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Prayer & Revival

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Prayer & Revival

Tom Elenbaas

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with other Reformed Church in America pastors, and we talked briefly about revival. I've thought a lot and read pretty extensively on revival over time, and what I mean by revival is not the tent revival meeting or manifestation of the Spirit through gifts in a worship service - I mean revival that results in dramatic life and culture change. There have been a number of significant times in history when a change in belief or action among many has come as the result of some significant moves of the Spirit of God, usually beginning with a few, and then sweeping to many, and finally resulting in some fairly dramatic culture change.

Here is Chuck Colsen commenting on the beginnings of one such revival back in 2000 in the journal First Things:

The dawn of a new millennium finds us at what some have called the modernist impasse. Those who say today that we should give up on the culture—that there’s nothing more we can do to win the culture war—should study the history of the great revival that began in 1858, when just ten men gathered to pray in downtown New York in the Dutch Reformed Old North Church. They assembled under the gathering storm clouds of war, in a time of great economic uncertainty. Jeremiah Lanphier gathered ten men to pray every day at noon. Before long, seven hundred churches joined them. Within six months, every public facility in New York City was filled to overflowing, and ten thousand people were in the streets gathering every day for noon prayer.
That revival spread up the Hudson River, into Canada, across the sea to England, throughout Europe, and then on to the entire English–speaking world. It resulted in the great awakening of the latter half of the nineteenth century, out of which came such organizations as the Salvation Army, a pure demonstration of Evangelical enthusiasm. In this country, it inspired the great work that followed from the preaching of Dwight Moody. [First Things 104 (June/July 2000): 17-20]
What I think is significant to note is that this movement was not primarily lead by pastors or church leaders, but these men that gathered were primarily businessmen. Lanphier was a kind of urban missionary, but it was businessmen living within the culture who decided to commit diligently to daily prayer for a deep, radical, spiritual change that resulted in the early embers of the Great Awakening. I wonder today if we are serious enough about prayer in the pursuit of revival, or if we have traded this kind of spirituality for a consumer-driven, production-focused, self-centered version that too often leaves us empty, unfulfilled, and desiring more, not to mention the all-too-often lack of cultural engagement and renewal.

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