What is happening in Asbury University? Last Wednesday, the normal chapel service ended the planned service but the worship did not end. Students did not leave. Singing and prayer did not stop. No one told the students to do any of this. It seems like they were simply overwhelmed by God’s presence. And that spirit of worship continues to the writing of this article. And everyone is using the same word: revival.
What Is Revival?
For those of us old enough to have experienced it, revival can mean a series of daily services at a local church, often with an evangelistic focus. But this isn’t a biblical or historic understanding of revival. Revival, sometimes called spiritual awakening, is not about worked-up excitement and overflowing emotions. Emotions may come but genuine revival is not man-made; it is God-given. And it leaves us changed. Biblical revival is often marked by a greater sense of God’s holiness which leads to deeper conviction of sin and the pursuit of holy living. Whole communities have been known to change as God’s people begin speaking fervently about Jesus and living as if he really is our King. Revival historian Richard Owen Roberts explains that authentic, biblical revival is when God take the ordinary means of grace—preaching, prayer, and corporate worship—to do something extraordinary, accelerating and concentrating our sanctification into days or weeks of experience.
In his book Can We Pray for Revival?, Brian Edwards gives a helpful definition that can summarize these things: “Revival is a sovereign work of God’s Holy Spirit that produces an unusual awakening of spiritual life among God’s people, resulting in an awesome awareness of God, a sincere repentance of sin, a deep longing for God and holiness, and an effective passion to reach the unsaved.”
One of the things that excites me about what is happening in Asbury is the intentionality of the leadership there. It’s reported that they have been very careful to keep celebrities away, regularly rotate those preaching and singing, and guard the microphone during times of public prayer and testimony. Why? They want to let God do what he wills and ensure he receives the glory. Be wary of those who will try to attach their name somehow. Such is the spirit of false teaching but not revival. This is why we must have discernment about what is happening (1 John 4:1). We hope that it’s genuine revival. We hope to be a part of it. But without seeking to quench the Spirit, we keep watching with wisdom.
Pray for Revival
God is under no obligation to bring revival to this people. Yet, we should earnestly seek it. Some spend their entire lives praying for God to the break open the heavens and come down (Isa 64:1). Most are too concerned for the everyday things of life too long so intently for a work of the Lord. But such should not be the case. We should see what is happening in Asbury and long for the same in our lives, our churches, and our communities. Not for the sake of saying we were a part of it, but for the sake of having more of God himself. Just as Moses’ face glowed when he merely saw God’s veiled glory, so we should want to experience the lasting effects of holiness and the gospel saving power that comes with encountering the living God.
Looking at the Scriptures, we can see pictures of revival and these can become the fuel for our own prayers. Seeking God’s unique work of spiritual awakening, we should pray for spiritual blessings:
- God would revive us (Psalm 85:1–13)
- God would restore us (Psalm 126:1–6)
- God would heal us (Hosea 14:1–8)
- God would come down among us (Isiah 64:1–5)
- God would raises us up (Ezekiel 37:1–4)
And as we pray for God to move, we should be mindful of our own hearts. What is the attitude of prayer when seeking revival?
- Return to the Lord with sincere and deep repentance (Joel 2:12–17)
- Seek the Lord in all we do as first in our life (2 Chron 15:1–4)
- Humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledging our dependence on him (Isa 57:14–16)
As we pray, we realize that we cannot force God to send revival. However, we can prepare for it. Through prayer and fasting, we can show him how much we desire to see awakening come so that his name might be honored and his glory might be made known among the nations—”Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps 85:6).