Times have changed. Some churches still have revival meetings, but most have only memories of revival meetings. Many of the meetings of which I was around demanded time consuming preparations. A special “evangelist” or preacher was scheduled. “Special” musicians were coordinated. Posters were printed. Pizza parties were planned for the youth. And on and on we could go.
How different those preparations seem compared to the description of The Second Great Awakening provided by Ian Murray in Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858.
What characterizes a revival is not the employment of unusual or special means but rather the extraordinary degree of blessing attending the normal means of grace (p. 129).
The word “means” is of great importance. It is often said in our day that the message must remain the same while the methods may differ. This saying misses the important element of means. By means we are to understand that God has prescribed two channels through which he pours out his grace upon his church in revival and upon sinners in conversion. These means or channels are his word and prayer. They are what is meant by “the normal means of grace”.
Murray’s quote indicates that the movement of God that swept the nation in the 18th and 19th centuries was not due to the right guest preachers or singers. Nor was it due to proper promotion or planning of special attraction events. God’s hand reached down through the preaching of the Bible and through the prayers of his people.
Murray continued by expanding on the topic of prayer as a means of God’s gracious work of revival,
Prayer has no inherit power in itself. On the contrary, true prayer is bound up with a persuasion of our inability and our complete dependence on God. Prayer considered as a human activity, whether offered by few or many, can guarantee no results. But prayer that throws believers in heartfelt need of God, with true concern for the salvation of sinners, will not go unanswered. Prayer of this kind precedes blessing, not because of any necessary cause and effect, but because such prayer secures an acknowledgement of the true Author of the blessing. And where such a spirit of prayer exists it is a sign that God is already intervening to advance his cause (p. 129).
The question we must ask is whether or not our prayers are characterized as our heartfelt need of God and a true concern for the salvation of sinners.
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