articles commenting on the major cultural, social and political issues of the day. Bill's podcast is exclusively produced for Good Sauce readers and fans.
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