“EXPERIENCE Revival . . . It’s easy . . . It costs you nothing.” The words leaped out at me from a full-page ad in a leading Christian magazine. I read on, only to discover that these were claims for a soybean protein food additive. The packaged product, called “Revival,” was offered as a way for Christian organizations to generate additional revenue.
The grand promises of the ad made me ponder: Isn’t that the way many Christians think about revival, considering it an “additive” to the Christian walk-designed to ensure spiritual health, provide improvements, and enhance what we already are? Isn’t it often seen as something we can package up to supplement a church’s deficiencies? And of course we want it to be easy to experience, with minimal sacrifices required.
True revival, of course, is much bigger than that. It encompasses God’s answer to virtually every prayer recorded in Scripture. It includes both the ultimate answers (what theologians call the “Consummation” or “Final Revival”), as well as every preliminary answer. The point is that every time God responds to a saint’s intercession, He brings forth an approximation, or temporary fulfillment, of the Final Revival. Recall the graphic answers to Moses at the Red Sea, Joshua at Jericho, Hannah by the altar, David in Hebron, Elijah on Mount Carmel, Daniel in the lion’s den, Nehemiah at the wall, Mary in Nazareth, Peter on the roof, Paul at Antioch, Silas in jail, John on Patmos. When God came through for these saints, it had the feel of revival.
We follow in the steps of these Bible pray-ers. That’s why it is so important to be clear on what we mean by revival. Clarity on revival sharpens all of our prayers-and every prayer is, in essence, a prayer for revival.
Take, for example, two of Jesus’ own prayers: The disciples’ prayer in Matthew 6 and His prayer in John 17. If God were to answer, to the fullest extent possible, the major requests found in these passages, what would the answers look like? Think about not only their ultimate fulfillment, but also their preliminary expressions-what the answers might look like right now.
Review the requests in Matthew 6: exalt God’s name, bring His kingdom, supply physical needs, reconcile sinners, deliver from evil powers. And the requests in John 17: glorify the Son, protect and sanctify disciples, manifest Christ’s presence and glory among His own, realize Trinity unity among believers, bring the world to belief as the message spreads, cause people to know the Father and the Son.
Requests for Advances
Do Jesus’ prayers look like requests for additives? On the contrary! They resound with requests for advances: for revolution, transformation, resurrection. Answers to these prayers add up to nothing less than revival-for individuals, churches, communities, nations, or whole generations.
What I’m suggesting is that by God’s design, every answer to every prayer we make-even prayers for the most intimate personal concerns-flows in the same direction, with the same intention. God is not supplementing our lives when He responds. He is intervening in order to awaken us to greater realities in Christ. His answers aren’t intended to reinforce our waning health. They are designed to call us out of where we’ve been, and take us into where we’ve never been before: into more of His Son, into His advancing kingdom, into His global purposes, into triumphs that exceed what we dare to ask.
The Fundamental Result
I believe that the fundamental result of all answered prayer is revival, in one form or another. “Great awakenings” are simply extraordinary seasons in the church’s pilgrimage when a whole host of biblically based prayers are confirmed with a fury.
St. Irenaeus said, “Christ brought us every newness by bringing us Himself.” Every answer to prayer is designed to demonstrate that newness more fully, increase our capacity for enjoying it, and liberate us to minister it to others. When God responds to a Christian’s heart-cry, He does so by first inviting the petitioner into more of Christ and then enabling her to invite Christ into more of who she is called to be. Christ is no additive! In everything He simply claims the fact of His supremacy.
So let me ask you this: When you pray, every time you pray, what do you hope will happen? What do you expect the answer to look like? To what extent will you go as God responds? How radically do you want Him to work on behalf of those who call upon Him? In other words, are you looking to Him for additives or advances? Are you looking for cost-free supplements to bolster the status quo? Or for Christ-consuming breakthroughs that replace the status quo?