Many years ago I sought to understand why so many people were praying for revival and yet there seemed to be so little of what people were praying for around!
Historically there have been some amazing times when God seemed to intervene sovereignly in response to the prayers of the saints, but those moments have been rare. But when you research these you generally discover that what may seem to have been a spontaneous and sovereign move of God, has invariably been God’s response to the intercessions of men and women who have not just been praying for revival, but who have humbled themselves before Him in holy fear!
History tells us that the Kingdom of God has been built more by the perseverance of the saints than revival manifestations. And yet we all still seek the reality of God’s presence and his revival power to more fully enable us to do the work He has called us to do.
On one occasion, I took time out with the Lord to ask Him the hard questions about why it seems so few of the prayers for revival were getting answered — for there certainly seemed to be a lot of people praying for it. The answer I got surprised me. It was as if the Lord simply said, “They’re praying for the wrong thing!” I then had a problem – how can it be wrong for people to be praying for the reviving power of God?
My next question was more to the point. “What, Lord, should we be praying for?” The answer came as three words – but I had to thoroughly search the Scriptures for the first word, before the Lord gave me the second one, and so on. The first word God gave me was Vision. As I studied the Scriptures, skimming through the stories from Genesis to Revelation, I realised that the normal way God speaks to His people about what He wants them to do is through vision. No wonder it says that “without vision people are perishing.” (Proverbs 29:18). I suddenly realised that instead of praying for revival, we should be seeking God’s vision for our lives, so that we will then be praying into the plans and purposes of God and not just praying for something we blandly called revival to land on us from the heavenly realms!
The next word the Lord gave me was Faith. On the face of it the meaning of this was obvious, but the more I meditated on the word faith, I realised that what God was saying to me was that the purpose of faith was to enable us to trust Him, come what may. So that, when God gives vision, faith trusts in what God has said, and does not doubt that what God has said can and will happen – but only when the third word the Lord gave me is put into action.
The third word? Obedience. It is obedience to move forward in action that ensures the things that began with vision from God will be finally fulfilled. James tells us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Or, to paraphrase its meaning you might say. Even if you have a vision from God and the faith to trust Him, unless you start acting in order to fulfil the vision, nothing is going to happen.
Noah embodies all three words in his extraordinary life. He had a vision from God about the ark. He required an enormous amount of faith to trust that such a crazy idea actually came from God in the first place. But then he had to spend a large number of years being obedient to what God had said. There was no sign of any great revival throughout the years of working on the ark. But when it was finished and the rains came, it became the most important symbol of revival and salvation the world had ever known! You might say that Noah’s obedience saved the whole of the human race – now, that being the case, you might also say, that Noah experienced extraordinary revival!
But how did it happen – through perseverance and determination to be obedient to what God had asked him to do. And therein lies what I believe is one of the most important lessons we need to learn, understand and put into practice in these days.
Unless we learn how to hear from God, as to what he has envisioned for our lives, and then exercise the dynamic faith which enables us to trust God whatever the circumstances, and finally to use our human resources and energy to walk in obedience to what God has said, then the likelihood is that revival will elude us. But if we observe the protocol of God and live a life of vision, faith and obedience we may just discover, like Noah, that we are living in the revival reality of experiencing the purposes of God being fulfilled beneath our feet as we walk in his ways.
If we walk like this, I know from experience that we will have the living reality of God’s presence and power transforming our own lives and the lives of those around us.