Prayer reveals the spiritual attitude of the person praying. You never really know someone until you have heard them pray. I don’t mean the mechanical prayers of religious observance, but true prayer, prayer which comes from the heart of the person. Prayer also is an indicator of our spiritual environment. You can take the spiritual temperature of a nation by examining the prayers of God’s people in that nation.
Every revival of history has been birthed in prayer and sustained by prayer. David Yonngi Cho, the pastor of the world’s largest church in Seoul Korea says that prayer is the key to revival. All other revivals have lasted only a short time but the Korean revival has been sustained down through the years by the prayers of the Korean believers. It is common practice for churches in Korea to hold early morning prayer meetings. Thousands gather daily at 5am and build an atmosphere of revival through their praying. And so it was for the church of Acts. Prayer was paramount. From the beginning we can see that prayer is the key. The 120 met together in the upper room to pray and to wait for the coming of the Spirit. They taught their converts to continue steadfastly in prayer and they supported the great public prayer events in the Temple. It was not just that they went to the prayer meetings to say their prayers. They developed a lifestyle of prayer. Prayer was continuous. It was part of them – as natural as breathing. This kind of prayer is both a cause and an effect of revival. Prayer brings Revival because prayer brings God. But also, revival brings prayer. When God draws close he awakens in us a desire to pray.
The believers met for prayer in the atmosphere of revival
Revival is a call to stir yourself up to pray, to seek the face of God and to pour out your soul to him. There is no power like that of earnest, believing and prevailing prayer. Prayer will give you strength for the battle, it will keep you close to God in the time of trial and will protect you from the onslaughts of the enemy.
That’s what birthed the church in the first place and has sustained her in every generation since. The book of Acts tells of the miraculous healing of the lame man outside the Temple. This led to many people coming to Christ and the arrest of Peter and John. They were threatened with contempt of court if they ever preached Christ again. It was the first major spiritual crisis for the church at Jerusalem. But the believers met for prayer in the atmosphere of revival (Acts 4:23-31). How did they pray?
Firstly, they didn’t pray for themselves, that is, for their own personal needs. They didn’t cry for safety, or to be kept from the dangers outside. There was no lamenting the dire circumstances in which their very lives were under threat. No, they would have gladly died for Jesus. Instead, they prayed for boldness. Boldness to preach Christ despite the threats and for power to make him known through signs, wonders and miracles.
Now, it’s not wrong to think of your safety, or of your own needs, but the concerns of these believers didn’t centre on themselves. It centred on God. When we come to the place where we don’t care what happens to us, only that Christ is glorified, and when we crave above all things the salvation of the lost and the spread of the gospel, then we are close to Revival.
I picture that scene in Jerusalem something like this. Having been released from prison, Peter and John returned to their companions and said,”Oh, we’ve had an absolutely fantastic time! That man was healed and nobody could argue against it. He went into the Temple walking and leaping and praising God and 5,000 more have come to Christ!” They were so excited. They had found the ‘answer’ – miracles, make the way for the preaching of the gospel. “People”, they said, “let’s pray for more of this!”
They prayed fervently, as if the very destiny of their city depended on it.
They didn’t come back with a negative report: “It’s terrible! We’re all in trouble. We’ll have to run for our lives – go underground. We had better stop our public preaching!” No. They knew God better than that. And their knowledge of God sustained them, as the prophet Daniel said,
…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11:32
That was the report of Peter and John as they went back to their people after their arrest and trial at the hands of the Sanhedrin. As soon as the believers heard an account of the events, they rose up in prayer. It was their first and most natural response. They were passionate about their contact with God through prayer and so they prayed with one accord lifting up their voice to God (Acts 4:24). They prayed fervently, as if the very destiny of their city depended on it. They prayed in unity, their many voices becoming ‘one voice’ before the Lord.
Oh that the church of today would respond to the crises of today like that! Instead of prioritising prayer many churches hold committee meetings, get in touch with their political representatives and try in every way possible to manage the crisis in their own strength or wisdom. But, these people lifted up their voice to God. That’s real evidence of revival. And that’s why the power of Pentecost remained with them. They were still in one place, still of one accord and still praying! Wherever you find people praying like that you find revival. Let us learn to pray like that – with unity of purpose, with persistence and with fervour.
It is clear that these were a desperate people, but their desperation was not due to their adverse circumstances. They were in danger, and they knew it. But, their concern was not for themselves. They were desperate for God, to see him act, to know his purposes and to see them fulfilled. They had a single eye for the glory of God and, desperate for the gospel to triumph in the city, they longed to see Jerusalem saved.
Don’t pray for God to send revival. God doesn’t want to send us revival – He wants to come himself!
Revival is born out of desperation. When we know that there is nothing we can do but cry out to God from the depth of our being and when our hearts are ablaze with a spiritual passion to see the lost saved and Christ magnified having no thought to ourselves, then revival will come. It’s time to carry that fire in our hearts, to be desperate for God to come.
Don’t pray for God to send revival. God doesn’t want to send us revival – he wants to come himself! He wants to come and bring revival with him. For God to send revival would be like sending someone a cheque to meet a need. It may meet a need for a little while, but what happens when that money gets used up? The greatest need of all is for us to know God in the fullness of his presence. That way God meets our core need and the supply never runs out. God wants to come among his people again, and when he comes, he will bring it all with him – all we could ever need, want, desire or dream for.
Somebody once told me that there are over 6,000 promises in the Bible. God promises us many things and is faithful to every one of these. But if I were to sum up all the wonderful promises in one promise, I would say it’s the presence of God. When you really come down to it, all God really promises is himself. And that’s enough! He promises to come and make his home with us and every other promise of the Bible is fulfilled in that one promise, “I will be with you.”
The very atmosphere of prayer was charged with the presence of God.
The believers’ prayer of Acts 4:24-30 shows the reality of God’s presence in the Early Church. When you come to this prayer, and read between the lines absorbing the spiritual atmosphere in which it is made, you encounter the spirit of revival. Prayer reveals the spiritual attitude of the person praying. You never really know someone until you have heard them pray. I don’t mean the mechanical prayers of religious observance, but true prayer, prayer which comes from the heart of the person. Prayer also is an indicator of our spiritual environment. You can take the spiritual temperature of a nation by examining the prayers of God’s people in that nation.
When you examine the prayer of these believers in Jerusalem you can easily sense the revival atmosphere they were living in. You can read the prayer and think it was a ‘nice’ prayer and you can be impressed with its results. But, if you leave it there, you have missed the point. You need to look deeper, beneath the surface, and, if you do, you will discover the secrets of the Early Church. You will begin to grasp the meaning of true revival – for yourself and others around you.
Above all, what you need to grasp is the God-centredness of their praying. It came out of their deep experience of God, that revival presence which gripped them and held every part of their life and living.
What immediately strikes you about this prayer as you read it carefully is that it is prayed in full consciousness of the manifest presence of God. In other words, it’s a revival prayer. They were totally caught up in the realisation of the presence of God. The very atmosphere of that prayer meeting and indeed the whole spiritual environment in which they lived was charged with the presence of God. And the believers were deeply conscious of that presence. This awareness is the very essence of revival.
God turns up the dial and brings his presence closer. There comes a sense of awe, a holy fear – not the fear of judgment or condemnation because his love drives out that kind of fear, but the healthy, awe-inspiring fear of God in which his glory and purposes matter to you more than anything in the world.
Additional reading on prayer:
Effective Prayer- Sword of the Spirit 1
Additional reading on revival:
Hearts on Fire: Walking in Personal Revival