Why on earth would I ever say that maybe we should stop praying for revival?
Last night I heard a powerful message by Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong Church New York City. It was a moving biblical sermon on the importance of making spiritual progress as followers of Jesus. People left encouraged, but also challenged to stop making excuses for our failures to be and do all God has planned for us.
While I fully agree with the main thrust of the message, I want to nitpick a little bit, realizing that my differences are very minor. (It’s important to learn how to listen to a sermon and still hear what God is saying, even when you don’t agree one hundred percent.) The statements I want to address were something like this: “Stop praying for revival to come down from heaven,” and, “You don’t have to pray for boldness; you got boldness 2,000 years ago!” Those aren’t exact quotes, but they’re pretty close.
What I like about those statements is that they challenge the passive spirituality of so many Christians. Waiting for revival and waiting for boldness become excuses that we use to justify our not doing what we can do for the Lord right now. While I believe that from time to time over history God sends revivals “from heaven” that transform lives and whole cultures on earth, most of the Christian life is lived in the in-between times. We really do have more power and a greater source of boldness from Christ within us than we realize. I truly appreciate the biblical challenge of Carl Lentz’s message–and the example of godly boldness he provides.
What I don’t like about those statements is that during a revival, people who were asleep to the realities of God’s power and the boldness he provides are awakened to them. The very fact that so many Christians don’t know their spiritual authority for mission is a strong indication that we need revival! Also, prayer for God to send something from heaven represents an ongoing dependence on God to do what only he can do. There’s nothing wrong with that! Nor is it wrong to pray for boldness; even the church in Acts 4 did that. Praying for God to do something special and new is not wrong—until it becomes an excuse for passivity. So please, keep praying for and expecting revival and greater boldness. Just don’t use your revival expectation as an excuse to be spiritually and missionally inactive.
Back to the initial question of why I would ever counsel believers not to pray for revival. Well, the simple answer would be that we don’t need to pray for revival if we’re in the midst of revival. I read once that even in historical revivals, Christians failed to recognize that revival was already there. But I don’t think we are fully there yet. We have a long way to go before we have the spiritual awakening that our culture needs. Until then, boldly do what you can with what you have, and at the same time, pray for and expect even more from God.